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Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

This will be the final in the series. We could get carried away here and I want to wrap it up.

I am bending the rules slightly by including two memorable moments in this post. A double whammy to finish it off.

 

11 March 2012

Bernard Lagat’s indoor Gold medal in the 3000m.

Bernard_Lagat_Istanbul_2012 from wikipedia

This happened early in the year, in March. Lagat is one of the all-time greats and deserves a full report on his career at the very least at some point in the future. For now, suffice to say that a man who has been winning races for well over a decade, and is now in his late 30s, who still has the drive and physical ability to compete with the youngsters on the track, is very impressive. Winning the 3000m indoor world title was a fitting way to acknowledge this. Bernard knows how to run a race tactically and how to turn it to his best advantage. To encourage the race to play into his hand. Add to that he has a sniper-like ability of timing his kick to perfection and of ensuring he is in the right place to execute the kick in the first instance. His all-round approach to racing is something all distance runners could learn from. Turning back the clock on a regular basis is another of his many admirable talents. We may not see another sub 3:30 from him over 1500m (his PB is a mind boggling 3:26.34) but I certainly believe we have at least another season or two of top flight entertainment from this top flight competitor.

Results.

Pos Athlete Country Time
1 Bernard Lagat USA 7:41.44
2 Augustine Choge Kenya 7:41.77
3 Edwin Soi Kenya 7:41.78

 

Footnote: How about the race for silver. 0.01 seconds separating 2nd and 3rd. Augustine Choge is another classy competitor, consistently producing high level performances over many years. (Who can forget Choge knocking Craig Mottram into 2nd at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. Mottram was in top shape at the time having won a bronze medal in the World Champs 5000m the previous year, and now on home turf. But Choge with the middle distance pedigree, had the kick to comfortably take care of business on the bell lap. Choge’s winning time was an incredible 12:56 , with Mottram running 12:58 for second!)

 

6 October 2012

Zersenay Tadese’s World Half Marathon gold.

Zersenay Tadese 20th IAAF WHM from zimbio.com

In many ways the things to like about Zersenay are similar to the things to like about Lagat. They are both consistent at the highest level and almost always win their specialist event. They also both possess the wherewithal to do everything in their power to shape the race to suit their strengths. Zersenay is not a sit-and-kick kind of guy. But he is a winner. This combination means that in any race he runs he will at some point show up in the front, driving the pace on, attempting to to ride competitors off his wheel, cycling style. Relentless grinding to make sure no-one is left, and if they are, they have nothing left to kick with. A great tactic that has served him well in all formats of distance running, road, cross country and track.

 

He has been less successful on the track due to its tendency to favour kickers, on top of which, a certain Kenenisa Bekele was on the scene at this peak during many of Tadese’s bigger track races. Olympics, World Champs etc. The ominous Bekele and at least one of his compatriots were able to live with whatever Tadese dished out, knowing with certainty that if they could withstand the beating Tadese was administering, they would be able to kick past once the bell sounded.

 

But transfer those same skills to road running and suddenly Zersenay is in pole position. Road racing encourages and rewards hard running. And Tadese has shown time and again he is up for the challenge. Marathons are not his thing. Something in the chemistry is wrong. It may not be righted before he retires, but it shouldn’t blemish his road racing ability over the half marathon distance. If ever there was a marriage between an athlete and a distance, you would need to look hard to find a couple more suited than Zersenay Tadese and 13.1 miles. (Paula and the full distance jumps to mind, but she has not achieved the repetitive championship success Tadese has enjoyed).

 

This year’s race in Bulgaria was Zersenay’s FIFTH world title in the previous SIX editions of the event. (In 2006 the IAAF decided to make it a 20km event instead of 21.1, bless them. Tadese still won of course and thankfully the distance was returned to the standard half marathon the following year). Last year, 2011, was the year he didn’t win. He ran hard and fast, fighting to the end, and he lost in the final few hundred yards to Wilson Kiprop. If you watched the race you will remember that once he crossed the line he could barely walk. He limped off with assistance, and carried that injury for months after that. He had effectively raced the world half champs with the injury, and nearly secured the win regardless. Such was his determination and also such was his affinity with the event.

 

Zersenay Tadese is already a great in the running world, his World Cross Country Title alone ensures that status. But with the five world road racing titles to his name he is an all-time great. I would love to see him add a few more to that tally. Each year it seems more unlikely but each year he delivers regardless. So here’s hoping he can hold off the challengers, fierce as they are, for another couple of years.

 

 

Footnote: He also has six team silvers to his name from the World Half Marathon Champs

 

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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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