David Rudisha of Kenya won his second straight Olympic gold in 1:42.15. Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi won silver in 1:42.61.
Rudisha, the world-record holder in the event, swerved into the lead just after the halfway mark and used his long strides to kick for home.
The only one to keep close was Makhloufi, the 1,500 gold medalist at the London Games four years ago.
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Murphy was fifth after the first lap and seventh with about 200 meters to go but used a strong kick to reel in several runners, including France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, whom he passed to take the bronze. Bosse was fourth.
“When I came around the corner, I saw three guys in front of me,” Murphy said. “I kept wanting to push. … I kept turning over and over and my legs were there. When I saw I could get bronze, I just kept pushing. I wasn’t sure if I could get silver or not, but I was super excited to have that little last gear the last 50 meters.”
Murphy’s Team USA teammate, Boris Berian, finished eighth.
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The last American to medal in the 800 at the Olympics was Johnny Gray, who won the bronze at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Ohioan Dave Wottle was the last American to win gold in the event in 1972.
It’s been quite a rise for Murphy, who was ranked 19th in the world in the 800 in May.
Murphy was a gold medalist in the 800 at the 2015 Pan American Games. An All-American at the University of Akron, he won NCAA titles in the 800 (indoor) and 1,500 (outdoor) this year. In June, Murphy signed a professional contract with Nike and a month later won the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 800.
UPDATE: 9:35 p.m., Saturday
Tri-Village graduate Clayton Murphy will run for Olympic gold in the 800-meter run on Monday.
Murphy on Saturday night finished second in his semifinal heat to earn a spot in the final eight. He passed Adam Kszczot of Poland in the final 50 meters to move into second behind Kenya’s David Rudisha.
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Rudisha won the heat in 1:43.88. Murphy, the U.S. Olympic Trials champion, finished in 1:44.30.
The top two finishers in the three semifinals automatically advanced to the finals. The next two fastest times also moved on.
Murphy.’s teammate, Boris Berian, also advanced.
The final is set for 9:25 p.m. Monday at Rio’s Olympic Stadium.
UPDATE: 9:45 a.m, Friday
Clayton Murphy’s Olympics began Friday. They will continue at least one more day after he qualified for the semifinals in the 800-meter run.
The Tri-Village High School grad placed fourth in his heat, posting a time of 146.18. Then he had to wait out four more races before finding out if he would advance to the semifinals tomorrow.
The top three in each of seven heats automatically qualified, and Murphy grabbed one of three wildcard spots.
Saturday’s semifinals begin at 9:08 p.m., and the finals are set for 9:25 p.m. Monday.
Murphy, an All-American at the University of Akron, secured his spot on the Olympic team by winning the 800 final at the U.S. trials in Oregon in July.