(01-Oct) -- On the fifth day of the IAAF World Athletics Championships at Khalifa Stadium in Doha, former NCAA star Donavan Brazier won the first-ever world 800m title by an American man, and in the process broke Johnny Gray's vaunted American record for the distance set more than 34 years ago. For good measure, the former Texas A&M athlete also broke the championships record which was nearly as old.
>PHOTO: Donavan Brazier wins the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships 800m title in an American record 1:42.34 (Photo by Getty Images for IAAF; used with permission)
"I've said all season that my goal was to get the gold here and to break this record, and that's what I did," Brazier told IAAF interviewers. "It means the world to me. To be world champion at 22 years old, I can't believe it."
Brazier, who runs for the Nike Oregon Project, clocked 1:42.34 beating Gray's record by 26/100ths of a second. The championships record was nearly as old, 1:43.06, set by Kenya's Billy Konchellah in Rome in 1987.
The race could not have set up any better for Brazier. Puerto Rico's Wesley Vazquez took the pace out hard right from the gun, and immediately the field was strung out. Brazier was the only athlete to stay close to Vazquez on the opening lap, and Vazquez hit the halfway mark in a blistering 48.99 seconds, the fastest 400m split ever recorded at an IAAF World Athletics Championships. Despite running at top speed, Brazier tried to remain patient.
"The plan was always to take it on with 300 to go and go from there, no matter what the pace was," Brazier explained.
Vazquez held the lead through 500 meters before Brazier overtook him and started his charge for home. Brazier had a slight lead at 600m (1:15.18), and from there extended his gap to the line.
"I really had to dig deep for it," he said.
Vazquez strained mightily in the final 200 meters to hold his form and battle for a medal. But his fast early pace eventually caught up with him. He slowed in the homestretch and was passed by Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Herzegovina who got the silver (1:43.47) and Ferguson Rotich of Kenya who got the bronze (1:43.82). Reigning USA collegiate champion Bryce Hoppel also managed to pass Vazquez before the line to get fourth in 1:44.25, a personal best time. Vazquez had to settle for fifth in 1:44.48. Clayton Murphy, Brazier's Oregon Project teammate and the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, finished eighth.
Brazier's win today capped an incredible season for the affable, fast-talking athlete. During the indoor season he won the national 600m title, running a world indoor best 1:13.77. He also ran a national indoor record for 800m at the NYRR Millrose Games of 1:44.41, won the USA 800m outdoor title, and was the IAAF Diamond League champion as well.
"To be the first from U.S. to win a world 800m title feels wonderful,"
Brazier concluded. "I hope I get some love for it back home."