Samantha Watson winning the girls' 800m at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 (© Getty Images)
With an inspiring display of grit, tactical prowess and sheer determination, USA’s Samantha Watson captured an unexpected gold in the girls' 800m at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 on Sunday (19).
The US youth champion, still just 15, prevailed in the fiercest battle down the home straight of these championships as she fought off Ethiopia’s Gadese Ejara’s late challenge to win in 2:03.54, a lifetime best and the second gold in the event for the US in these championships’ past three editions.
“It was a very hard race,” said Watson, whose best coming into Cali was 2:04.27. “I had to fight a lot.”
This assessment was almost an understatement if you watched the lanky teenager from Rochester, New York drop to her knees on the track just moments after crossing the finish, drained completely from her brave effort over the final 100 metres but she was seemingly determined to not let anyone else control the race as it steadily unfolded.
Ethiopia’s Foziya Niguse and Italy’s Marta Zenoni took to the front after the break from the stagger, but Watson immediately tucked in right behind the pair.
The pace slowed through the end of the first half with Niguse leading the pack through the bell in 1:03.06.
Niguse upped the tempo but the order remained the same until the leaders approached the final bend, when Watson bolted into the lead, dropping Niguse, but instead dragging along her team-mate Ejara.
Watson built a three-metre gap midway round the final bend, but Ejara cut that in half some 60 metres from the finish before Watson, sensing her rival’s surge behind her, reacted with one of her own.
Ejara crossed the line in 2:03.67, also a personal best, to capture a second successive silver for Ethiopia.
Slight pre-race favourite Zenoni, who fell back dramatically over the final bend, battled back in the waning stages to take the bronze in 2:04.15.
Further back, Great Britain’s Carys McAuley edged Niguse by a scant 0.01 in 2:05.31 to finish fourth. Both girls ran personal bests.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF