23 November 2012 – Barcelona, Spain – The past four World 800m record holders; Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena, Great Britain’s Sebastian Coe, Denmark’s Wilson Kipketer and current incumbent David Rudisha of Kenya appeared at the press point at the IAAF Centenary Gala in Barcelona. These were some of the highlights.
How great was David Rudisha’s world record breaking performance at the London Olympics?
DR: The Olympics is the climax - the top sporting event in the world. The last time we were all sitting together, two years ago, Wilson and Lord Coe told me to target the Olympic Games. To do it (win gold with a world record) in London in the presence of Lord Coe, I was really happy. To break the world record in such a big championship was excellent.
SC: To me it was the performance of the Games in any sport, but I’m biased. It was an extraordinary thing to do in an Olympic final. Those of us who are lucky enough to run in an Olympic final tend to play by percentages and not risk too much. The most important thing is to get across the line in first place. This guy was so much better and so much mentally confident (than the rest). I thought it was extraordinary to bring that focus to bear in an Olympic final. It also didn’t have the predictability of a world record attempt without a pacemaker.
WK: I still have a great feeling now about the world record, and I am shaking. The whole atmosphere was really fantastic and for him to do it there (in London at the Olympic Games) and the way he did it was very special.
AJ: I witnessed one of the best races ever, I congratulate you. You did the same thing that I did in 1976, you broke the world 800m record at an Olympic Games. It is a privilege for me to be here with somebody who achieved this.
David, who do you think should win the IAAF Male Athlete of the Year?
DR: That is a difficult question. I’m contesting (he is one of three men shortlisted) but what I can say is all three of us did something special this year. I broke the world 800m record at an Olympics without pacemakers, which was special. Usain Bolt won three gold medals with a world record in the 4x100m and to repeat what he did to win the Olympics is a special achievement. Merritt did very well in the 110m Hurdles. It is very difficult to say. Whoever wins will be happy.
Were you surprised that Mo Farah, the Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion, was not selected on the shortlist?
SC: It is the big pub game. The athletics family voted on the decision and it probably tells you what an extraordinary year for track and field it has been that you have such finely calibrated positions at a celebration like this. It tells you that it was an extraordinary year and one we will look back on for many years to come.
All of you were good at 400m, how much of a part does that play in being a great 800m runner?
SC: I think 800m is the most complicated distance to get right. It calls on the world-class leg speed of a 400m runner and the endurance ability of a 5000m runner. It calls almost greater mental dexterity than any other event. It is the only endurance event that starts in lanes, so calibrating the first 110m is tough. It calls on making tactical judgments, at speed, so you need the best onboard computer of any athlete. It is a difficult race to get right.
Is there any limit to the world 800m record?
DR: The 800m is becoming a very difficult record to break. Kipketer’s record was 1:41.11 – I have broken three world records but only taken 0.20 off the mark, which is not a big margin. This year I was looking at 1:40.5 and I think I’m capable of doing. I know how hard it is to run 1:40. To say I can run 1:39, it is still unpredictable.
AJ: I think David can run under 1:40 because of the way he runs and the way he moves and his strong stamina. I have no reason to think he won’t run under 1:40.
WK: There is no limit because the second guy at the Olympic ran 1:41.73 and he is aged only 18. If they (the younger athletes) get motivated he (Rudisha) is in trouble. There is no limit to the world record.
Steve Landells for the IAAF