Giant on the move
A democratic event
It’s the race (almost) anybody can win. It doesn’t matter what country you come from, what your skin color is or what your personal best is. It’s the event with no favourites.
When I competed as a middle distance runner, I was told too many times that I was in the wrong event because there was just no way I could compete against East and North African runners.
A silly argument, I always thought. But if you look around, there are indeed some events that are almost reserved for some countries. In the men’s steeplechase, a Kenyan has won the last six Olympic titles and Kenyans would probably consider it a tragedy if they lost in Beijing.
You can be white European (Yuriy Borzakovskiy in 2004), African (William Tanui in 1992) or Arab (Rashid Ramzi at the 2005 World Championships), you can still win.
You can be the favourite (Maria Mutola in 2000) or an outsider (Nils Schumann in 2000) but if you make it to the finals, the world can be yours. In fact, being the favourite doesn’t help. Just ask Wilson Kipketer, the world record holder, who was upset by Schumann.
The 800 combines speed, endurance and tactics in a way that strengths and weaknesses even out and runners rarely gain untouchable status.
The most common cliché in sport is that on any given day, any athlete can win. Sure, but I wouldn’t bet too much money against, let’s say, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva in Beijing.
In the 800, on the other hand, the cliché is true.
Balazs Koranyi was an Olympic semi-finalist in the 800 at the 1996 and 2000 Games for Hungary and since 2004 has been a Budapest-based correspondent, covering mainly political and business news. He will cover the Beijing Games for Reuters.
Pictures (from top) Borzakovskiy wins in Athens by Nigel Marple, Ramzi wins at Helsinki worlds by Gary Hershorn and Wilson Kipketer takes gold at the 2002 Europeans by Wolfgang Rattay