Greatest Women 800m Runners

I return to athletics for my next selection of all-time greats. This time to choose my Top Ten women 800m runners.

10.Nadezhda Olizarenko (USSR) – winner of the 1980 Olympics in a world record time which  still ranks her as the second fastest runner in history. She also won the European title in 1986 and the World Student Games in 1979.

9.Madeline Manning (USA) – the best 800m runner of the late 1960s. She was Pan-American champion in 1967 and Olympic champion in 1968. Betwen 1967 and 1981 won ten US titles.

8.Mariya Savinova (Russia) – currently the outstanding 800m runner. Winner of major titles in 2010 (World indoor and European), 2011 (world championship) and 2012 (Olympic games).

7.Shin Geum-Dan (North Korea) – ran a series of fast times in the early 1960s and was unofficially the first woman to run under 2 minutes. The IAAF didn’t recognise these performances. She rarely competed internationally but was the fastest in the world three times.

6.Lyudmila Shevtsova (USSR) – winner of the 1960 Olympic title in a time that equalled her own world record set earlier that year. She was the best 800m runner in the world in three seasons.

5.Jarmila Kratochvilova (Czechoslovakia) – has held the world record of 1:53.28 since 1983. She won the inaugural world title in 1983 but was denied the chance of winning Olympic gold in 1984 by the Soviet bloc boycott when she was again the best runner in the world as she was in 1985.

4.Yevdokia Vasilyeva (USSR) – the fastest 800m runner in the world seven times in the 1930s and 1940s. However, there were no championships at the event in that era. Set a world record in 1950.

3.Nina Otkalenko (USSR) – five times ranked as the fastest 800m runner in the world. She won the 1954 inaugural European title at the event. She set five world records at the event  taking the record down by seven seconds, and held the record for nine years.

2.  Ana Fidelia Quirot (Cuba) – twice world champion and four times the best 800m runner in the world. She never won Olympic gold but won two medals and was denied the chance in 1988 by a Cuban boycott when she was the best runner in the world. Twice winner of the Pan-American Games and Central American Games. Ran under 1 minute 55 twice.

1. Maria Mutola (Mozambique) – winner of three world outdoor titles, seven world indoor titles and an Olympic gold. She was rated the best 800m runner of the year nine times by Track and Field News in the 1990s and early 2000s. Won three African titles and two Commonwealth golds. She never set a world record but ran consistently fast times over several years.


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2 Responses to Greatest Women 800m Runners

  1. feistyboy35 says:

    I wouldnt rate either Quirot or Mutola that high. Mutola is 0-5 vs Quirot in world and Olympic competition. You cant be the best ever if you are someonese bitch. Quirot though lacks an olympic gold. Likewise you cant be that high when you didnt even ever win the sports biggest grace. I would have both outside the top 3, maybe outside the top 5.

    • rob23notts42 says:

      It’s a fair point that you make with regard to the championship record and that is my only doubt about Mutola as she took a long time to become a consistent champion. However, she is well ahead in her overall career record against Quirot in all races and many those defeats took place when Mutola was in her early twenties and still developing as a championship runner. That is the problem with using head-to-head records as a major factor when athletes are at different stages in their careers. The sheer longevity and dominance of Mutola gives her top spot for me. Quirot was unlucky to miss a great chance of gold in 1988 through no fault of her own. I don’t place much higher value on an Olympic title than a world title. It is often a matter of luck whether you peak in an Olympic or non-Olympic year. Who would you place top? If you have to be an Olympic champion then you are left with many athletes who did little else in their careers at 800m.

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