Eunice Sum leads Kenya’s offensive in 800m


(FromL) Belgium's Renee Eykens, Ethiopia's Tigst Assefa, Kenya's Eunice Sum and Ukraine's Nataliya Lupu compete ...
(FromL) Belgium's Renee Eykens, Ethiopia's Tigst Assefa, Kenya's Eunice Sum and Ukraine's Nataliya Lupu compete in the Women's 800m Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 17, 2016. PEDRO UGARTE / AFP

Moscow 2013 world champion Eunice Sum led the Kenyan trio into Thursday’s women 800m semi finals of the Rio 2016 Olympics in what was a brutal qualification round where only the top two were assured of automatic places.

World Indoor bronze winner, Margaret Nyairera Wambui and former World Youth (2005) and World Junior (2006) silver medallist, Winnie Chebet negotiated through the heats where Sum, who won bronze in Beijing last year, ran to victory in the fifth race in 1:59.83.

Nyairera (1:59.66) was second in heat three with Chebet (2:01.65) punching her ticket into the next phase by finishing in similar position from heat seven.

With runaway favourite, South Africa’s Caster Semenya and Burundi’s World Indoor champion, Francine Niyonsaba, in the fray, it was Canada’s Melissa Bishop who laid the marker by running the quickest in Wednesday’s heats when she stopped the clock at 1:58.38 for victory in the fourth race of the women’s two-lap competition.

-Controlled piece-

Ethiopia's Gudaf Tsegay (L) and Kenya's Margaret Nyairera Wambui compete in the Women's 800m Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 17, 2016.  OLIVIER MORIN / AFP
Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay (L) and Kenya’s Margaret Nyairera Wambui compete in the Women’s 800m Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 17, 2016. OLIVIER MORIN / AFP

Sum produced a controlled piece of two-lap running to take heat five. Leading the field through 400m in 58.40, the experienced Kenyan rarely looked troubled with the fast-finishing Ukrainian Natalia Lupu grabbing the second automatic spot 0.08 adrift.

 

USA’s Kate Grace and Belgium’s Renee Eykens qualified for the semis from this heat as well after clocking 1:59.96 and 2:00.00 in third and fourth.

In heat three, Selina Buchel of Switzerland posted a pacey 1:59.00 to take the win from Nyairera. Both benefited from a rapid first lap of 58.75 from India’s Tintu Lukka with the third-place finisher Natalia Pryshchepa, the European champion of Ukraine, also advancing on time (1:59.80).

In a slow run heat seven, a late burst by Poland’s 2014 European bronze medallist Joanna Jozwik helped her claim the win in 2:01.58, with Chebet taking the second automatic spot.

Running in intense Rio morning heat where none of the qualifiers were keen to talk to the media afterwards, Semenya who is being talked as a potential world record breaker in Rio easily cantered to victory in the second heat with a conservative 1:59.31.

USA’s Ajee Wilson led the race from the start and ended with a 1:59.44 personal best to join the South African.

Niyonsaba, regarded by many as the second favourite, produced a trouble-free run in heat eight to ease to victory in 1:59.84. The world indoor champion from Burundi was never in difficulty as she finished 0.20 clear of Sweden’s Lovisa Lindh, who set a PB to advance.

 

 

 

QUALIFIED ATHLETES

HEAT 1

  1. Lyndsey Sharp GBR 2:00.83
  2. Amela Terzic SRB 2:00.99

HEAT 2

  1. Caster Semenya RSA 1:59.31
  2. Ajee Wilson USA 1:59.44
  3. Shelena Clarke GBR 1:59.67 q
  4. Chunyu Wang CHN 1:59.93 q

HEAT 3

  1. Selina Büchel SUI 1:59.00
  2. Margaret Wambui KEN 1:59.66
  3. Nataliia Pryshchepa UKR 1:59.80 q

HEAT 4

  1. Melissa Bishop CAN 1:58.38
  2. Marina Arzamasova BLR 1:58.44
  3. Habitam Alemu ETH 1:58.99 q
  4. Noélie Yarigo BEN 1:59.12 q
  5. Halimah Nakaayi UGA 1:59.78 q

HEAT 5

  1. Eunice Jepkoech Sum KEN 1:59.83
  2. Nataliia Lupu UKR 1:59.91
  3. Kate Grace USA 1:59.96 q
  4. Renée Eykens BEL 2:00.00 q

HEAT 6

  1. Angelika Cichocka POL 2:00.42
  2. Yusneysi Santiusti ITA 2:00.45

HEAT 7

  1. Joanna Józwik POL 2:01.58
  2. Winny Chebet KEN 2:01.65

HEAT 8

  1. Francine Niyonsaba BDI 1:59.84
  2. Lovisa Lindh SWE 2:00.04

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Story By John Njuguna
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