Forget Bolt and GB's golden girls, Rudisha is the star of London Games, says Coe
20:53 GMT, 10 August 2012
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Seb Coe sat down with a
bowl of porridge on Friday
morning and spoke with a
croaky voice after all the
speeches and briefings he
has made over the last few weeks.
But what he said resonated because his
was the verdict of one of the greatest middle distance
runners in history acclaiming
'Bolt was good,' he said. 'Rudisha was
magnificent. That is quite a big call but it was
the most extraordinary piece of running I
have probably ever seen. It was the
performance of the Games, not just of track
and field, but of the Games.'
A class apart: Kenya's David Rudisha celebrates after winning the men's 800m final in the Olympic Stadium
Record breaker: Rudisha beat his own world record in becoming Olympic champion in London
David Rudisha, a Kenyan, was already a legend in athletics but little known to the man in Regent Street until he broke his own 800 metres world record on Thursday night to win a gold of utter certainty.
He won his race from the front. He did not get involved in a race but moved well ahead over the last 600m with smooth, majestic strides. It was a one-man pulverisation in the fastest 800m race from first to last place ever run.
Without pace-makers he ran 1min 40.91sec, precisely a 10th of a second better than his previous best. The crowd roared approval. They knew they had seen something special – the first sub 1min 41sec time in history.
Coe, twice 800m world recordholder, said: 'He had the balls to go in there and think, “I am so much better than anyone else”, so that he could do that. In Olympic finals you are not supposed to gamble with the till, but he did.
'It comes from consummate physical
and mental confidence. If you look
at the field that is arguably the greatest
800m ever run.
'If you had said to Andrew Osagie (of
Britain) 18 months ago, “You will get to
an Olympic final and you are
going to run 1min 43sec”, he
would have taken that.
Whether he would have
thought he was going to
finish last is another
'The last person that
I saw grip a middledistance
event in an
Olympic Games was
Herb Elliott back in 1960.
This was even tougher.'
Flying the flag: Rudisha is a national hero back home in Kenya
What's the time Rudisha points to the clock after beating his own 800m world record
Rudisha is a member of
a Masai tribe in the Trans
Mara region of the Rift
Valley, where he is a High
Masai Moran, or community
The Masai tribe used to fight
to take cattle off neighbouring communities. Now Rudisha fights for them on a bigger, different stage. His reward when he first broke the 800m world record in 2010 was a feast. He was blessed by his elders. Five thousand people and 1,000 bulls attended.
He was given a spear, a fur coat and ceremonial beads.
For all the rituals of his homeland – he now lives in the Eldorat, western Kenya – it is YouTube videos of the man he calls Mr Coe that form a centrepiece of his athletics ambitions.
In the space of six years Rudisha has gone from a high-school talent into a world leader. The transformation has been overseen by a 63-year-old Irish missionary who watched Rudisha's run in London on a television set back in Kenya.
Brother Colm O'Connell, from Cork, arrived
at St Patrick's High School, Iten, as a geography
teacher in 1976. He learned about middle
and long-distance training from Pete Foster,
a fellow teacher and brother of Brendan
Foster, who won the 10,000m bronze at the
Montreal Olympics in the very month he
arrived in Africa. Brother Colm is now the
most successful track coach in the world.
Rudisha, world champion last year, is
confident but without the braggadocio of
Bolt. Coe said: 'I have known David a long
time and I have seen two of his world records
and he is a lovely guy. He is incredibly nice,
incredibly modest and just the real deal. He's
the greatest 800m runner of all time.
Plenty to spare: Rudisha (left) heads towards the finishing line unchallenged after his great run
'Profile doesn't bother him. He is just
entirely focused on running. We have the
Muhammad Ali of track and field in Usain,
but we have to make sure the other sterling
talents in track and field are recognised.
'Some of these guys are coming out of
federations with hand-to-mouth existence,
not marketing budgets, language and
'I have known him for three years and we
have talked about how he would break the
world record. I said I thought the best thing
was to commit early rather than trying to
pull it back on the second lap. I think I was
proved right in that.
'I am pleased we got a world record at the
Games and especially pleased because it was
definitive. It wasn't a couple of millimetres in
a pole vault. He put his imprimatur on it.
'We exchanged messages before the
race. I wished him good luck and he was
Rudisha phoned Brother Colm
yesterday morning before facing the press
on a stool in Westfield shopping centre.
He talked of his respect for his father,
Daniel, who won a silver medal in the
4x400m relay at the 1968 Olympics
and, of course, 'Mr Coe', whom he
first met in Oslo in 2010.
'He told me then he had seen
something special and that I
could break the world record,'
said Rudisha, who began
running barefoot in a
country with just two
tracks. There was no smart
gym for him to use.
'Mr Coe invited me to go through
the Olympic Park in February. It was a
privilege and an honour. So many
athletes didn't get that opportunity. I
said I would work hard to make him
proud. I hope I have succeeded.'
Judging by Mr Coe's comments, he has
succeeded on every level.