By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BUDAPEST (24-Aug) -- There were no middle or long distance finals on the schedule tonight at the National Athletics Center here, but key athletes from the men's 800m and 5000m advanced to their respective finals.
In the shorter event, times were fast. Eighteen men broke 1:45, and the fastest was Kenya's Emmanuel Wanyonyi who won the third and final heat in 1:43.83. Wanyonyi, 19, who was fourth at the World Athletics Championships one year ago in Eugene, followed the quick, early pace set by Britain's Max Burgin who split halfway in 49.53. The Kenyan took over the lead at 600m, and took it home for the win.
"It was not an easy race, but I cannot complain about anything," Wanyonyi told the flash quotes team here. "I wanted to qualify for the final, and there I might surprise the world."
There was a pitched battle for second. American Bryce Hoppel was in second position coming down the homestretch, but in the final 50 meters the reigning USA champion started to tie up. He was passed by Spain's Adrian Ben about 10 meters from the finish, and the Spaniard ran a personal best 1:43.92 to clinch the second automatic qualifier spot. Hoppel ran 1:44.04 for third, fast enough to grab the first of only two time qualifiers.
"It was very scary," Hoppel told Race Results Weekly, still catching his breath. "I saw Wanyonyi right there in front of me. Someone at the end started sneaking up on my left, so I didn't really have the reaction time to really get it going, but I know there's definitely more there. I'm excited to use it in the final."
Both Algerians, Slimane Moula and Djamel Sedjati, advanced to Saturday's final. Sedjati, last summer's surprise silver medalist at the World Championships in Eugene, finished second in heat two in 1:44.49 behind Canadian Marco Arop (1:44.02) who led gun to tape. Moula won the first heat in 1:43.93.
The surprise of the night was Tshepiso Masalela of Botswana. The 24 year-old, who won the silver medal at the 2022 African Championships, showed a super final sprint in the first heat, moving up to second behind Moula in the final 20 meters and running a personal best 1:44.14. His best time a year ago was only 1:46.40.
"It is a new level for me," Masalela said. "This year I have been running so many PB's. Tonight was even faster."
Britain's Ben Pattison was the eighth and final qualifier. He finished third in heat one in 1:44.23 and waited in the "Q Room" next to the track until he was told after the third heat that he had advanced. For Pattison, 21, who finished sixth at last summer's European Athletics Championships, Saturday's race will be his first final at a global championships.
KATIR, GRIJALVA LEAD 5000M QUALIFYING
With just the top-8 from each heat advancing to the final, 27 men failed to move on from tonight's preliminaries of the men's 5000m. Both races started slow and finished fast, and Spain's Mo Katir (13:35.90) and Guatemala's Luis Grijalva (13:32.72) won the first and second heats, respectively.
Katir --who earlier this week failed to reach the final of the 1500m when he only finished tenth in his semi-final-- waited for the last lap to show his class. He ran a sizzling 54.4 seconds to beat Ethiopia's Hagos Gebrhiwet (13:36.15) and Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen (13:36.21). Ingebrigtsen, the defending champion who took the silver medal in the 1500m last night, spent most of the race at the back before moving up to the lead group where he looked smooth in the final laps.
Grijalva, the former Northern Arizona University star in the NCAA system, ran with the leaders throughout the race and out-sprinted Ethiopia's Yomif Kejelcha in the homestretch to get the win by 11/100ths of a second. Grijalva said that it was important for him to win the heat and not just qualify.
"I've never won a professional race in my pro career," he told Race Results Weekly. "I'm sure there were a lot of guys behind me. I didn't want to leave it to a risk in case I let up at the line. I'm sure running half a second faster in the last hundred will make no big difference two days from now."
Still living and training in Flagstaff, Ariz., Grijalva is a "Dreamer," who came to the United States as a child when his parents crossed the southern border looking for a better life. He remains a Guatemalan citizen and is proud to represent his home country.
"It puts me on the map but it also puts Guatemala on the map," Grijalva said of winning his heat tonight. "Like, hey, this guy just won the prelim. The final's in three days. Let's see what he can do."
Two of the three Americans, Abdi Nur and Paul Chelimo, also made the final. Both running in the first heat, they finished fifth and seventh, respectively. Chelimo, twice an Olympic medalist, said that he still felt the effects of traveling here from Colorado.
"I was just like, I got to use as less energy as I can," Chelimo said. "I haven't recovered well from the jet lag. So, got to get more recovery, more massage. Finals, you know, that's what it is. The goal was to make it to finals, so it doesn't matter (the place). I finished what I needed to do."
Other athletes with medal hopes who advanced included Canada's Moh Ahmed, Ethiopia's Berihu Aregawi, Kenya's Jacob Krop, and Norway's Narve Gilje Nordas (Nordas was the silver medalist in the 1500m). Australia's Stewart McSweyn was advanced by the referee after he fell over another competitor, Germany's Sam Parsons, who tripped in heat one with about 900 meters left in the race.
"I think he got clipped and he just went down," McSweyn told Race Results Weekly before knowing that he had been advanced. "And then, obviously, I had nowhere to go. I went right over the top of him and face-planted, pretty much."
The men's 5000m final will be held on Sunday night.