VENTURES AFRICA – What better way to stake your claim as the world’s best in a track and field event than to smash the world record to win an Olympic gold in front of 80,000 cheering fans? Well, for every athlete, that is the ultimate dream. So, Kenya’s David Rudisha would not be feeling any different at the moment after becoming the first athlete to set a new world record in the track events at the 2012 London Olympics on his way to winning the 800 metres race.
Speaking to journalists about his achievement just after the race, Rudisha conceded he never doubted his ability. “I had no doubt about winning,” he said. Well, that is the confidence of a man who knew he had all it takes to write his name in the history books and become the greatest athlete in his chosen field.
Born 23 years ago in the Trans Mara District of Kilgoris in Kenya, Rudisha never intended to be a middle distance runner. Quite frankly, he was a lot comfortable in following his father’s footsteps as a quarter miler. Way back in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Rudisha’s father helped Kenya to win silver in the 4X400 and the younger Rudisha aimed to toe that line. However, his coach in secondary school (St Patrick’s Kimorun which was famous for producing outstanding athletes) had other ideas. David switched and that decision has now turned out to be one he would cherish forever.
Rudisha came into global limelight in 2006 when he won the 800 metres event at the World Junior Championships, a feat that saw him dubbed “The Pride of Africa.” However, tragedy struck two years later as he couldn’t attend the 2008 Beijing Olympics due to injury. But the hallmark of a true champion is rising to the top despite challenges and that was what David started doing the following year.
In September of 2009, in Reiti Italy, the Kenyan set a new African record posting a time of 1:42:01 and beating his compatriot Sammy Kosktei’s record of 1:42:28 that had stood for 25 years. The following year at the IAAF Diamond League, Rudisha beat Sebastian Coe’s 31 year meet record with a time of 1:42:04 and later went on a 34 meet unbeaten record. Two months later, November 2010 precisely, David was voted IAAF’s Athlete of the Year aged just 21, the youngest to achieve the accolade.
Coming into the London Olympics, Rudisha had gone on a 34 meet unbeaten run up until last season. Much was really expected from the Kenyan and according to him; he knew conditions were perfect for him to break his own record.
“I was waiting for perfect conditions to break the record. When I woke up this morning, I saw the weather was great and I knew I would do something special. I am happy. I’ve waited for this moment for a long time. To come here and get a world record is unbelievable,” he said.
Not only was Rudisha’s world record unbelievable, the race proper has been dubbed ‘The Greatest 800 Metre Race Ever.” Why? Well, here’s an interesting stat for you: Team GB’s Andrew Osagie (he’s got Nigerian roots) finished last in the race with a time of 1:43:77, the fastest 8th place time in an Olympics 800m event and one that would have won him gold in each of the last 3 Olympic Games. Pause for a moment and put that into context. So when 800 metres legend Sebastian Coe who is now Local Organising Committee chairman for the London 2012 games calls Rudisha’s epic performance, “one of the great Olympic performances,” he is not so far from the truth.
“That was simply an unbelievable performance,” Coe said. David Rudisha showed supreme physical and mental confidence to run like that in an Olympic final. Instead of just doing enough to win the race he wanted to do something extraordinary. I feel privileged to have witnessed it in London.”
Truth is, not only were those who watched in London privileged, every African and indeed millions of fans world wide will admit they are honoured to have seen this performance. Surely, in years to come, David Rudisha will be proud to have been one, if not the best, success story of the 2012 London Olympics.
Image via Supersport