Athletics Athletics

Champion Sum squeezes through to final

Eunice Sum (right) in a close finish to her women 800m semi on August 27. 2017 in Beijing. PHOTO/IAAF/Getty Images
Eunice Sum (right) in a close finish to her women 800m semi on August 27. 2017 in Beijing. PHOTO/IAAF/Getty Images

NAIROBI, August 27- Defending champion, Eunice Sum, was made to sweat to qualify for Saturday’s women 800m finals after going through as one of the fastest losers on Thursday in Beijing.

The Commonwealth champion clocked 1: 57.56 to cross the line third in a photo finish behind winner Canadian, Melissa Bishop who set a national record of 1:57.54 and Marina Arzamasova of Belarus who returned a personal best of 1:57.56.

The result saw Sum suffer is first defeat since August last year at the Sainsbury’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham ending a run that stretched one year and three days.

“I’m not used to running from behind, so I decided to go to the front from the gun. I was worried in the last 50m when my legs refused to go but I thank God I’m through to the final where I want to beat my personal best,” the shaken titleholder told reporters at the Beijing National Stadium.

Starting in lane five in the third semi, Sum stretched in front after the bell to open the pace in the race that was the fastest of the three qualifiers.

With only the first two finishers and equal number of fastest losers booking their tickets to the final, Sum increased the tempo but she was caught by Britain’s Lynsey Sharp at the 200m mark.

The three crossed the bell in 57.31 with Sum still holding on her lead as she tried to push hard from the inside but the rest of the pack led by Netherland’s Sifan Hassan stayed right on her shoulder.

Hassan, who was doubling after winning bronze in 1500m, tried to desperately close the gap when she moved wide from inside but Bishop, Arzamasova and Polish Joanna Józwik increased the pace.

With about 120 metres to go, Sharp’s wheels started to fall off and she let the 2014 European champion Arzamasova, from Belarus, overtake her on the outside.

As Sharp continued to fade, Canada’s Melissa Bishop emerged from the chasers and successfully ran down both Arzamasova and Sum, winning the race and improving her personal best by two seconds.

Arzamasova just out-leaned Sum on the line for her life time best to deny Sum the automatic qualifying spot, but, thanks to her own swift early pacing, she advanced through, taking the fourth-place finisher, Jozwik (1:58.35), with her to Saturday’s final.

Berlin 2009 champion, Caster Semenya ended her medal interest when she brought up the rear in the first heat in the seismic shock of the rounds decorated by many personal bests.

Sum, who is seeking to be the first Kenyan to hold on to the two-lap world title, also faced grim questions over the doping scandal that saw her teammates Joy Zakari (women 400m) and Francesca Koki (women 400m Hurdles) return positive samples earlier in the week.

“They are individuals and should be answerable. The mood in our camp of good since we are on top of the world,” the Commonwealth, Continental Cup and Diamond League champion from last year insisted.

Her focus is bettering her mentor and Osaka 2007 champion, Janeth Jepkosgei, who was knocked out of the competition in the heats here by holding on to her crown on Saturday.

“The final will be a very fast race but I’m ready,” Sum who ran her new 1:56.99 career best at the Areva Diamond League meeting in France on July 4 declared.