Kenyan runs second-best indoor 800m in history

Sunday February 10 2019

Michael Saruni wins the 800m at the Millrose Games in New York on February 10, 2019. PHOTO | LEE KIRBY |

Kenya's Michael Saruni wins the 800m at the Millrose Games in New York on February 10, 2019. PHOTO | LEE KIRBY |  IAAF

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Kenya’s Michael Saruni turn on the clock to set a new Africa record when he cruised to victory in 1 minute and 43.98 seconds at the Millrose Games in New York City on Saturday.

The Kenyan had closely tracked USA’s Donavan Brazier through 200 metres (24.60) and 400 metres (49.89).

Brazier still led through 600 metres in 1:16.21 – just 0.75 shy of the PB he set for that distance last month.

However, Saruni made his move on the final lap and pulled ahead of Brazier before crossing the line first and in the process erased the previous African record of 1:44.21 set by compatriot and training partner Emmanuel Korir at the same games last year.

Saruni, who is coached by 1988 Olympic 800m champion Paul Ereng, became just the second athlete in history to better 1:44 for the distance indoors after world indoor record-holder Kenyan born Wilson Kipketer of Denmark.

Kipketer holds the indoor World Record of 1:42.67 set at the World Indoor Championships on March 9, 1997.

Having come close on several occasions, Brazier was rewarded with a North American indoor record of 1:44.41 in second place, moving to fifth on the world indoor all-time list.

In the days leading up to the competition, Yomif Kejelcha from Ethiopia had declared his intentions to go after Hicham El Guerrouj’s world indoor record of 3:48.45 in the mile.

The two-time World Indoor 3000m champion had shown great form so far this indoor season, winning all of his races with ease and posting world-leading marks in the 1000m and mile.

Up against a strong field at the Armory, Kejelcha knew the Millrose Games would be an ideal opportunity to attempt to break the world record. The Ethiopian had a pacemaker lined up for the first five laps, but Kejelcha caught him after just four, passing 800 metres in 1:51.7.

Running alone for the second half and with Edward Cheserek leading the chase pack a couple of seconds behind, Kejelcha churned out consistent 29-second laps and was always close to world record pace.

After charging through the finish line and awaiting the official confirmation of the time, he found he was an agonising 0.01 shy of the world record, clocking 3:48.46, an outright Ethiopian record.

“I’m very happy but I came very close,” said Kejelcha. “I will try it again this year and I’m confident I can break it.”

Cheserek held off a strong challenge from Olympic 800m bronze medallist Clayton Murphy to take second place, 3:53.29 to Murphy’s 3:53.30. Britain’s Josh Kerr was fourth in 3:53.65.

Kejelcha was the second athlete of the evening to climb to the No.2 spot on a world indoor all-time list.