David Rudisha of Kenya in action in the men's 800m semi-final at the 2006 IAAF World Junior Championships (© Getty Images)
Daniel Rudisha used to proudly show his son David, when he was younger, the silver medal he won as a member of Kenya’s 4x400 metres quartet that finished second at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
Now, David has something special to show his father when he returns to the family home in Kilgoris in Kenya’s Rift Valley, a gold medal for finishing first over 800m at the 11th IAAF World Junior Championships.
David, who stands 1.88m tall and whose elegant and fluid style reminds one of the gazelles that frequent Kenya’s national parks or the past master over two laps of the track 1988 Olympic champion Paul Ereng, showed that he is a chip off the old block by sprinting past the opposition on the inside and securing victory in the final 30 metres.
He became the seventh Kenyan to win the men’s 800m on a global stage at this level.
In the comfort zone
“At the start I felt very comfortable and then when we went through the bell, I thought to myself, ‘my body is still strong, I am not feeling troubled by this pace.’ It was going into the last lap that I started to get confident that I can win the race even though there were many other good runners in the field,” said the articulate Rudisha, reflecting on the race.
“My confidence started growing with 200 metres to go. I started getting myself into a good position and then it was very fast over the last 150 metres.”
His winning time of 1:47.40 was well short of the Championship record of 1:44.77 held by fellow Kenyan Benson Koech since 1992, reflecting the fact that the first lap was completed in steady 54.34 while the eight contestants jockeyed for position, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the race was an enthralling spectacle over the second 400m.
“Now it is time for me to start showing I can run fast,” added Rudisha, well aware that he may now have a gold medal around his neck but many people will be wondering what his true potential is in a fast race.
The 17-year-old, who does not celebrate his 18th birthday until December, has a current best of a hand-timed 1:46.3 clocked in Kenya last month but there is no doubt from his assured displays in Beijing, in which he used his innate speed to cruise to impressive wins in the heats and semi-finals, that mark will soon be reduced substantially.
Moving up in the world
Until recently, Rudisha thought that his future lay in following in his father’s footsteps over one lap of the track. Last year he made his international debut at the East African Youth Championships in Tanzania where he got a silver medal at 400m but he soon decided that his talents lay at a longer distance.
“I just want to run faster and soon I will have some races in Europe where I can show my speed,” said the smiling Kenya, who is coached by the distance running guru Brother Colm O’Connell.
Beijing has attracted its critics because of the perception the city itself suffers from excessive heat and pollution but, while there is some merit to the observations, Rudisha was certainly not concerned or affected.
“The weather is warm and for me that was a good thing especially as at the moment, where I live in Kenya, it is very cold. And the air was OK, I know that some people say they have been unhappy with its quality but I was fine,” commented Rudisha, although champions can always breath more easily after the racing is done.
“Beijing has been good to me. I want to come back here in two years time for the Olympics and add to the family medal collection,” added Rudisha.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF