Six of the 12 fastest 800 metres of all time have been run by David Rudisha. A former decathlete, and then 400 metres specialist, Rudisha grew up in Iten, Kenya’s middle-distance capital. He is the son of an Olympic 4 x 4000m runner, Daniel Rudisha (who won silver at the 1968 games where John Carlos and Tommie Smith gave their black power salute) and was guided to the longer distance by Brother Colm O’Connell, the mentor of many of Iten and Kenya’s greatest athletes.
Rudisha is also an example of a phenomenon I’ve noted before, the middle-distance runner with a relatively heavy build (6ft 3, 12.5 stone), ideally suited to shorter rather than longer distances.
In contrast to his nearest competitors, such as Abubaker Kaki Khamis of Sudan, competition brings the best out of Rudisha. Aged only 23, his trophy cabinet includes golds at the World championships, the African championships, and the World Junior championships. Indeed Rudisha’s gold at the 2011 World Championships came after being spiked in the final. He’s already run under 1.42 three times this year. If anyone at the Games is capable of what Seb Coe described long ago as the middle-distance runner perfect race (two laps, each in under 50 seconds), it is Rudisha.