During the autumn in Kenya, David Rudisha was disillusioned at the knock-on effects of two years battling back from injury and the 800 metres world record holder was reluctant to return to training.
He delayed his comeback to the track – too late in the eyes of his coach, Brother Colm O’Connell – but on Tuesday he timed his season to perfection to be crowned world champion for a second time and the first since Daegu in 2011.
This was not Rudisha at London 2012 world-record pace. Indeed his winning time of 1:45.84 was almost five seconds slower than 2012 and would have only given him ninth place at the recent Anniversary Games in London behind the British teenager Kyle Langford, who did not even make it out of the heats in Beijing.
But it was the Kenyan at his tactically masterful best, leading the field out from the gun and maintaining that lead to the line – despite the attempts of Poland’s Adam Kszczot and the Bosnian Amel Tuka on the inside and outside respectively to go past with 250 metres to go. Rudisha upped the pace to keep the threat at bay and then kicked for the line to win from Kszczot, with Tuka third.
The race, though, was sadly bereft of the usual challenge of Nijel Amos after the Botswanan, who also pipped Rudisha to Commonwealth glory during the Kenyan’s two injury-riddled seasons, misjudged his semi-final and did not qualify. Whether Rudisha would have run such a slow pace with the fast-finishing Amos in the field is another matter, but his coach, who described the result as “a huge, huge relief after a challenging year for all concerned”, believes his athlete can clock 1:41 when he runs at the Diamond League in Zurich in nine days’ time.
Rudisha, meanwhile, was not clock watching, just relieved to be back on top of the world for the first time in three years.
“I’m really happy,” he said, no longer the haunted figure he has looked in a season of three race defeats. “This win means a lot to me as coming here I wasn’t at the top of the world, I wasn’t the favourite.
“I came here as an underdog. That worked on my side as I had little pressure coming here. People were not focusing on me but the other guys. I sneaked in without a lot of pressure.”
That was the result of a career-threatening knee injury which had reduced Rudisha’s previous invincibility and it was only in the last two and a half weeks at the national stadium in Nairobi that he was fully able to test his speed work at full tilt – and pain free.
“My speed came back when I needed it and it was so important to come back and display that, to win after two years of disappointment with injury,” he added.
“That means a lot to me and I knew the guys don’t have my speed and [there was] nothing much to worry about as I’ve been building on my speed the last month.”