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David MF Rudisha

 

Highlight number four keeps us in the Olympic Games for what was probably (definitely) the greatest track race of 2012.

 rudisha wr from london2012.com

 

 

 

Every now and then a track race comes along that makes you go “Hold on. What the hell just happened?”

 

I’d say the last time this happened was in 2008 in Beijing when Usain Bolt (up to then not even really focussing on the 100, far more of a 200m man) stunned the world with a chest-thumping, victory salute across the line 9.69 seconds after the starter’s pistol had fired. No-one could believe how fast he had just run, and how comprehensively he had won the race. And the manner in which he had done it.

 

But this post isn’t about that.

 

This is about David Rudisha in the Olympic Men’s 800m Final.

 

If Mo Farah winning gold in the 10,000m was my emotional highlight, Rudisha’s 800m gold medal winning performance and the performances it inspired in the rest of the field, was undoubtedly the athletic performance highlight of the year.

 

7 August 2012

 

Tuesday night, shortly before 8pm. Athletics history was made in no uncertain terms.

Reliving the race raises the hair on the back of my neck every time. It is incredible.

 

Rudisha is simply majestic in movement. For a few minutes he is invincible. There are no signs of the all-too-familiar lactic acid buildup that plagues the second lap of any 800m race. He is smooth, long striding power from start to finish.

 

It is rare that an athletic talent brings so much to the table so completely in the way Rudisha does. He has the talent, clearly. But he has the drive, he has the physical attributes, and when he is truly on top of his game, as he was in August, he has a look about him, an expression that says: This is all going to be ok. It is going to go well, you will see something special.

 

The rest of the field are world class athletes. In no way are they here to play an auxiliary role, and neither should they. They have made it to 800m running’s top table. The best of the best. It just so happened that when they got to this table there was someone already seated at the head. They may admit later that deep down they knew there was no chance of beating David that night.

 

But at the time, on the big occasion they all believed they had a shot. They had to believe they had a shot. And they did. But they didn’t really.

 

Of course no-one was going to stand off and let David Rudisha run a pair of victory laps before embarking on a real victory lap. He went out hard, but they went with him. Abubaker Kaki in particular, had a go. People have since said he ruined his chance of a good race by trying to beat Rudisha, poor tactics. I couldn’t disagree more. Kaki is not there for a “good race”. He is there to win the gold medal. At his best Kaki was one of the few runners with the pedigree to match Rudisha. In the preceding 12-18 months he may not have been his imperious self, but before that he could lay claim to being unbeatable to everyone bar Rudisha. He was looking for a return to strap-hitting form and why not now. He was there to win and he went for it. Hindsight being what it is, yes, his tactics cost him a medal. But so what? It is better to have tried and lost than to have not tried at all. Or words to that effect. And for someone with Kaki’s ability to settle for third before the starter’s pistol has fired is to not to try at all.

 rudisha celebrates from the telegraph

 

The magical race that night headed by David Rudisha dragged a field of world class 800m runners into a zone in which none of them had previously managed to venture. In the results below take a look at the column on the right hand side. World Record, National Record, Personal Best after Personal Best. Everyone smashed it. The only person without a lifetime best from the race was Kaki. And to my mind that is a double mark of respect. Firstly because it shows that he had the minerals, discipline and the courage of his convictions to stick to his guns and  to absolutely put everything on the table for the win, regardless of consequence, and secondly it is a mark of respect because 1:43.3 is a brilliant time, but hey he has run quicker. Class athlete.

 

So everyone else in the race had the performance of their life. At the same time. That is rare.

 

Last place in the race went to Great Britain’s own Andrew Osagie. A man who has been knocking at the door, not for long mind, and looking to step up in performance. Cometh the hour cometh the man. Last place maybe, but hardly shamed, and a 1:43.77 to boot. Of some comfort to Andrew, should he need any, is that his time in 2012 would have won the Olympic GOLD medal in the 2008 race (Kenyan Wilfred Bungei won in 1:44.65).

