David Rudisha at his pre-meet press conference in Zurich (Gladys Chai van der Laage) © Copyright
"This being my last race of the season, I just want to give my best," Rudisha said of the first of two Samsung Diamond League finals, a response that most journalists present gladly accepted at face value, knowing full well that the 23-year-old Kenyan has lived up to his word many times before, and that his most recent World record display in the Olympic final in London would be nearly impossible to top.
Running at the front from the gun, Rudisha ran two circuits of the track unlike any other before him, eventually crossing the finish line in 1:40.91. Gun-to-tape, with no pacemaker, in an Olympic final. By any measure, it was the finest performance of the entire 2012 Games.
"We prepared a lot," he said. "It was an Olympic year, it was very important for us. I already had the World championship title, I already had the World record. The only thing I didn’t have was the Olympic gold medal.
"I was happy that this year I didn’t have any problems, that since the beginning of the year I didn’t have any injury. And the training had been really good. I had a lot of confidence going into London. Because of the way I had been preparing myself I had no doubts.
"I just wanted to run my race. My first target was to dip under the Olympic record, and that was 1:42.58, set in 1996.
"I was surprised by the time I crossed the line. I was celebrating, I was happy. But when I looked at the clock and it was a World record, it was unbelievable."
Inspired by father’s Olympic medal
Rudisha recalls that his road to gold began as a youngster at home when admiring the Olympic silver medal his father had won in the 4x400m Relay in 1968.
"When I was my young I saw my father’s silver medal from the 1968 Olympics. And I admired him. One time I was dreamt that I wanted to become an athlete. That I wanted to have medals. Because I knew that one was my father’s. I could see it, I could touch it, but I knew that it was not mine. But I also knew you had to put in a lot of work, a lot of training, a lot of determination."
His father had long wished one of his children would take on the family duty; David, his youngest son, was the proverbial last hope.
"My father loves sports. When he was a teacher we has a sports leader in our district. He always wished that someone would follow in his footsteps. When I started running, he was very happy. He motivated me, he inspired me. And when I won the Olympics, I called him and he said, 'You did it! You did me proud.’"
Pacemakers still have key roles to play
So, does his performance in London mean that he simply doesn’t require the assistance of pacemakers anymore?
"Not really," he insists. "I think in an Olympic year, we prepare with a different approach. Even this year I trained most of the time without a pacemaker. We trained for a tactical race. I wanted to be confident running from the front. My last session I did without a pacemaker. That gave me a lot of confidence.
"But pacemakers are vey important. They help us to dictate the first lap. If we tell them to go 49, we just have to follow."
Rudisha has nothing but the highest praise and admiration for Sammy Tangui, his preferred pace setter in recent years, who ability to lead him through the crucial opening lap is unparalleled on the circuit today.
"The only issue is to get to 400. It’s very important. At this stage it’s difficult for many runners to take me through 600 in 1:14 or even 1:13. I know it’s not easy. We tried some and they could only go 500 metres.
"Tangui is doing his job really well. He’s good and he’s good at pacing. When he ask him for 49-flat, he does that. He’s very good at judging the pace.
"He has a long stride, he is a big guy, almost the same size as me. I can keep up with his rhythm without struggling."
Rudisha was also keen to remind reporters that the pacesetter’s job, while critical, lasts half as long as his.
"Then for the last lap you also have to put in a lot of effort. It’s tough. 1:40 is very tough. You have to split 25 seconds for each 200. It’s very tough."
Tangui will of course be here in Zürich as well, doing his part to help Rudisha conclude his season in the best possible way.
"This is an important race," Rudisha, who leads the Samsung Diamond Race in the event, said.
"Even in our training, the last session, we make it a bit faster, a bit stronger. Coming to training we do everything as part of our preparation for these competitions. Every race is an important part of our season."
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF