By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) -World champion Donavan Brazier’s Olympic dreams were shattered on Monday as the overwhelming favourite in the men’s 800 metres suffered a shock defeat in Eugene, Oregon in make-or-break U.S. trials that pushed the sport’s top athletes to the brink.
The 24-year-old American record holder seemed all but assured of a spot on Team USA heading into Eugene, Oregon, this week but ran out of gas with 200 metres to go, finishing dead last with a time of 1:47.88 as he was forced to relive the disappointment of the 2016 trials, where he also came up short.
“I may have made a move a little too early. I paid the price the last 200,” Brazier told reporters, adding that he was “obviously not the best prepared.”
Clayton Murphy, 26, who picked up bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympics, won in a blistering, world-leading 1:43.17. Isaiah Jewett, 24, finished second with a personal best 1:43.85.
Earlier in the day, athletes arrived on the track wearing ice vests to combat the ferociously hot conditions, with temperatures hovering around 93 degrees Fahrenheit (33.9 degrees Celsius) as the action kicked off inside Hayward Field.
Will Claye earned a shot at upgrading his Olympic silver to gold, winning the triple jump with 17.21 metres after having to settle for second place at the Rio and London Games, capping a remarkable recovery for the 30-year-old after he ruptured his Achilles last year.
“It has been a really difficult year for me,” said Claye, who also picked up silver at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. “I’ve been getting to know the new Will Claye. Just to pull out this big jump.”
He just edged out 29-year-old Donald Scott, who went 17.18 metres, while 2016 Olympian Chris Benard finished third with 17.01.
Pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, 28, who won at the World Championships in Doha in 2019 and claimed Olympic bronze five years ago, booked his ticket to Tokyo but had to settle for a two-way tie for second with 21-year-old KC Lightfoot behind 23-year-old Chris Nilsen, who cleared 5.90 metres.
“Now I can just go to bed and be like, ‘I’m an Olympian, go to bed,'” said Kendricks, who had won consecutive U.S. national championships from 2014 through 2019. “I think if someone gave me a pillow, I’d just fall asleep on the turf right now,” he told reporters.
Elsewhere in the day’s action, rising star Elle Purrier St. Pierre, 26, clinched the 1,500m in 3:58.03, while 2016 bronze medallist Jenny Simpson, 34, came up short in her bid for a fourth trip to the Olympics, finishing tenth.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Additional reporting by Gene Cherry; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)