London: David Rudisha did what no one else, Usain Bolt included, has been able to do at the London Games: set a world record on the Olympic track.
Rudisha had told his rivals in the 800 meters to be ready for a world record, and he delivered on his word, winning Thursday’s final in 1 minute, 40.91 seconds, one-tenth of a second off the mark he set in 2010. That makes him the first man ever to run a sub-1:41.00 time for the 800.
After crossing the finish, he flung up both arms to celebrate, then draped himself in a Kenyan flag and posed for photographs near the timing clock with “NEW WR” on it. He has been the dominant 800-meter runner for the last three years, setting the world record three times and losing just once since 2009. This, though, topped all that.
“It’s something special to break the world record at the Olympics,” Rudisha said, something that hasn’t happened in the 800 since 1976. “I have waited for this moment for a long time.
“I had no doubt about winning. The weather was beautiful so I decided to go for it.”
Sebastian Coe, a middle-distance running great and head of the London organising committee, wasn’t in much doubt about the significance of Rudisha’s race.
“That was simply an unbelievable performance,” Coe said. “David Rudisha showed supreme physical and mental confidence to run like that in an Olympic final.
“Instead of just doing enough to win the race, he wanted to do something extraordinary and go for the world record as well. Rudisha’s run will go down in history as one of the greatest Olympic victories.”
That’s high praise from the likes of Coe, who in 1981 became the first man to run under 1:42 for the 800 and twice came back from Olympic disappointments at the distance with victories in the 1,500 at the Moscow and Los Angeles Games. His 80s-era running duels with Steve Ovett and Steve Cram are the stuff of British folklore.
Only three other men have run under 1:42 — Rudisha has now done it seven times.
The track at Olympic Stadium was considered fast but there were fears that London would produce no world records because of wet, windy and cold weather.
In Beijing four years ago, the Bird’s Nest had five world records, including three from Bolt. Yet it is by no means unusual to have a big meet produce none at all, as happened at the world championships in Athens in 1997, Edmonton in 2001 and Osaka in 2005.
Bolt fell short of his own world record in defending his Olympic 200 meters when he eased up in the final strides.
“I know people love Bolt,” Rudisha said, seemingly content to have his achievement overshadowed by the Jamaican sprinter inside the packed, 80,000-seat stadium. “I’m happy for him, and I’m happy for me.”
Botswana got its first Olympic medal when 18-year-old Nigel Amos took silver behind Rudisha in a world junior record time of 1:41.73. Timothy Kitum of Kenya got the bronze in 1:42.53.
Americans Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds finished fourth and fifth, just ahead of 18-year-old Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia, the world indoor champion who handed Rudisha his only loss in three years last September.
Kitum, who finished more than 1 1/2 seconds behind his Kenyan teammate, said Rudisha had predicted a record.
“Yes, he’s the greatest runner,” Kitum said. “He told me he’s going to run a world record today. He’s the best.”
Rudisha went out so fast he dispensed with the idea of needing a pacesetter to lead him into a world record attempt.
“Nobody has ever done the world record in the 800 without pacesetter,” he said. “I knew it would be difficult but I was very determined and I knew I was in good shape this year.
“We were just looking for perfect conditions and the world record.”
He said he was inspired by the massive crowd in London, but dedicated the record to somebody watching on TV in another continent — his father, Daniel Rudisha, who anchored Kenya to a silver medal in the 4×400 relay at the 1968 Olympics at Mexico.
“I know he’s always proud of me, he’s the one who encourages me to come this far,” he said. “He’s a big inspiration in my career.
“I wanted to go a step ahead. To break the world record is a big achievement. He wanted to do it in the 400 but he couldn’t do it. So, for his son to do it …”