When David Rudisha won the 800 metres gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, he not only set a new World record for the distance but it was described as possibly the best athletic performance of the entire games. Since then, he has been beset by injuries and at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games 800 metres final, he was a pale shadow of the runner who graced the track just two years previously.
The final in Glasgow was won by Botswana athlete Nijel Amos who sprinted past Rudisha in the final 100 metres to reverse the London result, but the winning time of 1:45:18 was nearly five seconds slower than the winning time at the Olympics. Amos deserves credit for running a clever tactical race and he has beaten Rudisha on the track this season, but Thursday night’s race developed perfectly for the Olympic runner-up with no real pace in the early stages.
At London in 2012, Rudisha led the field through the first lap in 49 seconds and then accelerated away from his fellow competitors with nobody capable to mounting a serious challenge to his undoubted superiority. On Thursday evening in Glasgow, the Kenyan athlete assumed his customary leading position but the time at the bell was only 52 seconds and there was a sense that it was not to be Rudisha’s night.
Down the back straight, fellow Kenyan Ferguson Rotich briefly overtook Rudisha only for the Olympic gold medallist to lengthen his stride and retake the lead. Two years previously, that would never have happened and maybe it was a sign that Rudisha lacked a degree of confidence in those early stages.
As the field approached the final bend, several athletes were in a position to win the race as they jostled for position, in direct contrast to the wide gaps in the Olympic final. Rudisha produced his final surge for victory and but for the blistering speed of Amos, he would have prevailed yet the Kenyan has never normally needed to use his pace at the finish of a race and has instead relied on his long lengthening stride to break the rest of the field.
Although Rudisha lost the race, there is an argument that his form is gradually improving with every race and a good spell of winter training may yield the old vintage Rudisha next season at the World Championships. There he should encounter Amos once again and the Botswana athlete cannot be discounted from winning again as he is only 20 years of age with further improvement likely.
The Commonwealth Games 800 metres final will not be remembered as one of the best in terms of time but perhaps next season both Rudisha and Amos will have a score to settle as to who can claim the mantle of being the best half miler in the World in a truly run race.