2005 - End of Year Reviews - MIDDLE DISTANCE Running
Friday 30 December 2005
In the penultimate episode of their review of the 2005 Athletics year, statisticians A. Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava reach the topic of the MIDDLE DISTANCE running events.

MEN – Middle Distance


Zulia Calatayud of Cuba celebrates winning the World Champs gold in the women’s 800m
(Getty Images)

There was no commanding figure in the 800m this season, and there was no clear favourite prior to Helsinki as several athletes recorded wins in Grand Prix meetings during the summer. South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was quite convincing winning three big races before Helsinki and grabbing three 2nd places as well. But the World Championships 800m provided several surprises, as world leading Mulaudzi didn’t advance to the final and there was a new favourite after the semifinals.

Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain came to the season as a pure 1500m runner, his outdoor personal best was only 1:47.56 from 2003, although he had run a 1:46.15 Asian record indoors while finishing second in the World Indoor Championships in Budapest 2004. Ramzi recorded a big personal best of 1:44.73 in Lausanne, but having only run one 800m final before Helsinki, his performance there was a big shock. Ramzi went on to win his heat in style before finishing second in the semi-final recording a personal best of 1:44.30. In the final he went even faster winning in 1:44.24, infront of Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy (RUS) who finished in the silver medal position in 1:44.51.

Another gold medal favourite, Wilfred Bungei, who had won the Kenyan Trials with a fast time of 1:44.11, finished just out of the medals in fourth place in Helsinki. He later went on to record the fastest time of the year in Rieti clocking 1:43.70. The Kenyan finished the season with five straight wins.

In 2005 there were 25 athletes under 1:45, 2004 had exactly the same number, 25. In 2003 there were only 20. Kenya is easily the best country in this event with 23 entries in the world top-100. United States is second with ten.

Men’s 800m (600m - 1000m) - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 12 Dec 2005
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Yuriy BORZAKOVSKIY 81 RUS 1341
  2. Mbulaeni MULAUDZI 80 RSA 1329
  3. Wilfred BUNGEI 80 KEN 1324
  4. William YIAMPOY 74 KEN 1308
  5. Youssef Saad KAMEL 83 BRN 1300
  6. Gary REED 81 CAN 1294
  7. Antonio Manuel REINA 81 ESP 1291
  8. Alfred Kirwa YEGO 86 KEN 1289


With Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj not running, the 1500m was quite open. Daniel Kipchirchir Komen (KEN), recorded several good early season marks when winning important races. Komen won Grand Prix and Golden League meets in Doha, Seville and Saint-Denis and finished second Rome. The Kenyan ’number one’, having won the World Championships Trials as well, came to Helsinki as one of the favourites, but was unable to advance to the semi-final phase from a slow heat. He made some amends by later winning in Berlin with a first career sub-3:30 clocking of 3:29.72. Bernard Lagat, who recently changed his allegiance to USA, was uneligible to race in the World Championships, but set a world leading time of 3:29.30 in Rieti Grand Prix in late August.

Rashid Ramzi, who raced very little before Helsinki, had to be considered a favourite after his 3:30.00 Asian record and first place finish in Rome. Ramzi, who was eliminated in the semi-finals in the 2004 Olympics in this event, made sure the same didn’t happen in Helsinki. He took the wins in both heat and semi-final with a slick appearance, and calmly sprinted to a win in the finishing straight of the 1500m final to take his first gold in Helsinki. The former Moroccan only raced twice after Helsinki, finishing second in Brussels and 8th in the World Athletics Final in Monaco.

In 2005 there were 26 athletes under 3:34 with 30 in 2004 and 19 in 2003. Kenya is the top country with 24 athletes in the world top-100, United States in second with 14 and Spain third at 11.

Men’s 1500m (Mile - 2000m) - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 12 Dec 2005
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Daniel Kipchirchir KOMEN 84 KEN 1399
  2. Bernard LAGAT 74 USA 1367
  3. Ivan HESHKO 79 UKR 1349
  4. Rashid RAMZI 80 BRN 1325
  5. Alex KIPCHIRCHIR 84 KEN 1319
  6. Daham Najim BASHIR 79 QAT 1318
  7. Suleiman Kipses SIMOTWO 80 KEN 1316
  8. Rui SILVA 77 POR 1292

WOMEN – Middle Distance


The women’s 800m and Maria Mutola have been almost synonymous for over a decade. Several tough challengers to her No 1 position have come and gone but Mutola has remained more or less “in charge”. That is until 2005 when rather than winning almost all her races, Mutola lost all but one. She was still world-class but lacked that winning edge usually finishing 3rd or 4th in something 1:59-ish.

