Britain’s Max Burgin, on his final day as an 18-year-old, underlined his enormous potential by destroying a high-class field in the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava last night to set the fastest 800m time in the world this year.
Burgin’s time of 1min 44.14sec was a personal best and a European under-20 record – faster even than Seb Coe and Steve Ovett at the same age – but the way he did it, leading from gun to tape, was arguably even more impressive. It was some statement, especially only nine weeks out from the Tokyo Olympics.
A few minutes earlier the European Indoor champion Keely Hodgkinson further emphasised the state of British distance running was in the rudest health by storming to victory in the women’s 800m in a personal best of 1:58.89.
Afterwards Burgin paid tribute to his friend Hodgkinson, who is a year older than him at 19, for inspiring him to go so quickly. “It was brilliant,” Burgin said. “I knew I wanted to run a fast time. The pacemaker helped me a lot. I kept pushing and pushing. I saw the race of my good friend Keely Hodgkinson, who ran just before me. She can be so fast and I thought I just have to match it at least. So I did treat myself for tomorrow’s birthday.”
Burgin did that and more. While the world 2019 silver medallist, Amel Tuka, and Britain’s Jake Wightman held back, Burgin decided to go with the pacemaker and quickly established a 10-metre lead which he never looked like relinquishing. Yet even he seemed surprised when he looked around on the final straight and saw his rivals flailing so far behind.
Afterwards Burgin needed treatment by doctors in the mixed zone, although it appeared to be nothing more than intense fatigue. And while the men’s 800m in Britain is stacked with quality talent – including Elliot Giles, Daniel Rowden and Jamie Webb – it already looks as if Burgin’s decision to postpone the start of his history degree at Leeds to prepare for the Olympics will be a wise one.
Hodgkinson, meanwhile, was also delighted after setting a time that ranks as the fifth fastest in the world this year at the Continental Tour event. “That was the perfect race,” she said. “The pacer did an amazing job and I just ran as hard as I could the second lap. I’m really happy.” When asked whether the unseasonably cold weather had bothered her, she smiled. “It’s a lot colder in the UK,” she said. “We have days like this only worse.”
Elsewhere in Ostrava the 2017 world 100m champion, Justin Gatlin, could finish only second in the 100m to his fellow American Fred Kersey, who came home in 9.96sec, while the German Johannes Vetter threw the seventh farthest javelin in history with a distance of 94.20m.
But there was no world record for Joshua Cheptegei in the men’s 3,000m. The Ugandan, who broke the 5,000m and 10,000m records last year, fell off the pace by halfway and finished well outside Daniel Komen’s 25-year-old best in a time of 7.33:24.