TONIGHT’S Commonweath Games 800m final promises to be an enthralling race and Essex fans will have their very own athlete to roar on.
Canvey’s Jessica Judd, 19, qualified for tonight’s final in style yesterday, dominating her heat to cross the line first and book her spot in the final that takes place at 8.45pm tonight, live on BBC1.
Judd may be running in her first senior championships but she will believe she has a very real chance of a medal.
Kenya’s Eunice Sum, the reigning world champion, is the firm favourite and it would be a surprise if she did not win gold, but behind her the race is wide open Here RYAN GOAD takes a look at the competitors.
ANGIE SMIT (New Zealand). Season’s best (SB) 2m 00.59s. Personal best (PB) 2m 00.03s.
Smit, 22, is competing in her first major final and is an outsider on paper. She is the only one in the field never to have broken two minutes, but if it’s a slow, tactical race, she, like anyone, could come into contention.
NIKKI HAMBLIN (New Zealand). SB 2m 02.73s. PB 1m 59.66s
English-born Hamblin, 26, is one of the most remarkable stories of the final. Before this season, she had not raced for two years because of injury and is now in a Commonwealth Games final. She may not have the form this year, but she has the pedigree as the silver medallist at the 2010 Games in both the 800m and 1,500m.
EUNICE SUM (Kenya). SB 1m 57.92s. PB 1m 57.38s.
The world champion and overwhelming favourite. Mother-of-one Sum, 26, is the fastest in the field and knows what it takes to win a major championship gold. She looked good in her semi-final yesterday and it is hard to look past her for the win.
WINNIE NANYONDO (Uganda), SB 1m 58.63s. PB 1m 58.63s.
Nanyondo is the most-improved athlete in the field this season and will be a danger. The 20-year-old is well known to Judd. She finished eighth at the World Junior Championships two years ago, a long way down on Judd who won silver, but beat the Canvey teenager in Monaco two weeks ago, setting a personal best in the process.
MELISSA BISHOP (Canada) SB 1m 59.70s PB 1m 59.70s.
Bishop, 25, has looked very good in her two races so far, winning her heat and finishing behind Sum yesterday to qualify second fastest from the two semi-finals. Her personal best of 1m 59.70s was set a month ago so she is very much in form. A very real threat for a medal.
LYNSEY SHARP (Scotland) SB 1m 59.67s PB 1m 59.67s.
Sharp, 24, will certainly have the crowd on her side. The home favourite and reigning European Champion did not look great in her semi-final yesterday and had to rely on being one of the fastest losers to qualify but she has the ability to come good tonight. If it’s a tactical, slow race, few have the closing speed to match Sharp who is the current British champion.
JESSICA JUDD (England) SB 1m 59.77s PB 1m 59.77s.
Canvey’s Judd may be the youngest in the field at 19, but she has great confidence in herself and will fancy her chances of winning a medal. She has bounced back from nearly three months out with a fractured back to run a PB this year and looked good in winning her semi-final yesterday. A true run race, rather than a tactical affair, would probably suit her best, so she will be hoping someone decides to take the pace on from the start.
JENNY MEADOWS (England) SB 2m 00.32s PB 1m 57.93s.
At the other end of the age spectrum to Judd, Meadows, 33, is one of British athletics’ favourites having had a glittering career that included a bronze medal in the World Championships in 2009. She is not in that sort of form anymore, but has more experience than anyone else in the field