In what may go down in history as the finest performance ever at an Olympic Games, David Rudisha broke his own World record in the 800m clocking 1:40.91* tonight before another capacity crowd at Olympic Stadium.
Running at the head of the field virtually from the outset, the 23-year-old broke his own 1:41.01 record set in Rieti, Italy, on 21 August, 2010 to become the first man to break the event's 1:41 barrier.
"I have waited for this moment for a long time," said a jubilant Rudisha, who ran in similar fashion when winning the World title in Daegu last summer. "To come here and get a World record is unbelievable. I had no doubt about winning. The weather was beautiful – so I decided to go for it."
And go for it he did, in a manner that will go a long way to securing his place as history’s finest 800m runner.
The lone battle of the race – one that didn’t involve Rudisha’s single-minded solitary combat with the clock – came just after the gun sounded, and went in his favour. Both the Kenyan and his long-time rival Abubaker Kaki like to lead – after a brief skirmish, Rudisha took control of the front and with it complete command of the race.
Winning that initial clash, Rudisha went on a tear never before seen in 800m races, at least those not guided by pace-setters. Starting with a jaw-dropping 23.4 opening 200 metres, Rudisha brought the field through the midway point in 49.28.
Casting a long shadow, Rudisha entered the backstraight a second time with a two-metre lead, one he extended down the backstretch before crossing the 600-metre point in 1:14.30, 0.29 faster than in his previous record run in Rieti.
Urged on by the 80,000 fans who were sensing a stunning moment in the making, he maintained his lead as he powered off the turn, but midway down the final straight Botswana's Nijel Amos, the World junior champion, did chip away at the gap. But there was no catching Rudisha who punched at still, warm sky when a sub-1:41 appeared on the clock.
One of the first to comment on the magnitude of Rudisha’s achievement and offer congratulations was LOCOG Chairman Sebastian Coe, himself a former 800m World record holder.
"That was simply an unbelievable performance," said Coe, also an IAAF Vice President.
"David Rudisha showed supreme physical and mental confidence to run like that in an Olympic final. Instead of just doing enough to win the race he wanted to do something extraordinary and go for the World Record as well. Rudisha’s run will go down in history as one of the greatest Olympic victories. I feel privileged to have witnessed it in London."
For his part, Rudisha was proud to oblige.
"Lord Coe is a good friend of mine. I came here in February and he took me around the stadium. I wanted to come here and make him proud."
Proud too was his wife Lizzie, a guest this evening courtesy of the IAAF, among the first to congratulate her husband on the track.
His was the first 800m World record set at an Olympic Games since Alberto Juantorena in 1976.
Behind him followed, by far and by any measure, the highest quality 800m finish in history. Amos crossed the line in 1:41.73 to take silver, a World junior record* that took its toll. Shortly after the race he was taken off the track on a stretcher.
"I am OK," said Amos, whose previous best was 1:43.11. "I was just a bit short of breath. I knew if I chased David Rudisha I had a chance."
Timothy Kitum, who at 17 is a year younger than Amos, clocked a 1:42.53 personal best for bronze to complete the second consecutive Olympic 1-3 finish for Kenya.
"It’s brilliant," said Kitum, who admitted that he was aware of Rudisha’s World record ambitions.
"David told me he would get the World record. He told me he was going to go fast for the line. He advised me not to follow him and to go for silver. That’s why (Mohammed) Aman failed. That was our plan."
Americans Duane Solomon (1:42.82) and Nick Symmonds (1:42.95) dipped under 1:43 for the first time in their careers, finishing fourth and fifth. Aman, who faded to sixth, nonetheless broke the Ethiopian record in 1:43.20.
Kaki clocked 1:43.32 for seventh with Andrew Osagie of Great Britain reaching the line in 1:43.77, also a career best.
Statistically speaking, no other race compares. Every finisher produced a best-ever time for their respective place while eight men ran faster than 1:44 in the same contest for the first time.