David Rudisha wins the 800m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
David Rudisha successfully defended his Olympic 800m title in hugely impressive fashion in what was a slightly eccentric race, at least over the first 400 metres, crossing the line in a world-leading 1:42.15.
Starting in lane three, the Kenyan sped away at the sound of the gun and was almost on the shoulder of the man on his outside, France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, within 50 metres.
His young compatriot and 2014 world U20 champion Alfred Kipketer dashed to the front, passing 200 metres in a phenomenally fast 23.2 with Rudisha tucked right behind.
Kipketer went through the bell in an audacious 49.23 with Rudisha three metres back. Bosse and USA’s Boris Berian were just behind Rudisha at this stage, running to his left and right. Kipketer desperately tried to hang on in pole position but then started to drift inexorable backwards when Rudisha hit the front with 280 metres to go.
From this point, Rudisha was never headed as he pulled away from his rivals.
Bosse gave chase around the final bend and was in the silver medal position until about 60 metres before the line, when he started to flag and he couldn’t resist the chasing figure of Algeria’s 2012 Olympic 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi, who overtook him before taking the silver in a national record of 1:42.61.
From Gray to bronze
As Bosse tired, Clayton Murphy was also chasing him down from a long way back and the inspired US champion passed the luckless Bosse 20 metres from the line to take the bronze medal in a personal best of 1:42.93. It was the first US Olympic medal in the men's 800m since Johnny Gray also got the bronze in 1992.
Bosse took fourth in a season’s best of 1:43.41 while Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich also came through strongly in the final 200 metres after being well to the rear of the pack on the opening lap, and took fifth in 1:43.55.
Comparisons will inevitably be made with Rudisha’s triumph four years ago when Rudisha tore the apart with a stunning piece of front running before setting the still-standing world record of 1:40.91.
However, Rudisha’s build up to Rio was nothing like as smooth, suffering slight injury problems and losses, including only coming home third at the Kenyan Olympic Trials.
"It's been very difficult," he said. "I have stayed focused and positive. My coach has been great and given me hope."
However, in the end, his championship experience and tactical maturity shone through. In addition to how his legs carried him, it seemed that he also out-thought his opponents before running his fastest time since his halcyon year of 2012.
"Running 1:42, it's just fantastic," said Rudisha after becoming the first man since Peter Snell in 1964 to win back-to-back Olympic 800m titles. "I had no doubts before. The feeling in my body was good. It is great to win such a big competition, my second gold. It's so great. I am so excited. It is the greatest moment of my career."
Phil Minshull for the IAAF