The athletic world has been on the lookout for a dominant 800m runner since the retirement of the brilliant Dane, Wilson Kipketer, the World record holder.
Two of the brightest young stars of 800m who might one day inherit Kipketer’s mantle will “lock horns” at Exxon Mobil Bislett Games - ÅF Golden League - in Oslo on 6 June. David Rudisha of Kenya and Abubaker Kaki Khamis of Sudan are two of the most talented athletes to arrive on the world stage in the last couple of years and most likely represent the future of 800m running.
David Lekuta Rudisha has been a “work in progress “ for a couple of years and has deliberately been held back competitively so his running could mature . His father (Daniel) was a fine 400m for Kenya in the late 60’s winning an Olympic 4x400m relay silver medal at Mexico City. Therefore it was of little surprise that the young Rudisha was a precocious talent, which he showed by winning the 800m at the 2006 IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing.
Rudisha’s early form in 2008 has been outstanding with a fine win at the African Championships in a very fast 1:44.20, which was just outside his personal best of 1.44.15 that he set when winning at the prestigious Memorial Van Damme Golden League meeting in Brussels late last season. He is intent on substantially revising his personal best and comes to Bislett quietly confident of his own ability yet relishing the challenge of the competition. Rudisha is advised by Japhet Kumatai, himself a former world’s No.1 at 800m with an impressive best of 1:42.69.
In 2006 a young Sudanese runner did exceptionally well to make the final of the World Junior Championships. Abubaker Kaki Khamis ran into a very creditable 6th place in the final, a race won by Rudisha.
Last year we really heard of Kaki again. First he won the African Games (20 July) in 1:45.22 in the process beating Mbulaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa, the 2004 Olympic silver medallist, one of the most experienced and respected race tacticians on the circuit. Then later in the year he ran a sensational 1:43.90 in Cairo, Egypt, to win the Pan-Arab Games (22 Nov).
In the 2008 indoor season we saw Kaki dominate several 1000m & 800m races on the circuit before emphatically taking the World Indoor Championship title to become the youngest ever World Indoor champion at the age of 18 years an 262 days. He again beat Mulaudzi.
However as these two young athletes prepare for the Oslo encounter, they cannot forget there are other serious challengers at the Bislett stadium including Mulaudzi, who is also a former World Indoor champion. The rugged South African has been one of the premier 800m runners in the world for the past 6 years and who won medals at Olympic Games, World Championships, Commonwealth Games, African championships and the World Cup. His best time of 1:42.89 means he is the fastest competing athlete in the world at this distance.
Also looking to build a reputation in this race are the Europeans Michael Rimmer of Great Britain, David Fiegen of Luxembourg, and the impressive winner of the Hengelo 800m, Robert Lathouwers of Netherlands.
Maurie Plant for the IAAF