"My moment will come one day. I am still young." These were the words from David Rudisha when he had missed out on qualifying for the Beijing Olympic Games four years ago due to an injury.
His moment came on Thursday evening (9) – and what a moment it was. Taking the lead from the start he stormed to the gold medal and broke* his own 800m World record at his first Olympics. The 23-year-old clocked 1:40.91, improving his two year-old record from Rieti by one tenth of a second. This will probably remain the best performance of the athletics events in London 2012 and it will go into the Olympic history books.
"I have waited for this moment for a very long time. To come here and get the World record is unbelievable. I am very happy now," said Rudisha, who was especially pleased to have delivered a World record at the London Olympic Games, where former World 800 m record holder Sebastian Coe is the chairman of the organising committee.
"Lord Coe is a good friend of mine. When I came here in February he took me around the Olympic Stadium. So I wanted to come here and make him proud," explained David Rudisha. He is the first runner since Alberto Juantorena, back in 1976 to win an Olympic 800m final with a World record. The great Cuban had clocked 1:43.50 in Montreal. Coe is an IAAF Vice President and Juantorena a fellow member of the IAAF Council.
When Rudisha had an easy training run with Timothy Kitum on the day before the final he had told his fellow Kenyan, who took the 800m bronze medal on Thursday night: "Tomorrow all those in the final could run personal bests – probably with the exception of myself, since I am the World record holder. To run a World record without a pacemaker will be very difficult."
Rudisha knew that he was in very good form coming to London: He had run sub 1:42 times twice during the season and additionally clocked a staggering 1:42.12 minutes at high altitude in Nairobi during the Kenyan trials. After that he had said 'the race was nice and easy’.
"I needed good weather and a good race (to attack the World record) and have been waiting for that. During the first round race I noticed that it is a fast track," recalled Rudisha. "This morning the weather was very good and I knew that I could achieve something special. So I decided to go for the record. Of course I was not sure that I would break it."
During the race Rudisha was aware that he was on World record pace when he passed the 500 and 600 metre marks. "I saw 61 seconds and then 1:14 minutes on the clock, so I knew it was still possible. The cheering was really amazing. That helped me, because on the finishing straight my legs became slightly tired.
That happened because of the first round and the semi final races," explained Rudisha and added: "So if everything is perfect I could run even faster." Who knows, with the help of pacemakers Rudisha might well even become the first runner to break 1:40 minutes one day.
On Thursday Rudisha was not only the Olympic winner and World record breaker but also somehow a pacemaker: Without Rudisha in front of him second placed Nijel Amos (Botswana) would probably not have improved the World junior record to 1:41.73 minutes (by coincidence that is the time, that stood so long as Coe’s World record).
Asked about his thoughts before the race Rudisha, who is Kenya’s team captain at these Olympics, revealed: "I was thinking about my father and how he would now sit in front of the TV at home and watch this. He was not able to come to London. If he had not been an athlete himself I would probably not have been here and would not have become an athlete."
It was his father who had originally inspired his son to start running. Daniel Rudisha was a 400 m runner, who had anchored Kenya to an Olympic silver medal in the 4x400 m back in 1968. One day he showed his Olympic medal to his son aiming to inspire him. That could not have worked any better!
"I have always dreamt about achieving that as well: winning a silver medal or do even better and take gold. He had really been inspiring for me. I remember when he showed me a magzine from the 60ies with an interview with him and he had said that he wanted to break the world record," recalls Rudisha. His father never reached that goal, but now his son has broken the 800 m world record for a third time.
At first Rudisha, who comes from Kilgoris, which is in the Trans Mara District in the Great Rift Valley, wanted to become a 200 and 400 m runner. When he had 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 400 m he suggested to Rudisha to try the 800m. Since 2005 he took over as his coach. One year later Rudisha won the 800m World Junior gold.
"It was a disappointment for me not to be able to go to Beijing four years ago, because I would have been a favourite. But I was still young and my coach had advised me not to risk anything," recalls Rudisha, who then missed the final at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009. This was due to a mixture of very unsuitable weather and as a result a msucle problem but also a tactical mistake.
However Rudisha came back strong after the disappointment. He clocked an African record shortly after the championships, running 1:42.01 minutes.
"When I broke this 25 year-old record that was a big step forward," says David Rudisha, who then broke the World record twice in 2010 (1:41.09 in Berlin and 1:41.01 in Rieti). A year later he won his first gold medal at the World Championships in Daegu. Now Rudisha, who had named Wilson Kipketer, Paul Ereng and Billy Konchellah as his idols, is an Olympic Champion.