David Rudisha: 800-Meter Standout 1st to Break World Record at 2012 Olympics

Noah JampolFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  David Lekuta Rudisha of Kenya celebrates after winning gold and setting a new world record of 1.40.91 in the Men's 800m Final on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 9, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

David Rudisha didn't need pacemakers, competition or even more than a couple days rest. In an Olympic final, he would have none of them.

The peerless Kenyan simply needed a packed stadium and a once-in-four-years showcase to stun the 80,000 in attendance with a 1:40.91 world-record in the 800-meter event.

As the day began, surely most were thinking that if a record were to go down, it would be in the much-ballyhooed 200-meter dash duel between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. Instead, it was the unassuming Rudisha who made a bid to steal the show from the amazing Jamaicans.

Rudisha is a subdued character, one whose reserved nature belies his ferocity on the track and his ruthless domination of the two-lap race.

He came into London with the two fastest times ever in the event, but still managed to arrive under the radar. Few would have pegged him to shatter the world record and crush the vaunted 1:41 barrier in a championship race.

First of all, Rudisha would have to do so without the benefit of pacemakers. With no rabbits, he was forced to set a precise pace and take all of the wind by himself. Of the 10 fastest performances of all time in the 800, not one was performed without pacing help.

The strain on him would be both physical and mental. Physically, the drag from the wind would take its toll as he powerfully strode around the track. Mentally, there was no target and no possibility of losing focus, not even for a moment.

Second of all, he would have to do so while negotiating rounds instead of in a one-race situation. Lesser athletes have found even making the final a daunting task and one that sapped their legs for the race.

Lastly, a by-product of his mastery of the race was the fact that there would be nobody near him. Without competition to push him or give him a psychological kick-in-the-butt, Rudisha would have to motivate himself and drive himself through the brutal pain that every 800-meter runner knows too well.

Still, the greatest 800-meter runner of all time overcame it all and gave us the signature performance of the Games. 

Rudisha didn't need pacemakers on a day when he effortlessly glided to 200 meters in under 24 seconds and 400 meters in 49.28.

He didn't need a close competitor pushing him to run a composed 25.02 in the next 200 meters to reach 600 in 1:14.30. To put that in perspective, that split from 400-to-600 is surely one of the fastest of all time for that juncture of the race. Rudisha stunningly pulled that off after blazing through the first 400 meters.

Finally, he certainly didn't need carefully planned rest to finish off the job. His legs remained fresh during the last 200 meters, and his form somehow remained absolutely impeccable. He was full of run in an event that is absolutely grueling.

With his run for the ages, Rudisha took 800-meter running to an entirely new level. It's only appropriate that his brash front-running elevated all but one of the other competitors to lifetime bests.

Rudisha was certainly not a man picked to take down the first track world record of the games, but nothing was going to stop him.

Pacemakers, competition and fresh legs be damned, Rudisha was going to rewrite the record books.