Sensational 1:43.15 2010 opener for David Rudisha at 2010 Melbourne Track Classic (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 4 March 2010 – Melbourne, Australia

Rudisha opens with blistering 1:43.15 in Melbourne, promises 'more to come' – IAAF World Challenge

Melbourne, AustraliaDavid Rudisha closed 2009 with something special - a 1:42.01 800m at Rieti which put him behind only Wilson Kipketer, Sebastian Coe and Joaquim Cruz on the all-time performers’ list.

The tall, 21-year-old Kenyan, had his first race over 800m for 2010 as the IAAF World Challenge 2010 kicked of at the Melbourne Track Classic on Thursday night, and produced something special again. He predicted a 1:43 and delivered on the talk, running 1:43.15. Ryan Gregson took almost a full second off his previous best in second place, but his 1:46.04 saw him almost a full three seconds adrift.

There is, Rudisha said, more to come. Specifically, into the territory now occupied only by Messrs Kipketer, Coe and Cruz. Only Coe is officially a Lord, but these men are the aristocracy of the 800.

Rudisha needs only to find another 0.02 to join the club. “That is what I’m expecting,” he said after his race, “I want to run my personal best.”

The ease with which Rudisha tracked fellow-Kenyan Sammy Tangui through a first lap of precisely 50.00 suggests that a 1:41 is somewhere in the near future. For the moment, Rudisha picked up the Australian all-comers’ record, his time taking 0.82 from the mark set by David Lelei at this meeting in 2000.

Lelei was tragically killed last month in a head-on car accident in Kenya.

Upsets (almost) across the board

If Rudisha was nearly spot-on in fulfilling pre-meeting expectations, there were surprises galore everywhere else. None more so than in the men’s 1500m where Olympic gold and silver medallists Asbel Kiprop and Nick Willis were upstaged by Australians Jeff Riseley and Jeremy Roff in a bizarre race.

In other upsets, or near upsets, Steve Hooker cleared only his opening height of 5.65m in the Pole Vault before making a bit of a mess at his next height of 5.85m, Berlin bronze medallist Mitchell Watt was beaten in the Long Jump by a last-round 7.96m effort from Chris Noffke, Andrew Baddeley ran away from in-form Collis Birmingham to win the 5000m and Jody Henry inflicted a rare domestic defeat on Tamsyn Lewis in the women’s 400m.

There was almost another to add to the list as New Zealand’s Stuart Farquhar threw 83.26m in the fifth round of the javelin to take the lead from 2007 World champion Tero Pitkamaki only for the Finn to snatch it right back with an 83.32m to eke out a narrow victory.

Plans for a 3:32 1500 came unstuck in the first 100 metres, as Kiprop’s heel was clipped as he crossed over to take up a position behind pacemaker Andrew Rotich. The Olympic champion went from the lead to 10 metres off the back as he struggled to regain his rhythm.

Rotich continued on through a 1:55 first 800, 40 metres ahead of the rest of the field. No one chased him. At the bell, the ‘rabbit’ was still well clear, but finally the group swallowed him up in the last 300 metres. Kiprop and Willis looked in control but then Riseley burst through at 200 to go and Roff steamed home down the straight to produced an unlikely Aussie quinella.

Riseley’s winning time was a slowish 3:42.70, but he scarcely cared. It was the win that counted. “I’m really excited, it’s been a while since I stepped on a track,” he said.

Hooker looked on for another big night to match his 5.91m in Sydney when he soared over 5.65m at his first attempt. But he crashed out at his next height of 5.85m with three misses.

“I took a bigger pole and went up to 5.85 but it just didn’t work. I don’t know what to say.”

Conditions were ideal - warm and with a following wind. “Until I went out, I thought it was going to be a big night,” he said. “But it wasn’t.”

Watt led the Long Jump with his opening round 7.89m and followed it up with a 7.86m in the second round. He took no more jumps after that. Noffke matched the leading jump in the third round but still trailed on countback until his last-round winner at 7.96m.

Baddeley ran away with the 5000m over the last kilometre to win in 13:20.85, a personal best. Jonathon Komen of Kenya took second, some 30 metres back, with Adrian Blincoe, Ben St Lawrence and Collis Birmingham next.

In the women’s 400 Henry held off Lewis’s usual late-race charge to win, 52.41 to 52.64. It was a rare domestic defeat for Lewis, who has dominated successively at 800m and 400 over the past couple of years.

Vili, Samuels the exceptions

Valerie Vili and Dani Samuels at least lived up to expectations. Vili warmed up for the defence of her world indoor title in Doha with two throws over 20 metres to close her competition. The longer one went 20.05m, a meeting record.

Samuels was a little below her personal best form from Sydney, but she still won the competition easily with a best of 62.97m. She had another throw of the same distance, a 62.82m, a 61.81m and two fouls in an impressive display.

Danny McFarlane of Jamaica won the 400m Hurdles in 49.92 but not before flirting with disaster at the last hurdle. He looked on course for a sub-49 before that.

Sally McLellan concentrated on the 200 metres, winning in 23.59 while Ben Offereins maintained his supremacy this season in the 400, defeating national champion Sean Wroe, 45.73 to 46.18. Olympic bronze medallist David Neville of the USA was third in 46.37.

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Len Johnson for the IAAF