As I write this on August 15, 2016—Day 4 of Olympic track and field competition—the Summer Games have been anything but a letdown. So far, three world records have been broken. In the women’s 10K, Almaz Ayana ran 29:17.45, a mark fourteen seconds faster than Wang Junxia’s previous world record. In 2016, a letter was discovered by Chinese media in which Junxia allegedly admitted to doping during her career (which was not surprising, as many believed she had been since she broke out in ’93). Ayana has not been linked to any form of performance enhancing drug usage, but many suspect she has been using EPO. As of right now, it’s unfair to label her a cheater when all she did was run an incredible race. Until there are legitimate facts, she’s the undisputed Olympic champion. Also in this race was 2016 U.S. champion Molly Huddle, who ran a national record of 30:13, earning her a sixth place finish.
Last night, the unthinkable happened when 24-year old Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa broke Michael Johnson’s 17-year old record in the 400. Van Niekerk ran 43.03, obliterating Johnson’s 1999 mark of 43.18—and he did it out of lane 8. Van Niekerk became the first South African track athlete to win a Gold medal since 1928, and is still the only man in history to run sub-10 in the 100, sub-20 in the 200, and sub-44 in the 400. 2012 Gold medalist Kirani James of Grenada got the Silver, while American LaShawn Merritt captured the Bronze. Lastly, earlier this morning, Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland broke her own world record in the women’s hammer throw, hitting a mark of 82.29 meters. The final of the women’s steeplechase also happened this morning, where American Emma Coburn earned the Bronze medal—the first time in history an American woman got a medal in the steeplechase. In the process, she broke her own American record, running 9:07.63.
And, Usain Bolt did Usain Bolt things and won the 100 last night. Now, on to the predictions.
Tonight is the Olympic final of the 800 meter run—and the field is loaded. World record holder/2012 Gold medalist David Rudisha of Kenya leads the field, and he’s joined by 2012 1500 Gold medalist Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria. Also in this race is 2016 World Indoor Champion Boris Berian of the United States, 2016 U.S. Champion Clayton Murphy, and Pierre-Ambroise Bosse of France and Ferguson Rotich of Kenya (both of whom own sub-1:43 PRs). Rounding out the field is Marcin Lewandowski of Poland and Alfred Kipketer of Kenya, both of whom have run sub-1:44. I firmly believe Rudisha will repeat as Olympic champion. Obviously, this isn’t a bold choice (he’s the world record holder, and only 27), but it would be…the opposite of smart to pick someone else. Rudisha jogged the first two rounds, and even though he was injured earlier this year and didn’t have an great outdoor season (by his standards), he looks like he’s just as good of shape as he was back in 2012.
In a recent interview, Kipketer stated that “a 1-2-3 finish for Kenya remains a possibility.” It certainly could happen, as both Kipketer and Rotich seem to be in great shape. But in a field as talented as this, I don’t believe it will happen. Makhloufi has looked very strong in both rounds, and has a championship pedigree. He’s won on the biggest stage of them all, and is peaking at just the right time—he’s my pick for Silver. My pick for Bronze was not easy, and I’m still not 100% confident in what I’m about to write. I think Kipketer will take third place—but I honestly believe Clayton Murphy has a real chance at medaling. Kipketer won the Kenyan Trials a couple months ago (obviously, Rudisha was hurt, but it’s still an impressive feat), and just won his prelim two days ago. Also, at the 2013 World Youth Championships, he took out the 800 in 48.36—a mark faster than the first 400 split of Rudisha’s world record-setting run in 2012. This was back when Kipketer was a mere 17 years old. I’m really not trying to justify Kipketer’s talent based off of one race, and I’m dually aware of the fact that this is also his first Olympic final—I just believe that he will earn the Bronze medal. Here are my entire picks for tonight’s race:
- David Rudisha, Kenya
- Taoufik Makhloufi, Algeria
- Alfred Kipketer, Kenya
- Clayton Murphy, United States
- Ferguson Rotich, Kenya
- Boris Berian, United States
- Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, France
- Marcin Lewandowski, Poland