Samantha Watson competes in the 800m opening round at the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Tampere, Finland

Preview: women’s 800m – IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018

Sammy Watson is only the third fastest US runner on paper at U20 level in 2018 but that doesn't mean the 18-year-old is not the favourite to retain her title.

Watson is unbeaten outdoors this year, including two notable championships wins in the space of a week last month. In her first year at college, Watson won the NCAA title in Eugene before winning the US U20 title in a season's best of 2:01.46 ahead of Caitlin Collier, the fastest entrant with 2:00.85.

Watson was one of the youngest entrants in the 800m in Bydgoszcz last year but she looked assured all the way through the rounds before winning the final in 2:04.52 ahead of teammate Aaliyah Miller in 2:05.06 and then picked up her second title in the 4x400m relay. If the formbook is to be believed, another US one-two could be on the cards.

The Ethiopians duo in Tampere also posted fast times domestically at the Ethiopian U20 Championships. Deribe Welteji and Hirut Mengesha were first and second in 2:00.89 and 2:01.16 respectively and the latter does have some international experience already, taking the bronze medal at the World U18 Championships in Nairobi last summer.

The Kenyans dominated that race in Nairobi with Jackline Wambui and Lydia Cheruto finishing more than four seconds clear of Mengesha in third. Wambui, however, might not be in quite the same form this year and was a well-beaten second to Cheruto at the Kenyan U20 Championships, 2:02.34 to 2:05.16.

Japan hasn't produced too many world-class middle-distance runners but they will arrive in Tampere with prospects courtesy of Ayaka Kawada and Ayano Shiomi, who were first and second at the Asian U20 Championships in Gifu. They are both ranked inside the U20 top 10 at this distance. 

One notable absentee is Australia's Keely Small, who ran 2:00.81 at the Commonwealth Games. At 16, she will be eligible for the 2020 edition though.

Steven Mills for the IAAF