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World Champs Men’s 800 — Arop’s Patience Rewarded

World Champs Men’s 800 — Arop’s Patience Rewarded

“I had to be ready for any scenario,” said Marco Arop, whose chosen follow-and-strike tactic worked perfectly. (KEVIN MORRIS)

WITH DEFENDING WORLD and Olympic champion Emmanuel Korir nursing an injury and far from top form, there was no clear favorite in the men’s 2-lapper. The next four finishers from Eugene had made it through to this year’s final but only one of them, Kenyan teenager Emmanuel Wanyonyi, had won more than one Diamond League race this season. Ultimately it was Marco Arop who came through, winning Canada’s first World Champs gold in the event.

The heats had seen the unsurprising exit of Korir, who says he has struggled with a leg injury all year. Also eliminated were Americans Isaiah Harris and Clayton Murphy (“I did everything right,” the ’16 Olympic bronze medalist said. “I just got beat.”).

Algeria’s Slimane Moula, 5th a year ago, won the first semi in 1:43.93, leading 6 others sub-1:45. Another 5 were under that barrier in the second section, led by Eugene bronze medalist Arop (1:44.02). Wanyonyi (1:43.83) took the third race, holding off the PR of Spain’s Adrián Ben (1:43.92) while USATF champ Bryce Hoppel (1:44.04) advanced on time.

In the final two days later, Wanyonyi (who turned 19 on August 01) went right to the front, but it was a cautious pace: 25.32 at 200 and 52.68 at the bell. Arop, known for his frontrunning tactics, was an uncharacteristic 8th at that point. But the lanky Canadian — he is listed at 6-4¼ (1.94) — quickly shifted gears, moving to the second lane and surging through the pack. He blitzed the backstretch in 12.26 and by 600 (1:19.21) he had made his way to the front.

“That feeling when you’re passing guys, the momentum, it’s such a great feeling,” he would say after the race.

Wanyonyi tried desperately to catch the leader, but the result was never in doubt down the homestretch. Arop crossed the line in 1:44.24, with Wanyonyi (1:44.53) taking the silver. The winner produced an extraordinary negative-split race: 53.38/50.86.

“I had to be ready for any scenario,” said Arop, who had discussed multiple strategies with Chris Woods, the head coach at Mississippi State who guided Arop to a pair of NCAA runner-up finishes as a collegian. “If I went in the front I had to be relaxed and controlled, [but] I could’ve been in the middle, I could’ve been in the back.”

Great Britain’s Ben Pattison (1:44.83) held his form just long enough to take a surprise bronze…

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