 

Nijel Amos from Botswana, what a future this young man has. He produced a staggering performance on the night. Running like a man possessed. I look forward to seeing him on the circuit over the next few years. Nick Symmonds always delivers a big race when needs be and has matured superbly into his role as 800m flag bearer in the US. Duane Solomon is a man on the rise according to those in the know. There is so much potential in the young men who made history in this race. Who knows where we will see the magic emerge again?

 

To wrap up, the results of the night stack up like this:

 

1 RUDISHA David 1:40.91 WR
2 AMOS Nijel 1:41.73 NR
3 KITUM Timothy 1:42.53 PB
4 SOLOMON Duane 1:42.82 PB
5 SYMMONDS Nick 1:42.95 PB
6 AMAN Mohammed 1:43.20 NR
7 KAKI Abubaker 1:43.32 SB
8 OSAGIE Andrew 1:43.77 PB

 

I think this will be my favourite 800m race for a long long time.

 

 

 Highlights of 2012. Part 1. NIA Indoor 2-mile

Highlights of 2012. Part 2. Big City Marathons.

Highlights of 2012. Part 3. Olympic Men’s 10,000m Final

 

 

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Olympic Men’s 10,000m Final

 Mo with flag from article.wn.com

Part 3 of the year’s highlights finally brings us to the holy grail of global Athletics, the Olympic Games.

We may be making more than one stop at these Games before this highlights series is over. But this is the first, and this one is looking back at the Men’s 10,000m final.

4 August 2012

A magical Saturday evening in August. The height of summer. An incredible atmosphere swirling in the stadium of the blue riband sport of the Olympics.

Home ground advantage to Mo Farah. Years of build-up had come down to this. The challenge of the 5,000m may have loomed large on the horizon, but tonight was about only one thing, his first battle with sporting immortality, in the 10,000m.

Alongside him, and to the undoubted benefit of both runners, he had his training partner of recent years, and good friend, Galen Rupp. Their coach, Alberto Salazar was trackside, providing a calming influence on his athletic charges. Salazar was also there to shout splits and information during the race. His duo was taking on the might of distance running, currently residing in a small section of the planet we like to mark as East Africa. Kenya and Ethiopia. Mo and Galen would be attempting to wrestle a small portion of the global distance running magic away from East Africa and redistribute it in the western world, specifically in the UK and USA.

 

There are many excellent reports on the race itself and how it unfolded. Here’s what happened in a few badly worded sentences. The race went out slow; the Bekele brothers went to the front for a while and then slipped back into the pack. Then the Eritreans took up the running and Tadese took it out hard. You knew from then it was unlikely to slow much. Allegedly Galen was a bit antsy at this point and wanted to close the gap. Mo calmed him down and told him to save everything for the last lap. And so it went. The race ground everyone but the contenders out and on the final lap Mo unleashed his kick. The Bekeles went with him, Galen momentarily losing ground over the first 200. Galen came storming back over the final 200 as the Bekeles, first Kenenisa and then Tariku fell off Mo’s vicious kick. In the final 50m Galen was possibly the strongest of all, but Mo had it won and looked as though he may have had a drop more in the tank, albeit on the red line, should any “leaning over the precipice and looking into precisely nothing” be required.

Wikipedia’s typically factual and readable version is here. Here is another write up, by The Guardian this time. Or is the Telegraph more your cup of tea perhaps? The point is there are lots a great accounts.

And there are lots of great accounts because it was big news. Massive news. Huge news. The kind of news that turns runner’s names into household names, even if only for a few months until the football season starts up again. But I’m not going to be cynical. Mo’s run is worth more than that.

And behind him (and just behind him at that) Galen’s run was worth as much again. mo and galen from img.bleacherreport.netThe image of Galen beating everyone besides Mo was one of my favourite images from the Olympics. Let’s work through that again. He beat both Bekele brothers, Tariku and Kenenisa. He beat all the Kenyans. He won a medal at the sport’s highest table.

What about Alberto Salazar? Surely the last word has to go to him. His charges finished first and second. They took on the best the world had to offer and they beat them.

YouTube has the entire race archived for your viewing pleasure.

 

If you have the time I recommend watching it again. If you live in the UK, it is mandatory. Watch it now or face the downright unpleasantness of me turning up at your front door tonight to find out why you didn’t. The reason better be good.

