David Lekuta Rudisha of Kenya leads the pack in the Men's 800m Semifinals on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
With just the first two across the line in each of the three heats guaranteed entry into Thursday (9) evening’s final, the round was typically merciless, but the lanky Kenyan, along with the leading medal contenders, emerged unscathed.
Heat 1 featured twice World Indoor champion Abubaker Kaki of Sudan and Nijel Amos of Botswana, the recently-minted World Junior champion, along with Kenyan No. 3, Anthony Chemut.
Kaki immediately took the lead with the field following single file, with Amos and Chemut closest, swapping positions two and three a couple times over the course of the opening lap, covered in 51.01.
The order remained the same until midway through the final bend when Pole Adam Kszczot began working his way towards the front, and passing Chemut as they hit the homestretch. Amos briefly challenged Kaki for the win, but the Sudanese ultimately held his ground to win by 0.03 in 1:44.51. Kszczot was a step and half behind taking third in 1:45.34.
"It was better than the first round," Kaki said. "The final is going to be tough but I am confident. Anything can happen."
Rudisha, lined up in Heat 2, followed the plot of his now-standard playbook and jumped to the lead from gun, one he wouldn’t relinquish on the way to his 1:44.35 victory. The race behind him was fierce, one that would bring the crowd to its decibel-pounding best. First, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, the 2004 gold medallist, made a go at the lead as he approached the bell, with U.S. champion Nick Symmonds giving chase. Off the final turn it appeared to be a 1-2 for Rudisha and the American until Andrew Osagie of Great Britain made his presence known.
Fifth with 100 metres to go, Osagie produced the homestretch run of his life, picking off one runner after another to eventually battle it out with Symmonds for the all-important runner-up spot behind Rudisha. Willed on by the vociferous crowd, Osagie pulled past the American in the last few metres, clocking 1:44.74, forcing Symmonds, who was third in 1:44.87, to wait for the finish of the third heat to see if he’d be moving on to his first Olympic final.
"I tried to control the pace of it, but the guy behind me was pushing hard so I was forced to run a faster race," said Rudisha, who nonetheless will start as an overwhelming favourite.
In the third heat, Symmonds’ team-mate Duane Solomon decided to take control. He led the field through the half in 51.18, maintained in through 600 (1:17.72), but began to slowly unravel coming off the final bend. It was then that Ethiopian teenager Mohammed Aman, this year’s World Indoor champion and the last man to beat Rudisha, took command with Kenyan Timothy Kitum in tow. Aman reached the line in 1:44.34 with Kitum second in 1:44.63. Solomon’s early front-running was rewarded with a 1:44.93 performance, good enough to move on, along with Symmonds, into the final.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
- David Lekuta Rudisha of Kenya leads the pack in the Men's 800m Semifinals on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Andrew Osagie of Great Britain reacts after being qualified for the Men's 800m finals - London 2012 Olympic Games on August 7, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Abubaker Kaki of Sudan and Nijel Amos of Botswana lead the pack in the Men's 800m Semifinals on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright