DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA – No American woman has ever won a medal in the 800 meters at the World Track & Field Championships.
Maggie Vessey of Santa Cruz hoped to break that drought and become the first to medal, but it wasn’t to be, as she placed sixth in the 800 meter final on Sunday evening in Daegu. Vessey ran a season best time of 1:58.50 in the race won by Mariya Savinova of Russia in a world-leading time of 1:55.87.
The race was fast from the outset, as former world champion Janeth Jepgoskei Busienei of Kenya led the field through a blazing 55.5 second first lap. Vessey lagged behind in seventh with a lap to go, and was not able to put together one of her patented late charges in this race.
Vessey passed Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica just before the finish to claim sixth. Teammate Alysia Montano was fourth, just .06 seconds out of medal position.
Visibly disappointed when interviewed shortly after the race, Vessey said running three fast 800s in four days took a lot out of her.
“I had all the good intentions and gumption in the world to get it done, but I’m coming around that corner and my legs are just flat out heavy,”
“I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed because I feel like I had my race plan and did everything I could have to execute it, but my body was not as responsive as I had hoped and that is disappointing . . . It’s like learning of a weakness at an inopportune time, which is unfortunate.”
Vessey said this was the first time she had experienced running two fast races, then trying to go out and run even faster two days later.
|Janeth Jepgoskei Busienei
In her defense, Vessey, who was in her first-ever final in a global championship, was up against a formidable field of veteran runners, several of whom have had the experience Vessey lacked in championship meets. Busienei and second-place finisher Caster Semyana of South Africa are both former world champions, and gold medalist Savinova placed fifth in the final in 2009 in Berlin.
When a reporter suggested perhaps she was being too hard on herself, Vessey, ever gracious, smiled and said, “I appreciate that. What I feel is a mixture of being very, very proud of myself, of where I’ve come from and where I am now, so there’s that.
“At the same time, because of what I had wanted and dreamed about not happening, it’s painful to me and that’s normal, I think.”
Looking ahead to an Olympic year in 2012, Vessey said the experience in Daegu “is going to give me more confidence in the future. It’s just internalizing everything I can from this disappointment, and turning it around in my favor next year.”
Vessey said that improving her overall strength, while maintaining her speed will be her main focus next year. She said that a strong base training phase in the fall will be critical, and she is happy to be ending this season healthy and feeling good.
It sounds like “next year” – with dreams of an Olympic medal – starts now for the 29-year-old Soquel High School graduate.