David Rudisha celebrates winning gold in the men's 800m (© Getty Images)
The one minute 42.10 seconds at the end of 2009 was about atonement for the World Championships, 2010 was about World records, but David Rudisha never made any secret that 2011 was about winning a World title.
From the moment he stepped onto a track in Melbourne, Australia last March, Rudisha made his intention clear.
And in resounding fashion, Rudisha realised his ambition in Daegu stadium on Tuesday night. He led every step of the way. He kicked clear at the entrance to the final straight and ran the length of it in wonderful solitude to take the gold medal in 1:43.91.
It was not a Championship record – that has remained with Billy Konchellah for 24 years and will remain with the Kenyan legend another two at least – but it was one of the most commanding championship performances seen since the days Wilson Kipketer was in his pomp.
At times, such as when he slowed in the second 200, and again when he did not make his usual decisive surge down the back-straight the second time, Rudisha gave the illusion that he might be challenged.
When that redoubtable finisher, 2004 Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy loomed onto Rudisha’s shoulder off the final turn, that illusion seemed close to reality. Now came Rudisha’s delayed explosion. He quickly put a two, three then four metre gap on his rivals and strode to the line unchallenged. He thrust a right arm skyward in the last few strides, which may have cost him a metre of his lead, but no matter.
Behind him came a blend of the old and new order at the 800. Abubaker Kaki, Rudisha’s superior two years ago and his closest rival now, was second in 1:44.41. He must be reflecting on a strategy which saw him expend an extravagant amount of energy in his heat and semi-final runs. Indeed, it almost cost him a place in the final, which he made only as the fastest non-automatic qualifier from the semis.
Borzakovskiy fittingly led the old guard in third place, taking the bronze medal in 1:44.49. He took much closer order at the bell – reached by Rudisha in 51.33 – but could not find his usual finishing power off that pace.
European champion Marcin Lewandowski of Poland was fourth in 1:44.80, just ahead of Nick Symmonds of USA. Adam Kszczot, Osaka 2007 champion Alfred Kirwa Yego, and Ethiopia’s first-ever finalist Mohammed Aman completed the field.
Again, as in his semi-final, Rudisha led. He raced through the first 200 in 23.81, blunting any threat from Kaki with that pace, slowed to 27.52 for the second 200, then picked up to a 26.66 third and ran 25.92 for the final 200. Few men can accelerate in the final 200 in an 800, much less one run at sub-1:44 pace.
So now Rudisha is the world’s fastest man at 800 and also the World champion, more than making up for his ‘failure’ at the Berlin 2009 championships when he was run down in the final metres of a semi-final delayed over an hour by a fierce storm.
Thus was born the theory that he might be vulnerable in championships, a myth that defied his record as a junior and in front-running to African championships victories and a win in the IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup last year.
The theory was well and truly rebutted on Tuesday night. Next he wants the Olympic gold medal and, from this distance, it is difficult to see anyone denying him.
Len Johnson for the IAAF