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Uganda’s Nakaayi wins, Sum misses out

Uganda's Halimah Nakaayi (R) celebrates with Uganda's Winnie Nanyondo after winning in the Women's 800m final at the 2019 IAAF Athletics World Championships at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on September 30, 2019. (Photo by MUSTAFA ABUMUNES / AFP)

Propelled by a perfectly-timed homestretch kick, Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda pulled off an upset victory in the 800m, thus far the biggest surprise of the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha. 

Former world champion Eunice Sum, who was Kenya’s sole representative in the final finished in fifth place.

Uganda never had a World Championships finalist in the women’s 800m. On Monday night they had two and Nakaayi was the lesser-known of the pair, but she didn’t play the part at what has been the most energised session of these championships at Khalifa Stadium.

Pre-race favourite Ajee Wilson took command after the break, with Jamaican Natoya Goule closely in tow. About 250 metres into the race Nakaayi tucked in behind the pair and lodged herself comfortably. 

Wilson kept the pace fast and forged on, passing the bell in 57.94, maintaining her lead down the back straight. But Nakaayi kept the pressure on, shadowing the American through the bend, seemingly waiting for the opportunity to pounce. Wilson began to labour at the top of the home straight, giving Nakaayi an opening. She took it with about 30 metres to go, chugged by and held on to reach the line in 1:58.04, a national record.

On the outside, Raevyn Rogers blew by the field to finish second in 1:58.18, while Ajee held on for third to secure a 1-2 finish for the US. She clocked 1:58.84

“I was feeling so good, I knew something special was going to happen tonight,” said Nakaayi, whose only previous big meet medal came at the Africa Games in August, where she took bronze.