News13 Sep 2009

Rudisha: Following in the footsteps of Konchellah and Kipketer?


World leader David Rudisha continues his late-season run of good form with victory in the men's 800m (© Getty Images)

Thessaloniki, GreeceWinning the IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki was the perfect end of the season for David Rudisha. And this success will inspire the 20 year-old even more for the future. After wins in Zurich and Brussels the Kenyan had broken the 25 year-old African record in Rieti last Sunday with a time of 1:42.01, which puts him in fourth place on the all-time list.

Six days after clocking the fastest time in 12 years worldwide Rudisha confirmed his great form when he dominated a very strong field in Greece. Taking the lead right after the first bend he went on to win in 1:44.85.

“I am glad that I started building a win streak and I feel really great. But despite this I will now end my season and go back to Kenya to prepare for next year.”

While Rudisha ended the season with extraordinary form it had been not all celebration this year for the youngster. A year after missing out at the Kenyan Olympic trials because of an injury this time he did qualify for the World Championships. While he was regarded as a potential medal winner Rudisha never made it to the final after finishing third in his semi-final in Berlin and not moving on.

“The problem was that I ran further back in my semi final in Berlin, relying on my sprint,” Rudisha explained. “But when I was trying to get forward there was a lot of pushing. Then I had another problem, when I was kicking, because I felt that my hamstring was tight. It was so cool and windy on that day that even after the warm-up I was not really warm. But it was a good experience at my first major championships. And next time I will correct this.”

Rudisha knows that he will have to be patient. Already after he had missed out on qualifying for the Olympic Games last year he had said, “My moment will come one day, I am still young.” And Rudisha was happy to see his compatriot Wilfred Bungei take the gold medal in Beijing, “because he deserved it”.

With the next global championships two years away Rudisha intends to use the opportunity to further improve his African record in 2010. “When I ran in Rieti I felt that I could do even better,” said Kenya’s World Junior Champion from Beijing 2006, who had a personal best from 2008 of 1:43.72 before this season.

Rudisha comes from Kilgoris, which is in the Trans Mara District in the Great Rift Valley. His father was his original inspiration to start running. Daniel Rudisha was a 400m runner, who had anchored Kenya to an Olympic silver medal in the 4x400m back in 1968. One day he showed his Olympic medal to his son aiming to inspire him. That could not have worked much better!

When Rudisha finished primary school he went on to Brother Colm O’Connell’s St. Patrick’s School in Iten, which is famous for developing a number of Kenyan world-class runners. After O’Connell had seen him running 400m he suggested to Rudisha that he try the 800m. Since 2005, O’Connell has been his coach. One year later he took the 800m World Junior gold. O’Connell has said that Rudisha reminds him of Billy Konchellah, Kenya’s two time World 800m Champion (1987 and 1991).

“I know that I will have to work hard to further improve,” said Rudisha. And it sounds as if the 20 year-old is willing to give it everything. “I can still improve the quality of my training.”

Wilson Kipketer, who established the present 800m world record back in 1997, has already said that he can imagine that Rudisha could one day be the one who breaks his record. Asked about this the youngster said, “I don’t really want to talk about the world record, but I want to run well and improve in the future.” But he also admits that Kipketer had told this to him as well. “Wilson Kipketer was talking to me and he encouraged me.”

Asked if he had any idols as a teenager, Rudisha, who trains with the likes of Augustine Choge and Isaac Songok in Iten, answers, “Yes, I always admired Wilson Kipketer, Paul Ereng and Billy Konchellah.” When Konchellah won his first World title Rudisha was not even born. But that makes no difference to the 20 year-old.

“Billy Konchellah is from the Maasai tribe as well and comes from the same area as myself.”

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF