What a difference three years can make. At London 2012, David Rudisha produced the best individual performance inside the Olympic Stadium in a procession to gold and the world record. Yet after injuries to his knee – which required surgery – and calves, the only man to run under 1min 41sec for 800m looks ever more mortal.
Today he was pitted once more against Nijel Amos, the Botswanan who had pipped him to Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow last year and beat him again when the pair last met at the Diamond League meet in Lausanne, and once more the script played out in familiar fashion.
Rudisha’s trademark has been his front-running from the gun, but here he let others do the pacemaking until moving into the lead turning into the home straight. As the Kenyan engaged his kick, he initially pulled clear before anxiously looking over his shoulder to locate Amos who, arms flailing, comfortably closed up on his more experienced rival to take the win in a time of 1:44.57.
Afterwards Amos was hardly able to breathe as he described racing and beating his idol as a dream. “I used to watch his videos as a youth so now it’s a dream came true,” said the lively 21-year-old, who also has musical interests, where he goes under the name of DJ Zoroski. “Every race I’m running with him is a motivation.”
The man with the golden teeth now looks the favourite to win gold when the pair’s rivalry is renewed at next month’s World Championships in Beijing. Britain’s Michael Rimmer will also be there, having booked his place by barging his way into fifth in a time of 1:45.67.
In the aftermath, Rudisha looked up at the clock pensively, scratching his head as he tried to think of a way to defeat Amos, whose blistering speed in the home straight is something the 26-year-old Kenyan seemingly cannot match, let alone eclipse.
It is facet he has been focusing on during training over the clay-baked surfaces of Iten, high in Kenya’s Rift Valley, but those knee and calf problems have meant he has been unable to work on his finishing speed until recently.
Whether there is enough time in the four weeks between now and Beijing is another matter, but yesterday Rudisha preferred to focus on his first time running inside the Olympic Stadium since setting his world record of 1:40.91.
“When I come here I know this place is always special,” he said. “I have a lot of good memories about this track. I’m very excited to be here with this wonderful crowd.”
He added: “Since 2012 I’ve had a lot of disappointment and not been doing a lot of speed work, so I’ve been working on that over the past few weeks and I’ve seen an improvement. I’m still working on it.”
Should Rudisha improve his final sprint then the rivalry with Amos has the prospect of being as captivating as Usain Bolt against Justin Gatlin inside the Bird’s Nest. For his part, Rudisha relishes the challenge: “It’s really nice when we are racing and we have a lot of respect for each other.”Reuse content