But it was Mutola that had “retreated”, rather than the others that had moved up to her level. Actually 2005 was a rather lacklustre year statistically which was only “saved” by a group of Russians running some fast early summer races (all the ten quickest times were run before August).

However, these Russians - headed by Tatiana Andrianova - in the second (main) part of the season for some hard to understand reason switched from that successful fast-pace-approach to a passive slow pace alternative that played perfectly into the hands of finishing sprint specialists like Zulia Calatayud (CUB) and Hasna Benhassi (MAR).

Calatayud emerged as the dominant runner from August onwards, winning everything (World Championships, Zürich, Berlin, World Athletics Final) in not-special-at-all times of about 1:59, with Benhassi usually finishing 2nd. But Calatayud did lose three earlier races in Europe: Kazan to Svetlana Cherkasova’s 1:56.93, Paris/St-Denis to Cherkasova’s 1:57.52, and Stockholm to Andrianova’s 1:57.80, which should have taught the Russians that a fast-pace approach made the Cuban at least vulnerable.

But as said it was rather a lacklustre year for the 800m with Mutola and Slovenia’s Jolanda Ceplak having injury caused off-years, and Olympic winner Kelly Holmes not competing at all. The most exciting newcomer to the top level was 21-years-old Janeth Jepkosgei of Kenya who missed Helsinki (hadn’t made the entry standard) but who put together a series of good races in late season including a very impressive 1:57.82 in Rovereto, where she won by three full seconds.

Women’s 800m (600m - 1000m) - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 12 Dec 2005
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Zulia CALATAYUD 79 CUB 1359
  2. Hasna BENHASSI 78 MAR 1333
  3. Tatyana ANDRIANOVA 79 RUS 1325
  4. Svetlana CHERKASOVA 78 RUS 1315
  5. Maria de Lurdes MUTOLA 72 MOZ 1307
  6. María Teresa MARTÍNEZ 76 ESP 1301
  7. Larisa CHZHAO 71 RUS 1297
  8. Hazel CLARK 77 USA 1283


In contrast to their male counterparts the female 1500m runners seem almost never to “go for times” at the major Grand Prix meets. Just like last year almost all top times were derived from one single race which distorted the statistical representation of the athletes’ relative strength because those not participating in that one race are certainly disadvantaged.

Last year, the special race was the Olympic final and this year it was in Rieti on 28 August. That race produced the No 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 best time on the 2005 World List, and these seven athletes lowered their yearly best marks by a whopping average of 2.8 seconds.

It is an interesting exercise to compare the actual World list with what it would have looked like if that single Rieti race never had been run:

With Rieti / Without Rieti
3:56.79 Jamal / 3:58.68 Chizhenko
3:57.74 Yevdokimova / 3:59.13 Jamal
3:58.68 Chizhenko / 3:59.47 Yegorova
3:59.05 Tomashova / 4:00.28 Tomashova
3:59.47 Yegorova / 4:00.60 Yevdokimova
3:59.51 Rodriguez / 4:01.14 Soboleva
3:59.60 Burika / 4:01.28 Ghezielle
4:00.49 Dehiba / 4:02.08 Dehiba
4:00.59 Jakubczak / 4:02.21 Turava
4:01.14 Soboleva / 4:02.31 Lagat

Just like the 800m the event is dominated by Russian athletes but in contrast to the shorter race the Russians here performed up to all expectations in Helsinki. Taking full advantage of having four runners in the race they made the pace honest and finished 1-2-3-5, although Chizhenko was later disqualified for impeding the main opponent, Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain.

One can but speculate how the race would have ended without this incident as Jamal won all races before and after Helsinki in convincing fashion and was the only athlete to record three sub-4:00 marks. However, it should be noted that the clear (won by over a second in the finishing sprint) Helsinki winner Tatyana Tomashova is a renowned championship specialist, having triumphed in Paris 2003 and finished a close second to Kelly Holmes in Athens 2004.

But the future ought to belong to Jamal who is just 20 and who for the second year in a row improved by over ten seconds. This prediction of course is based on the assumption that she won’t decide to go for longer distances. Having run a 73-minute half marathon as a teenager three years ago, Jamal also has exciting potential in the more endurance oriented events.

Women’s 1500m - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 12 Dec 2005
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Maryam Yusuf JAMAL 84 BRN 1332
  2. Olga YEGOROVA 72 RUS 1298
  3. Bouchra BENTHAMI-GHEZIELLE 79 FRA 1296
  4. Hind CHAHYD-DEHIBA 79 FRA 1292
  5. Natalya YEVDOKIMOVA 78 RUS 1279
  6. Yuliya CHIZHENKO 79 RUS 1273
  7. Alesya TURAVA 79 BLR 1265
  8. Carmen DOUMA-HUSSAR 77 CAN 1258

A. Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

Thank you Kitkat!!