On August 9th 2012 when David Rushisha elevated himself from super athlete to superhuman with a performance every bit as god-like and herculean as the acts produced by the Zeus and co, he could be forgiven for thinking that he would never have to worry about winning races again. His new objective would be to run against the clock with only time proving to be a worthy opponent.
Having pitched up in London and taken on the world and beaten them as well as every record in the book, to become the fastest and only man on the planet to run 800m in under 101 seconds. His story is one that has been shared more than a few times in the last two years; from documentaries to press conferences, Rudisha has become a star attraction and with it has come an unenviable amount of inadvertent pressure.
While his story has elevated him from a great track athlete to sporting super star since 2012, it’s safe to say that Rudisha’s performances subsequently haven’t been quite so glamorous, due to no fault of his own.
Injury in 2013, not only curtailed his world championship quest for that year, but also his preparation to this one. So as Botswana’s Nijel Amos, the rocket man, high on life, accelerated past with 65m left to run, it was no surprise that the great Rudisha kick went walk about.
It has been the story of his season; sticking by his laurels, doing the only the thing that feels natural, Rudisha grabs the lead from the gun and tries to leave his rivals in his wake. Only for the gap he had hoped to create between him and his competitors to not develop, and instead dissolve, as his rivals with more indoors racing experience and early season sprint race opportunities, brake down his wall of resilience.
In Prefontaine, he slipped from 1st to 7th with Amos and 2013 world champion Mohammed Aman taking advantage. In New York and Glasgow, he returned to winning ways, as times improved and victory was taken, albeit against somewhat diluted opposition, that allowed Rudisha to paper over a few cracks in his form.
Had the previously mentioned Amos or Aman, been there you suspect his victories may have been less likely. That was to be proven 1 week later, as both athletes, plus Pierre-Ambroise Bosse and Ferguson Cheruiyot put on the after burners to resign him 5th in Monaco. Despite running a season’s best 1:42.98 which would have won him any other race so far this season.
While his progression, race by race has been good, it seems that the Commonwealth Games came just too early for Rudisha to peak in Glasgow. Had it been held in late August we could have had a completely different story with perhaps the headline going to a different man? However, that wasn’t to be the case, so despite cruising through the heats it was always going to be a case of could he win rather than how would he win?
The answer was provided by the imperious Amos who showed exactly why he has been the man to beat this year, leaving it late to break out of the box, with a little bit of help from training partner Andre Oliver, to cause a big surprise to those outside the athletics world.
For Amos, his challenge will be to emulate his great rival by accelerating onwards to take world and Olympic titles and maybe even the world record. Until then, as he rightfully admitted himself, one good season is not enough to place him ahead of the great man from Kenya permanently: “I don’t think I’m the man in 800m, I think I’m the man after I break the world record 5 times! “I have great respect for Rudisha, he’s the only man I know who can go for it in the 800m even when he’s not fit.”
Go for it Rudisha has, after all his problems and setbacks in recent years, it would be easy for his head to drop, but the man from Iten is made of stronger stuff than that: “I’m not losing my hope as I know I’m still on and it’s just because of the problem I’ve had so now it’s just about focusing for next year for the world championships.
“Hopefully next year will be a great year for me and I’m hoping to start my preparation early enough to do well.”
His return to his best next year can’t come soon enough, with a few more even battle with Amos on an incredibly exciting prospect, that could well culminate in another world record.
Something the man from Botswana welcomes, whoever it may go to: “I’d like for us to come back strong together next year to help each other with one of us breaking the world record! I don’t care who breaks it, if it’s me, Rudisha, or Mo [Aman], whoever, as long as we have more fast races next year.”
Neither do we Nijel, neither do we.