Men's 800m - PREVIEW - Daegu 2011
Provided by IAAF
Two years ago in Berlin, David Rudisha’s dreams of a World Championships gold medal in the 800m evaporated in the last 10 metres of his semi-final.
Aamine Laalou of Morocco and Cuba’s Yeimer Lopez flashed past an faltering Rudisha, the 2006 World junior champion dropping from a qualifying to non-qualifying position in the last few strides of the race.
Since then, Rudisha has been unstoppable. A superlative 2010 brought him two World records, an African championship, and virtually universal acclaim as international male athlete of the year. An injury hiccup aside, that momentum has rolled on into 2011. Can it take Rudisha all the way to a gold medal?
Yes, it can. Mostly, Rudisha’s races over 800m have been familiar affairs – a pace set by his training partner, and preferred pacemaker, Sammy Tangui, an unanswerable burst of power down the back-straight of the second lap, and a strong run to the finish.
All well and good, but championship races are not run like that. Not to worry, the 22-year-old Rudisha has also proved he can run his own races, notably in winning at the African championships (1:42.84), the IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup (1:43.37) , both last year, and this year’s Kenyan national championships (1:43.76).
So, Rudisha can do his own heavy lifting, it seems. He also appears to be rounding ominously into top form, with a world leading 1:42.61 at the Monaco SDL meeting and then a win in London over potentially his toughest rival, Abubaker Kaki.
Kaki is the 800’s other prodigious young talent. Six months younger than Rudisha, he appeared to have his contemporary’s measure until last year. Now the momentum has swung Rudisha’s way, perhaps decisively in terms of where the Daegu gold medal is heading.
Kaki reduced his 1500 best to 3:31.76 in Monaco, which indicates his endurance levels are high. Like everyone else, though, his challenge will be withstanding Rudisha’s power. He chased Rudisha unavailingly all the way down the final straight in London. Can he go one better in an unrabbited Daegu final?
Lurking just behind this precocious duo on 2011 performances is an old hand at the event. Russia’s Yuriy Borzakovskiy returned from a prolonged injury lay-off with a 1:43.99 win at the Znamensky Memorial meeting this year. He has not looked as impressive since, but the 2004 Olympic champion, now an ‘elderly’ 30, must be respected.
Otherwise, the 800 is typically wide open. Rudisha’s teammates, 2007 world champion Alfred Kirwa Yego and Jackson Kivuva, the US trio of Nick Symmonds (national champion), Rome SDL winner Khadevis Robinson and Charles Jock, Polish pair Adam Kszczot and European champion Marcin Lewandowski, Kuwait’s Asian champion Mohammad Al-Azemi and 2010 Asian Games champion Sajad Moradi of Iran and Kleberson Davide of Brazil are all among the many potential finalists and medallists.
For sheer consistency in an event not always noted for it, Yego must rate highly. Since winning in Osaka in 2007 he has been third in the Olympic final and second in Berlin two years ago.
Unfortunately, defending champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, who had run the last five world championships and taking a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and a bronze at the 2003 worlds before breaking through to win in Berlin, is sidelined with injury, and will not be seeking a repeat.
Len Johnson for the IAAF