Halimah Nakaayi (R) chases down Athing Mu of Team United States during the Women’s 800m heat. Nakaayi’s positioning this season has been her However, her biggest woe this season. PHOTO/AFP

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Rules breach deterred Nakaayi

What you need to know:

The 27-year-old won the 800m gold medal during the Doha World Championships in Qatar on September 30, 2019. Mentally and physically, Nakaayi is better than her stature during the mission in the Middle East.

 Halimah Nakaayi had expected her world 800m title defence to last, at least until the final.

But, it did not happen she stopped in semi-final Heat 3 during Day 8 action of the Oregon World Athletics Championships in the early hours of Saturday.

After finishing eighth in a time of two minutes and 1.05 seconds, the Ugandan left the Hayward Field disappointed.

“This is how it has gone,” Nakaayi said. “I wanted to be in the final but that’s how championships happen. I need to quickly move on and focus again.”

The 27-year-old won the 800m gold medal during the Doha World Championships in Qatar on September 30, 2019. Mentally and physically, Nakaayi is better than her stature during the mission in the Middle East.

However, her biggest woe this season has been her positioning during the races. The 400m graduate has either been boxed in early, midway or towards the end of the two-lap race on several occasions this season.

Nakaayi would have probably broken her own national record but struggled to come through on the inside during the Oslo Diamond League in Norway on June 16.

She was boxed in during her season outdoor bow at the Kip Keino Classic in early May and struggled for space in all other races, as far as memory can serve.

Except for one, the FBK Games in Hengelo, Netherlands where she finished second in 2:00.87.

At Hayward Field on Thursday, she easily went through Round 1 Heat 3 in second place with 2:01.41 behind Olympic champion American Athing Mu.

On the next day, Nakaayi entered Heat 3 requiring to dip under two minutes and make the top three to the final. Easier said than done though!

She started quickly in lane 3 but within 250m, Nakaayi had been boxed in by Great Britain’s Alexandra Bell.

She never recovered. At the same time, Mu and Ethiopian Diribe Welteji broke away. Nakaayi was fifth at the bell and still found herself struggling for space inside lane 1 while approaching the final turn.

The world 800m indoor bronze medallist never recovered. “I am so grateful that I have been able to take part but as we all know, sometimes we have bad days and good days at work,” she said.

“Whenever I get a distraction, I never get back into the race. I just need to improve,” she added.

Another concern to Nakaayi’s omission was a breach in the World Athletics’ rules. By being the defending champion, it is evident she shouldn’t have met Mu in the opening round.

“The Qualification Rounds should determine in the best possible way the athletes who will take part in the next round and eventually the final,” reads a part of World Athletics’ technical rule 20.2.3.

“This includes avoiding where possible the clashing of the best performing athletes (determined generally on performance in the qualification period but also taking into account such matters as outstanding recent career records) in the same Heats as also applies to athletes from the same member or team,” the rule adds.

Furthermore, the rule book indicates that athletes who have met in the initial Heats cannot meet again in the next round unless it’s a final, at least according Rule 20.3.

However, Mu and Nakaayi were put together in semi-final Heat 3 and in the early hours of today, the former together with world indoor champion Ajee Wilson and Olympic bronze medallist had a chance of doing another American 1-2-3.

Nakaayi will turn attention to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in the UK starting this week, pending a visa clearance though.

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