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Raevyn Rogers Comes Out Of Nowhere To Claim 800-meter World Silver; Ajeé Wilson Takes Bronze

By Karen Rosen | Sept. 30, 2019, 3:56 p.m. (ET)

Raevyn Rogers runs in the 800-meter at the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 on Sept. 27, 2019 in Doha, Qatar.


DOHA, Qatar — Raevyn Rogers nearly took patience to the extreme Monday night.

She was biding her time in seventh place on the final curve of the women’s 800-meter at the IAAF World Championships. That’s next to last. With the cameras focusing on the leaders, Rogers was off the screen.

“It felt like I was off the screen, too,” she said.

Then Rogers methodically picked off every runner except one, including teammate Ajeé Wilson, who led most of the first 700 meters.

Rogers, 23, posted a season-best time of 1:58.18 to win the silver medal, making her first major international podium in her first world championships.

Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda also took advantage of a furious kick to win the gold in 1:58.04 and set a national record for her country.

Now Rogers is definitely on everyone’s screen for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Wilson, the American record holder and pre-meet favorite, faded on the homestretch to repeat as the world bronze medalist with a time of 1:58.84.

Rogers knew she had speed on the final lap, but she also understood she was taking a chance by sitting in the back of the pack so late in the race.

“But I just took that risk,” she said. “And I really went off feeling and I tried to stay as close as I could without using so much energy just so I could have some at the finish.”

Wilson was deeply disappointed. “I just didn’t have it in my legs today,” she said. “That was the best race I had today, but I definitely know I’m better than that, so it’s just back to the drawing board and get ready for next year.”

Although Rogers was thrilled with her silver medal, she took no joy in defeating Wilson for the first time.

“Ajeé has been very helpful in just developing me and my running skills and my confidence,” Rogers said, “because it takes a really selfless person to do that, especially someone that is in the position that she’s in. And she’s very selfless, very genuine at heart.”

“I’m super proud of her,” Wilson said. “That last stretch is always where she shines. I’m glad we were both able to medal today.”

Team USA actually had four 800-meter medalists at Khalifa International Stadium Monday night. Before the action started, Alysia Montaño was awarded the bronze medal from the 2011 world championships. Then she and Brenda Martinez shared the podium as Martinez received the silver medal and Montaño the bronze for the 2013 worlds.

The medals were reallocated because Mariya Savinova of Russia was stripped of her medals after a retest of her doping sample revealed a positive result.

Counting those medals, Team USA has medaled in four of the last five 800-meter races at the world championships, after winning no medals in the first 12 editions.

Caster Semenya declined to appear to receive the gold medal from 2011. And, of course, Semenya, who has won three of the last five world titles and two Olympic gold medals, did not compete this year. The controversial South African would have had to comply with IAAF rules about athletes with differences of sexual development in order to race.

Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, the silver medalist at both the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and the 2017 world championships, and Rio bronze medalist Margaret Wambui of Kenya are also subject to the same rules and did not compete here.

While Semenya had the fastest time in the world this year before her ban took effect, Wilson came into the race with the second-best time in the world this year of 1:57.72.

She said that with the absence of Semenya and Niyonsaba, “two people that have always kind of beaten me over the years, it definitely increases my odds and my teammates’ odds, everyone’s odds of placing a spot or two higher.”

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Initially, it looked like Wilson, who enjoys running from the front, was on her way to gold as Team USA had three athletes in the 800 final for the first time. (Ce’Aira Brown would go on to place eighth.)

Wilson was comfortably leading the pack when she was challenged by Natoya Goule of Jamaica, who was first at the bell at 57.96 seconds.

Wilson regained the lead, but said, “Definitely that surge probably took a little bit out of me.”

Entering the final straightaway, the crowd jumped to their feet as Nakaayi passed Wilson, but it was Rogers, her training partner in Philadelphia, who really turned on the jets.

Rogers was a sensation as a 12-year-old, setting world age group records at 400 and 800 meters. She grew up to become a five-time NCAA champion at the University of Oregon. She was second in the Diamond League Final behind Wilson.

“At 12, I don’t think I would have been able to expect this to happen so quickly,” Rogers said. “I feel very humble to even be in this position and to have this opportunity.

“I tried to keep that same ambition I had then, to go after it and aim high.”

She had run on the same track in May at the Diamond League meet in Doha, but didn’t time her kick right and finished fifth.

“I died with less than 30 meters left,” said Rogers, who has worked on her mental strength this season. “I just knew I had to do something different. I knew as long as I stayed in striking range, the straights are so long that I just knew I’d be able to power it through.”

And now she’s not ready to call it a season.

“I still feel like I have one more round, which is weird,” Rogers said, “and I’m really eager to get back on the track.”

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