BERLIN - Nick Symmonds was in perfect position with 100 meters to go in Sunday's 800 meter final at the World Track & Field Championships. Entering the home stretch in second place, right behind Mbulaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa, Symmonds looked to be poised for a stretch run that could bring him a medal, or even a championship. It didn't happen.
Symmonds' usual blistering kick did not appear today, and he was unable to pull away from the other runners. He finished in sixth place in a time of 1:45.71.
Mulaudzi held on for the win in 1:45.29. Defending champion Alfred Yego of Kenya won the silver medal and Yusuf Kamel of Bahrain, who won the 1500 meter race here, took the bronze. The finish of the race was so close that the first seven finishers placed within .57 seconds of the winner.
The former seven-time NCAA Division III champion for Willamette University, Symmonds is known for starting slowly and coming from behind in races. He seemed to change tactics for this race, however. While Symmonds was near the back of the 10-man field after the first 150 meters, he made a strong move toward the front just halfway through the first lap.
As the runners came down the home stretch concluding the first lap, Symmonds settled in at the front of the pack, just behind and to the outside of Mulaudzi. On the second lap, the pace picked up as the runners went down the backstretch, but Symmonds was able to fight off all challengers and hold his position until they hit the home straight.
Several runners pulled up on Symmonds as the tight pack neared the line. This time he was unable to hold them off, as four runners passed him before the line. Following the race, Symmonds sat by the edge of the track appearing stunned by the turn of events. He declined to talk to the media in the mixed zone after the race.
On Friday, Symmonds had won his semifinal heat, becoming the first American man to qualify for the 800 meters at the World Championships in
12 years. Though he was not considered one of the favorites in the finals, Symmonds has gained a measure of recognition internationally, especially since he ran 1:43.83 in Monaco just three weeks ago, and he is known as a lethal finisher. Today, however, the strong finish just wasn't there.