The race was special and the moment was special. For Mo, for Galen and for their many supporters who had followed their respective paths to witness this night, at the pinnacle of their craft.

I don’t have much more to add. This was my emotional highlight of the Games and of the year.

Here are the results to savour one more time.

Pos Name Nationality Time Notes
1 Mo Farah Great Britain

27:30.42

 
2 Galen Rupp United States

27:30.90

 
3 Tariku Bekele Ethiopia

27:31.43

 
4 Kenenisa Bekele Ethiopia

27:32.44

 
5 Bedan Muchiri Kenya

27:32.94

 
6 Zersenay Tadese Eritrea

27:33.51

 
7 Teklemariam Medhin Eritrea

27:34.76

 
8 Gebre Gebremariam Ethiopia

27:36.34

 
9 Polat Arikan Turkey

27:38.81

PB
10 Moses Kipsiro Uganda

27:39.22

 
11 Cameron Levins Canada

27:40.68

 
12 Moses Masai Kenya

27:41.34

 
13 Dathan Ritzenhein United States

27:45.89

 
14 Robert Kajuga Rwanda

27:56.67

PB
15 Nguse Tesfaldet Eritrea

27:56.78

 
16 Thomas Ayeko Uganda

27:58.96

 
17 Moukheld Al-Outaibi Saudi Arabia

28:07.25

 
18 Mohammed Ahmed Canada

28:13.91

 
19 Matthew Tegenkamp United States

28:18.26

 
20 Ben St.Lawrence Australia

28:32.67

 
21 Diego Estrada Mexico

28:36.19

 
22 Yuki Sato Japan

28:44.06

 
23 Ayad Lamdassem Spain

28:49.85

 
24 Daniele Meucci Italy

28:57.46

 
25 Christopher Thompson Great Britain

29:06.14

 
26 Mykola Labovskyy Ukraine

29:32.12

 
  Ali Hasan Mahboob Bahrain

DNF

 
  Bayron Piedra Ecuador

DNF

 
  Wilson Kiprop Kenya

DNF

 

 

 

Highlights of 2012. Part 1. NIA Indoor 2-mile

Highlights of 2012. Part 2. Big City Marathons

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We’re talking Olympics 2012. Of course we are.

The early selection conundrum. Where do you go with it? UKA have made it clear what the A-standards are that need to be achieved, but they have not made it clear as to how they will assess those performances for selecting the team, and particularly for the early selecting that will take place and that has recently taken place.

Looking at the women for the moment.

The first wave of selections have just taken place. The winners are obviously Paula and Mara who got selected. But it closes the door just that little bit on all remaining candidates. There is now only one spot available. Jo Pavey, Liz Yelling, Claire Hallisey, Louise Damen and possibly some others I’ve forgotten about are all fighting for that one spot.

Spare a thought especially for Jo, who has run 2:28 twice this year, including on the acknowledged tougher course of the New York Marathon. The difference between her and Mara must have been marginal. Mara has the better pedigree (2:23 and a 6th place in the previous Olympic Marathon) but she has struggled for the past year or two. I don’t think she would dispute that. By contrast Jo has had a great year since her return from having a baby.

Clearly the selectors couldn’t have pre-selected all three athletes in the early window as that literally would have shut out any potential candidates who had lined up an early 2012 marathon to qualify.

Paula’s selection is beyond debate. With her pedigree and critically with her current form, a 2:23 in Berlin, she should have been inked into the team sheet at the first opportunity. Mara has the pedigree but not the form. Or rather, not the form that is significantly better than Jo’s. indeed Jo’s 2:28 in New York could be argued to be the better mark. But then it does start to get subjective. Which is sort of the point. It’s a close call, so why make it now?

But they did and Jo gets the short straw and now needs to decide what to do. Surely a third marathon in a 12-month period would be a tall order, especially considering that if it went well it would lead to a FOURTH and the most important of all, the Olympic Marathon, a few months after that. Yet that is effectively what she is being told she has to do. I have nothing against Mara, I’m a big fan, as we all should be. She is a great runner and a great advert for British running, as a person and as an athlete. But the fact remains that of Jo is being asked for a third indicator of form, perhaps she should have been asked for a second. Doing that would also give the remaining 5 or 6 athletes mentioned earlier, slightly more encouragement as two of the spots would theoretically still be up for grabs.

