David Rudisha and Wilson Kipketer meet for the first time since Rudisha broke Kipketer's 800m World record - Split 2010 (Bob Ramsak) © Copyright
Rudisha has had an outstanding year, breaking Kipketer’s 1:41.11 World Record not once but twice – first with 1:41.09 in Berlin, followed one week later with 1:41.01 on Rieti’s magical track. Already Rudisha’s top five average times (1:41.53) top Kipketer’s (1:41.62), but the 21-year-old still has a long way to go before matching Kipketer’s stellar career, which includes four World titles (indoors and out), two Olympic medals, European gold, and a winning streak spanning more than three years. Indeed, the only notable absence from his medal cabinet was Olympic gold.
“I still hold two records indoors,” added Kipketer with a cheeky grin. “Don’t forget those!”
Medals just as important as records
Rudisha has been unbeaten this season – a feat he came close to achieving last year, were it not for two early-season losses and his semi final exit at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin.
But the Masai man is keen to prove himself at a global championship, even more so after becoming the World record holder. “By breaking the world record I have only achieved a third of what I want to achieve,” he said. “Winning the World Championships and the Olympics are the two other big goals that I want to achieve in my career. With world records, someone else can come along and break them, but with gold medals no one can take them away from you; they are yours for life.”
Kipketer has unquestionable faith in Rudisha’s ability. “This is only the beginning for him,” said Kenyan-turned-Dane Kipketer. “There is still so much that he can go on to achieve – multiple world championships, Olympic titles.”
Up until now, most of what Kipketer has seen of Rudisha has been via online video. Similarly, with Rudisha being just eight years old when Kipketer was at his peak, the only footage he has seen of his idol has been through Youtube. But already Kipketer can see similarities and differences between himself and Rudisha.
“When Coe set his world record, I was nine years old. When I set my world record, David was eight years old, so the time frames are very similar,” said Kipketer, who will turn 40 later this year.
“We are both front runners, but whereas I liked to start from behind and move my way up, David likes to be at the front from the start. When I set my first world record in Zürich, I went off too fast and I struggled a lot at the end. David is better at maintaining the fast pace at the end, but I can still claim to be faster over the first 200m!” added Kipketer with his customary smile – a trait that Rudisha also seems to possess.
Keeping his promise
Kipketer first met Rudisha several years ago, not long after Rudisha won the 2006 IAAF World Junior title in Beijing. “He came to my high school in Eldoret, Kenya, and he told me to train well and that I have the ability to do something special, so I kept my promise to him,” explained Rudisha, who is coached by the highly-regarded Brother Colm O’Connell. “Every time I have met him, he has always really encouraged me and I thank him for that.”
Kipketer has long believed in Rudisha’s ability, so it came as no surprise when the man from Oltanki, Kilgoris, took a tenth of a second off his 1997 World Record. “I predicted that David would be the one to break my world record,” said Kipketer. “Running is a very individual thing, but to succeed you have to have an individual mind and be able to run your own race,” he added. “David has an individual mind, and that’s what makes the difference. He can be led by a pacemaker who goes through the first lap in 48 seconds and can maintain that pace.”
Indeed, Kipketer’s races were the inspiration behind Rudisha requesting a fast opening pace in his three 1:41 races this year. “When I watched old videos online of Wilson’s races, I saw that his pacemakers would go through the first lap in 49 seconds, so I decided that I wanted my pacemakers to go through in 48,” said the decathlete-turned-400m runner-turned 800m runner. “I have been working hard on trying to maintain that pace. I think I can improve, but I still need to work more on my final 200m.”
'Rudisha can be the first to break 1:40'
But how much more can Rudisha improve? In the men’s 100m, for example, the World Record was gradually chipped away at for decades before Usain Bolt came along and blew it into another dimension. Could Rudisha be the man to do in the 800m what Bolt has done in the sprint events, by breaking 1:40 – a barrier that up until now has seemed preposterous?
Kipketer thinks so.
“I think it’s possible,” he said. “The 800m is all about finding the right balance and maintaining your rhythm. You don’t necessarily have to be a strong 400m runner if you have the right rhythm. It just so happens that David is a very good 400m runner too, but he also has a great natural rhythm and feel for the event.”
But Rudisha is quick to dispel any rumours that he will be aiming for another World Record on Sunday here in Split. “It will be more of a championship race, so I’m just going to try to run a quality race,” said the recently-crowned African Champion. “I feel strong so I will try to lead from the front, but it’s not the kind of race to try to go for a world record.”
Once the competition is over, Rudisha will look forward to returning to Kenya to see his wife, Lizzy, and his six-month-old daughter, Charin. “Split is a beautiful city and I wish I had more time here, but there are people back home who are waiting for me to return so that we can celebrate my world records,” he said. His family is planning ‘the mother of all parties’ which is rumoured to include the slaughter of 50 bulls for all of the guests!
For now, though, Rudisha is looking to destroy his opposition in Sunday’s race to end his perfect season on a high. Kipketer is also excited by the prospect: “I look forward to seeing him run tomorrow live in person instead of on Youtube!”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup
Composition of Teams
- Each team will be allowed to enter two athletes in each event (three in the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 3000mSC but only the first two finishers from each team shall score points).
- Only one athlete from any one country may compete in each individual event.
- individual events: 1st: 8pts – 2nd: 7pts – 3rd: 6pts – 4th: 5pts – 5th: 4pts – 6th: 3pts – 7th: 2pts – 8th: 1pt
- relays: 1st: 15pts – 2nd: 11pts – 3rd: 7pts – 4th: 3pts
- teams: Points achieved by men and women will be combined and the overall winner of the IAAF Continental Cup will be the team with the most combined points.