How it works
The shortest middle-distance event is run over two laps of a 400m track. Athletes make standing starts from staggered positions and run in lanes until the end of the first bend, which is when they can break for the inside.
Races over the ‘middle distances’ took place in the Ancient Olympic Games and were revived in the middle of the 19th century. A men’s 800m has been held at every Olympic Games since 1896. Women first contested it at the 1928 Games, but it was dropped from the roster and reinstated in 1960.
Did you know
Cuba's Alberto Juantorena, aka White Lightning, is the only man to win the Olympic 400m and 800m titles at the same Games, doing so at Montreal in 1976.
European and African male athletes have shared success at the major championships of the past 20 years, although Kenyan athletes have won gold at the past two Olympics. African and Russian athletes have predominated in the women’s 800m.
The ice-cool Kenyan-born Dane won three world titles and broke Seb Coe’s 16-year-old world record in 1997, running 1:41.24 in Zurich. Later that year, in Cologne, he lowered the mark to 1:41.11.
In an international career that spanned 20 years, the Mozambican athlete won three world titles and took Olympic gold (Mozambique’s first) in 2000.