Mary Moraa starts 'mission impossible' in Oregon

Mary Moraa

400m and 800m Kenyan runner Mary Moraa trains at the at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on July 13, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A total of 14 entered athletes have run under 1:59 this season.

Mary Moraa has a battle at hand as she begins the quest to win her maiden World 800m title on Friday starting at 3.10am.

The 22-year-old Moraa, the 2017 World Under-19 400m silver medallist, hopes to celebrate her second season in 800m with a medal bracket performance in the ongoing World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field, Oregon, United States.

Moraa already has nine sub two minutes including her personal best of one minute and 57.45 seconds set at the Kenyan trials on June 24, moments after winning her maiden Diamond League in 1:58.93 in Rabat on June 5 before finishing fourth at Rome Diamond League in 1:59.26 on June 9.

On-form Moraa would crack a National Record of 50.84 in 400m during the trials a day after winning the 800m final.

Moraa is aware of the challenge that lies ahead, having only represented Kenya at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year, reaching the semi-finals. Kenya last won the women's 800m title in 2013 Moscow through Eunice Sum.

Moraa will partner with Africa 800m champion Jarinter Mawia and Naomi Korir, who are making their debut in the Worlds.

Among the bigwigs Moraa could face on her way to the final include home athletes Athing Mu and Ajee Wilson.

MU became the second American woman to win an Olympic 800m title in Tokyo last year after Madeline Manning at the 1968 Mexico City Games.

Mu won a brilliant battle between teenage talents to gain Olympic gold last year, running a national record of 1:55.21 to edge her fellow 19-year-old Keely Hodgkinson with a British record of 1:55.88.

Wilson won the world outdoor bronze in 2017 and 2019 and has three world indoor medals, including the title she won in Belgrade in March, her first senior global gold.

“My focus is to reach the final after my Tokyo Olympic Games performance,“ said Moraa, who has kept the 2007 Osaka World 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei as a close confidant in the two-lap race.

"She has been a great source in my training, telling me how to spread my energies across the distance and when to strike," said Moraa.  

Jepkosgei, the 2009 Beijing Olympics silver medallist, made history as the first Kenyan woman to win a world title in 800m in Osaka before settling for silver in 2009 Berlin and 2011 Daegu behind South Africa’s Caster Semenya.

Then Jepkosgei’s protégée Eunice Sum won the title at 2013 Moscow hours after Jepkosgei had withdrawn with an injury. Sum went on to claim bronze in 2015 Beijing.

Since then no Kenyan has won a medal.

Mu heads into Oregon with a world lead of 1:57.01 she ran to win in Rome while Wilson is placed second this season with her 1:57.23 from the US Championships. 

Moraa (1:57.45), Hodgkinson (1:57.71) and Raevyn Rogers, who ran 1:57.96 for third place at the US Championships, follow in that order.

A total of 14 entered athletes have run under 1:59 this season.

They include Diribe Welteji of Ethiopia and Prudence Sekgodiso of South Africa, Britain’s Jemma Reekie, Renelle Lamote of France, Australia’s Catriona Bisset and defending champion Nakaayi, who will all want to make their mark in the final.