London Marathon announced their elite women’s field for 2012 a few days ago, and notably, Jo’s name was absent. This could mean a number of things of course. She could be thinking about a different marathon, she could simply have not yet confirmed to London, indeed she could have packed it all in. But in a world of conspiracy theories and armchair experts (guilty) surely the noticeable absence of her name from the entry list could be read as a reaction to the snub of not being selected early, or of selecting Mara early. If the selectors want to keep her guessing as to her fate, then this could be her way of keeping them guessing as to her intentions.

Unfortunately in these situations, there is only one losing side and it is always the same side.

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I’ve been toying with writing about this topic for a while now. More than a year if I’m honest. Quite how successful I’ll be at spelling it all out, and getting my point across, remains to be seen.

In simple terms, and of course in my opinion, the synopsis is this: The manner in which a competitive international marathon is contested and won has changed. Not a gradual evolution, but a rapid step change, set in motion on the day Samuel Wanjiru won the Olympic gold medal in Beijing in 2008.

Naturally we didn’t fully grasp the enormity of it at the time. It was an astonishing performance yes, one of the best of all time. But the effect it would have on marathons from then on was what truly defined it. All we knew was that the Olympic marathon had been won in a way never seen before.

Beijing was an aggressive non-conservative attritional race. It was full of pace surges – FROM THE GUN.

Fast marathons had been run before but never like this. In the past they had been even-paced or sometimes fast-paced early on, with slow decays to the end. Fast times were obviously still achieved (Steve Jones in Chicago 1985 for example. Halves of 61 and 66) for what was then a world record and is still the UK record. Beijing was different. It wasn’t a fast but even pace. It was fast no question, but it was the surges Wanjiru threw in, oh the surges. Starting inside the first 10km, they were incredible.

They were what set this race apart from those preceding it.

The conditions it was run in are worth more than a mention. They add significantly to the unbelievable nature of what was happening. Beijing was hot (30 degrees?) and humid. It was no place to toying with human performance and pushing your body to speeds teetering on the thin edge of what normally would be considered the top end of what can be achieved in ideal conditions. Yet it was happening.

The group was whittled down to the truly world class in a matter of minutes. And the group of super-elites that reminaed at the front, then began shrinking one by one, as the athletes realised there would be no let-up in pace from Wanjiru, not today. Martin Lel, Luke Kibet, one by one they were falling by the wayside.

Wanjiru was racing it like a cross country race. Or perhaps a 5k on the track with a strong runner not wanting to leave it to a final lap burn-up. Only Moroccan Jaouad Gharib and Ethiopian Deriba Merga were able to cover the moves for any length of time. Indeed Gharib got dropped a number of times but somehow managed to keep the gap under control and come back when you were convinced he was now gone for good. A truly gutsy performance.

Merga covered the moves better than Gharib and in truth, was the only one who could live with what Wanjiru was doing. He ran himself into the ground hanging onto Sammy and ultimately, lost out on a medal to his fast-finishing countryman, Tsegay Kebede.

 

Since then, the age of the super-fast marathon arrived. 2:06 became 2:05. Suddenly a pair of Kenyans were running 2:04 in Rotterdam. Paris, Berlin, Chicago, everywhere big city marathons were having their course records reset.

Wanjiru arrived in London after his Olympic success, and the pace was ludicrous. He hurried the pacemakers up, repeatedly urging them on to the point that the pace at the 10km mark projected a 2:01 marathon. And he was throwing in lung-bursting surges anytime there was a drop in pace. He finally killed off the pack around the 20 mile mark and ran home unchallenged for another low 2:05.

In light of recent events I certainly hope we have not seen the last of Sammy Wanjiru. He has added a new dimension to marathoning that is not wasted on the many aficionados around the world. We owe him and his crew of fellow crazies (Kebede, Merga, Kibet, Makau, the list is growing) a debt of thanks.

We’re experiencing a golden era in marathoning that we may only fully appreciate many years down the line. And when we look back on it and go “Wow, that was awesome”, we will remember it all started in Beijing 2008.

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