The long wait by world record-holder David Rudisha to return to competition is set to end at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene on 31 May. The Olympic 800m champion is excited to be finally racing again, as his first start of 2014 will also mark his debut at the Prefontaine Classic.
Given Rudisha’s penchant for fast paces, along with a field that includes four of the nine fastest men in history, the men’s 800m is one of the year’s most anticipated events.
Rudisha has been dominating the world since he won gold at the 2006 IAAF World Junior Championships. The Kenyan has set three world records, including the current mark of 1:40.91, set when winning the Olympic title in London.
The 25-year-old missed most of 2013 with a knee injury, diagnosed just a day before he was scheduled to run last year’s Pre Classic. In Rudisha’s absence, Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia took full advantage, winning the world title in Moscow and his second IAAF Diamond Trophy.
Still only 20 years old, Aman is also the only man to ever beat Rudisha since 2010, and he’s done it twice, although Rudisha owns the career head-to-head edge, 5-2. Aman, who won in Eugene last year, successfully defended his 800m title earlier in 2014 at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. This will be Aman’s first race against Rudisha since May 2013.
Botswana’s Nijel Amos, also still only 20, was closest to Rudisha at the London Olympics, taking silver as an 18-year-old. His 1:41.73 in that race not only shattered the world junior record, it also made him the fifth runner ever to break 1:42. That was the only career meeting between the two.
Nobody has more wins over Rudisha than 24-year-old Abukaker Kaki of Sudan. He has five, but none since 2009. Kaki is a three-time winner at the Pre Classic, taking the 1000m in 2010 and the 800m in 2011 (1:43.68), both with meeting records, then edging Aman by 0.03 in a thrilling finish in 2012.
The slowest PB among those four is 1:42.37, which is faster than the 29-year-old US record of 1:42.60 set by Johnny Gray in 1985. The second-fastest US runner ever is Duane Solomon, fourth in that epic 2012 Olympic final with 1:42.82. Now 29, he is undefeated in seven races so far this year, indoors and out, and holds the current world-leading mark at 1:43.88.
Fellow US runner Brandon Johnson also enjoyed his best season last year. Also 29, he clocked 1:43.84 in only his second serious year in the 800m, having previously concentrated on the 400m hurdles. Like Rudisha, Johnson will be making his Prefontaine Classic debut.
The two medallists behind Aman at the World Indoor Championships are included. Silver medallist Adam Kszczot of Poland earned silver ahead of Great Britain’s Andrew Osagie. The latter is one of six men in this field who also featured in the London Olympic 800m final.
Also in the field is France’s World Championships finalist Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, who last year won the European under-23 title.
Seven-time US champion Nick Symmonds had hoped to compete in this year's race but has had to withdraw with a knee injury.
Organisers for the IAAF
2014 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 9 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
Eugene, USA – 31 May
Rome, ITA – 5 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 11 Jun
New York, USA – 14 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 3 Jul
Paris, FRA – 5 Jul
Glasgow, GBR – 11-12 Jul
Monaco, MON – 18 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 21 Aug
Birmingham, GBR – 24 Aug
Zurich, SUI – 28 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 5 Sep