The first woman to break 2:00 was Hildegard Falck in 1971. At this meet, it almost took 2:00 to get into the semi-final. Through the first three heats, the slowest automatic qualifier was Halima Hachlaf at 2:00.04, with each race being split at low 57. In the final heat Eunice Jepkoech Sum managed to maintain order, splitting at just under a more leisurely 59 and bringing the three qualifiers in slower than the slowest time qualifier, Lenka Masná at 2:00.31. At that, world leader Francine Niyonsaba, returning medalists Caster Semenya and Janeth Jepkosgei were all missing.
In the final Alysia Montaño displayed tactics reminiscent of Johnny Gray, taking the race out in 26.80 and 56.06 splits opening up as much as a 15-meter lead on the field. Montaño hit the 600 at 1:26.45 with the lead but as she was slowing that's still a long way to get home. Sum had spent most of the last lap second to Montaño, but when defending champion Mariya Savinova tried to go past her at the head of the straight, she responded and held off the challenge. Both of them passed a dying Montaño 40 meters out with the rest of the field gaining rapidly. As she was passed on the inside by teammate Brenda Martinez, Montaño tossed herself at the finish line, collapsing to the track in fourth as Martinez took the bronze.