Flashback 2016: Rain-shy Rudisha stands tall to deliver Rio gold


Kenya's David Lekuta Rudisha waves his national flag as he celebrates winning the Men's 800m ...
Kenya's David Lekuta Rudisha waves his national flag as he celebrates winning the Men's 800m Final during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 15, 2016. Jewel SAMAD / AFP

For many, the advent of rain connotes a blessing but for two-time Olympics men 800m champion, David Rudisha, nothing is as frightening as a pre-race downpour.

An imposing figure on the track – standing at six-foot three – yet the thought of running under wet conditions brings worry upon the ‘King’ who has now attributed wet conditions to his past defeats in major international competitions including last year’s Weltklasse Zürich IAAF Diamond League meet.

“This was a fast race after the World Championships. I could not really move well, I think it is because of the rain. I do not like running in the rain. I did not finish fourth on purpose. I did not feel my legs move nicely.  I was looking for a good, fast race and now I am disappointed with my result.

“The track was a little bit hard and also wet today. And I think I was a little bit afraid of this,” Rudisha who ran 1:45.91 in Switzerland last year for fourth a place behind Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman (1:45.83) – the man he dethroned in Beijing – explained as the all-familiar foe struck.

At the August Olympic Games in Rio, the weather threatened to serve him the same cold treat following heavy downpour just hours before the men’s 800m final at the Olympic Park.

Organizers postponed the final, leaving the 28-year-old guessing but this time he went on to successfully defended his Olympic 800m title in hugely impressive fashion.

Starting in lane three, Rudisha bolted off at the sound of the gun and was almost on the shoulder of the man on his outside, France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, within 50 metres as countryman and 2014 world U20 champion Alfred Kipketer dashed to the front.

As the final lap bell rang Kipketer who was sprinting at a speed of 41.23 seconds in the first lap, was overtaken by Rudisha, who tactically pulled away from the inner lane and took command of the race with Kipketer quickly fading out of the medal bracket having made a wrong start.

With 200m to go, Rudisha had opened a very big gap that Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi struggled to close.

Kipketer, who later rued his ‘moment of madness’ that saw him pass the 200-meter mark in phenomenally speed failed sustain it as he finished fifth on 1:43.55 with Rudisha cruising to a world leading 1:42.15.

At the final homestretch, Rudisha kept it strong at the front to make it the fourth Olympian to defend his title back to back since New Zealand’s Peter Snell.

He is the first Kenyan Olympian Kenyan to win an Olympic gold medal in consecutive editions. Snell successfully defended his Roman title at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

“It has also been another great year for me defending my title at the Olympics. It has not been easy and I’m so grateful that I was able to achieve that.

“This time round it was not like London.  I was going for a fast race. During the finals in Rio I was feeling strong and was in good form and I was actually looking to do a better time. But it rained a little bit and the rains are not my best conditions to run in. All the same I did my best because it warmed up and things worked to my advantage” Rudisha said.

The world record holder says he has no disappointments for failing to break the record as he shifts focus to bagging a third world title at the World Championships next year in London.

“I broke the world record twice in 2010 in a span of two weeks and breaking it after two years in London was a great achievement. In Rio winning was more important to me since defending that title is something special not many have been able defend because that is one of the toughest achievement to many sports men, plus I already had the world record in my name.

“Breaking the world record is something special; it is not something we get to see every day.  It takes time may be 30 years before we see another world record but it depends with a lot of factors,” he adds.

Last month, Rudisha was appointed to the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) commission as the Athletes president, replacing Namibian sprinter Frankie Frederick and is expected to appoint a maximum of seven former or active athletes to the commission.

His primary role will be to unite all athletics federations in Africa and to champion for the rights of athletes.

“It a great thing for our country being elected as athletes’ president at the CAA because our country needs a lot especially with the challenges we are facing with anti-doping and doping cases. We were worried with the country missing the compliance deadline several times but I want to thank the Government because they put a lot of efforts.

“Especially our President Uhuru Kenyatta, he sacrificed and was keen on the process to ensure we are not banned and even speed up the compliance process. I think were it not for him we could have not have participated at the Olympics and we appreciate him a lot as athletes.

“The president played his role and I urge all athletes as their representative not to dope. Doping is not the Kenyan running culture and this is something that just came by some years back. There are athletes’ who represented with integrity and we should all unite in fighting this bad vice from the grass roots level,” Rudisha told Citizen Digital.

At the annual Athletics Kenya Golden Gala, Rudisha took home the men’s middle distance of the year while Faith Chepng’etich took the female award.

“It’s a special occasion where athletes are appreciated for their hard work. I feel very humbled to receive the award it makes me feel like I’m coming back this year,” Rudisha said.

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