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Donavan Brazier Is First American Ever To Win 800-meter World Title

By Karen Price | Oct. 01, 2019, 4:19 p.m. (ET)

Donavan Brazier celebrates winning the men's 800-meter finalat the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 on Oct. 1, 2019 in Doha, Qatar.


Donavan Brazier made history at the IAAF World Championships on Tuesday in Doha, Qatar, becoming the first American ever to win the title in the 800-meter.

As if that wasn’t enough, he also set a new American and world championships record with his time of 1:42.34, breaking Johnny Gray’s 34-year-old U.S. record of 1:42.60, set in 1985.

“To get the win and the American record means the world to me,” said Brazier, 22, in a post-race interview. “I feel good. I look up to Muhammad Ali, and he won his first world championship at 22 years old.”

The race started out with Brazier running in second place to Puerto Rico’s Wesley Vázquez, who went out in front early and for a time was running at a world-record pace.

Brazier said he wanted Vázquez to go out fast.

“I’d rather have a fast, honest race and give people something to watch than a slow sit-and-kick,” he said.

It became a two-man race between Brazier and Vazquez around the 400-meter mark. As they approached the back straight Brazier made his move with confidence and overtook Vazquez.

“He definitely went out hard and it took a lot out of me to go with 250 left,” Brazier said. “I had to go and there’s no looking back.

“That was a move my coach told me to make. I was like, ‘I’ll listen to you.’ I’ve been doing it all year and it finally came all together at the right time.”

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Although he fell just shy of the world record of 1:40.91, Brazier charged across the finish line for the victory and enough entries in the record books to ice the cake.

“For all that to happen, it just means a lot to me,” Brazier said. “I was just trying to make a final. Coming off 2017 (world championships), I didn’t even make the final in London. I think that was just being young and all the nerves. But being able to collect myself and gather myself and being coached by Pete Julian this year I think has really paid off.”

Amel Tuka of Bosnia-Herzegovina finished second with a time of 1:43.47, a season’s best, and Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich of Kenya was third with a time of 1:43.82.

Finishing just off the podium in fourth place with a time of 1:44.25, a new personal best, was American Bryce Hoppel, the 2019 outdoor and indoor NCAA national champion with Kansas. Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy finished eighth, making it just the second time that the U.S. had three men in the men’s 800-meter final at the world championships and the first since 1995. None medaled that year.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Donavan Brazier