RIO DE JANEIRO – Clayton Murphy, a 2013 Tri-Village graduate, will race for an Olympic medal Monday night.
Murphy finished second in his semifinal of the men’s 800 meter run Saturday night at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He will run in the event finals along with seven other competitors, including fellow American Boris Berian, at 9:25 p.m. Monday in a race that will be televised by NBC. Tri-Village will host a watch party at the school Monday night for Murphy’s competition.
“Everyone’s so proud of him,” said Tri-Village track and field coach Scott Warren, who watched Saturday’s race on a cell phone with approximately 25 other people after NBC preempted live track and field coverage for swimming finals.
The 21-year-old Murphy ran in the third and final race of Saturday night’s 800 meter semifinals and finished second to world record holder David Rudisha, a Kenyan who won the 800 meter gold at the 2012 London Olympics. Rudisha won Saturday’s third heat in 1:43.88 while Murphy, the 2016 USA Track and Field Olympic Trials champion, finished second in a personal-best time of 1:44.30, displaying a strong kick in the final 100 meters to move into qualifying position.
Murphy’s semifinal time was the fourth fastest overall. He finished behind Rudisha; France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, who won the first semifinal in 1:43.85; and Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, who finished second in the first semifinal with a time of 1:43.85.
Also in Monday’s championship race will be Kenya’s Alfred Kipketer, who won the second semifinal in 1:44.38; Berian, who finished second in the second semifinal in 1:44.56; Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski, who finished third in the first semifinal with a time of 1:44.56; and Kenya’s Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich, who finished fourth in the first semifinal in 1:44.65.
While Murphy ran a personal best race on Saturday, Friday’s preliminary race didn’t go as smoothly. In a physical heat Friday morning, he was bumped multiple times and almost fell once. He finished fourth in his heat, outside of automatic-qualifying position, but earned a spot in the semifinals because his time of 1:46.18 was one of the three fastest non-automatic qualifiers.
Saturday’s race went much smoother for Murphy, who now has achieved his stated Olympic goal of making the 800 meter final. Now Murphy, who has a professional contract with Nike, almost certainly will need another personal best race to contend for an Olympic medal.
At the 2012 London Olympics, Rudisha set a world record by winning the 800 meter run in 1:40.91. Americans Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds took fourth and fifth in that race. In 2012, it took a time of 1:42.53 to earn a medal.
The United States’ last medal in the men’s 800 meter run came in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when Johnny Gray finished third and earned a bronze. The last time the United States won gold in the event was in 1972 in Munich when David James Wottle finished first.