How bungled team tactics almost ruined David Rudisha’s Samba party

By evelyn watta
Aug 16, 2016
  • David Rudisha celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 800m race.(Photo:IAAF/Getty Images)

  • David Rudisha reacts after winning his 800m race.(Photo:IAAF/Getty Images)

RIO DE JANEIRO, "Tell them David Rudisha is coming back!" The newly crowned 800m Olympic champion joked confidently after his rather solid qualification on Sunday.

He was his old self again, more open and not restrained as he has been since he picked up the knee injury.

Rudisha admiringly maintained his calm and was always so relaxed, even when he failed to defend his world title in Daegu in 2013, and lost races back home.

There were glimpses of the old Rudisha last season when he raced to the gold in Beijing last year, but it was more of luck.

No more of the front-running style that we had known him for, like when he raced to the 1:40.91 world record in London.

He held back a lot more and admitted he was struggling to regain his old shape despite winning the world title last year.

At some point he thought his career was over.

Facing his fears, the rain

But going to the final at the Olympic stadium he was different.

Here was a man who had finally gotten over the May 2013 injury scare and the surgery that followed.

“His shape is the best we knew. We saw it in the heats and semis. I was very confident. After the semi he said to me- 'JT am feeling strong, really strong, I am just cruising out there. I have a lot more to give.' And I said ‘it looks that way,"said James Templeton, his American manager.

"He doesn’t talk it up in grandeurs but am happy to see him looking confident and feeling strong. In some way I knew he would stand the pressure of expectation and demands on him,” Templeton added.

On Monday night he had his usual business-like look before races, a hint of worry perhaps, concerned that the conditions on the fast track had drastically changed.

But he stood tall.

Like the warrior he is, ready for the battle ahead.

The torrent had abated, but water remained on the surface.

It brought back memories of his bungled races at the world championships in Berlin, at the Diamond league in Zurich, and most recently in Stockholm to Glasgow when he missed the Commonwealth gold.

But nothing was going to ruin this for him.

Not even an uncompromising teammate.

“What gave me a lot of hope I saw that the temperature was quite good 21-23 (degrees) and that’s the kind of weather I normally like,” Rudisha explained of the windy and wet conditions after a sizzling hot day.

“I wanted to forget about the bad weather because sometimes it is in the mind I don’t think it’s in the leg.

I wanted to stay focussed. When I was doing my warm up, I wanted to assume that I don’t see the water am just running my stride just focussing on the race.”

Kipketer's unexpected surge 

When the race started, Rudisha eased forward but only for a moment.

His teammate, the fast improving 20-year-old, Alfred Kipketer who won the Kenyan trials had other ideas.

He dashed forward and from Rudisha’s veiled reaction, it was clear that this was not part of the pre-race script. Kipketer lapped in 49.23 seconds.

But there was no slowing down.

That is when Rudisha decided to open up and close the gap.

“I spoke to this guy at the warm up. I don’t know what went wrong with Alfred Kipketer,” Rudisha stated, clearly disappointed by the change of tact by his compatriot, the winner in Monaco Diamond league.

But luckily Rudisha is a stylish, graceful and composed racer.

The kind of runner who can express a range of emotions with one single run.

“He decided to shoot like a bullet at the fast 200m and I saw it was too fast.

I decided to slow a bit just to get my rhythm because I am more experienced and I knew that was not good and it was going to cost us as a team in the last 200m if it was that fast.

"Slow it a bit but push it in the last 300, that was the plan and that’s what exactly I told him. I wanted to make it strong from there all the way to the finish and enjoy my strides.

He made a mistake that cost him,” he confessed, referring to Kipketer who isalso Fergusson Rotich's training partner, the other Kenyan in the race.

Rudisha took charge of the race at the 500m point and held on to win his second Olympic gold in season best 1:42.15, that ensured Kenya had won three consecutive Olympic titles over the distance.

Kipketer faded to seventh in 1:46.02. Taoufik Makkhloufi, who will also be lining up in the 1500m won silver in 1:42.61, an Algerian record as Clayton Murphy of the USA got bronze in a personal best time of 1:42.93.

Rotich worked his way to fifth in the home stretch, in a season best of 1:43.55 behind Frenchman Pierre-Ambroisse Bosse(1:43.41).

“If he was alone he would have loved to lead through the bell and accelerate

. He would not have to do those fast accelerations at 200m and 500m. No big deal he(Kipketer) preferred, he (Rudisha) is super strong it wasn’t the fastest race I was predicting 1:49.8 but it probably cost him about half a second but who cares he won!”Templeton reckoned on the bungled team tactic.

First Kenyan to win two Olympic 800m gold

Rudisha is the most decorated of the three Kenyans who went before him, Paul Ereng(1988), William Tanui (2002) and Wilfred Bungei who won the games in 2008 .

“I am very happy. It is one of the greatest moment of my career. London was one of my special races, running that night, breaking the World record, it was one of the greatest 800m races.

"But today was special to defend my title, since 1960-64 nobody has done that and to do it here tonight and coming from where I was in 2013, 2014, 2015 and losing a lot of races,”he said.

He is only the fourth man in Olympic history to successfully win back to back Olympic titles. The others were Great Britain’s Douglas Lowe (1924/1928), American Mal Whitefiled(1948, 1952) New Zealander Peter Snell(1960, 1964).

He is clear on his plans for the next four years.

“I have never thought of going to 1500. I am more of a 400m runner. I have more speed. I am looking forward to the world championships in 2017 then 2019 and also Tokyo 2020, I hope ill be there and ill be in good form,” he said.

Of course the King has every right to be back where he belongs, his throne. He is firmly back on his reigns.