David Rudisha Runs 1:42.84 to Crown Himself King at 2010 African Champs
Blessing Okagbare Impresses
By Dick Patrick
July 30, 2010
NAIROBI -- After David Rudisha of Kenya turned the African Athletics Championships 800 meters into a time trial Friday, he looked like the next world recordholder in the event. The final, his third race in three days at the mile-high elevation of Nyayo Stadium, was another wire-to-wire win.
He broke to the lead, took the field through the first lap in 51.59 and followed with a 51.25, his 6-3 frame in perfect posture the entire way. His 1:42:84 was a meet record, the fastest time ever at altitude and led a Kenyan sweep with Alfred Kirwa Yego (1:44.85) and Jackson Kivuva (1:45.47).
Afterwards Rudisha faced journalists who kept pestering him about when and where he expected to break the world record of 1:41.11, set in 1997 by Wilson Kipketer, a native of Kenya who was competing for Denmark. There were no predictions from Rudisha, 21, whose father, Daniel, was a 1968 Olympic silver medalist in the 4x400 relay. He was poised and consistent as the same question was phrased in different ways.
''I'll go back to my training and see if my body is responding well,'' he said. ''That is when I can think of running more faster. If I don't feel great, I might say I'm satisfied with this year, and next year have a fresh go again. Since next year is a world championships year, it's a big year for me since I haven't won any major titles and that's what I'm focusing on.''
Rudisha wasn't about to get locked into predicting a world record much less his future schedule, which includes the Continental Cup, formerly the World Cup, in September in Split, Croatia.
His competition Friday did not include Sudan's Abubaker Kaki, the No.2 performer of 2010. The two have run the year's eight fastest times, six of them by Rudisha including his 1:41:51, the No.3 time ever, in July in Heusden, Belgium. Kaki, who like Rudisha likes to run from the front, held the edge in their rivalry last year. Rudisha hasn't lost this year; Kaki pulled out of the meet earlier in the week.
Not that his absence affected Rudisha: "This year when I was training, I just wanted to plan my races and run my own race. I didn't want to run anyone else's race. That is my plan. This is why you see me running this year a fast pace, controlling the pace. That is what I have been planning for. I dont want to say because somebody is missing that means I would not run fast or that I would run fast because somebody is in the race."
Rudisha's time Friday was a world record for altitude and even surprised him. "Today I just knew I was going to run a fast time here in Kenya," said Rudisha, who ran 1:50.51 in the first round and 1:46.58 in the semis, leading all the way in both races. "That was my aim, you know, after running slow in the heats. In the final I conserved my energy and knew I was going to push the pace. I was thinking of running 1:43. Running 1:42 is impressive, great I think. I'm feeling in good shape. I didn't expect to run 1:42. It just came."
No one is going to be surprised if Kipketer's record also just comes. The question seems more when than if. And no one should be surprised if Rudisha starts adding major titles to his 2006 world junior championship.
Just before the press conference ended, another journalist tired to coax a world record prediction of time and place out of him. Rudisha remained patient, unflappable.
"I have said I don't want to say now I'm going for the world record," Rudisha said. "There is still time to go back and review things -- training -- as I've said before. My plan this year was to run 1:41 and that is what I already have done. So I'm just going back to do my training. If I see I'm still strong to run under 1:41 or under the world record, I will say I want to try. Up to now I'm just focusing on the (Continental) Cup and have a nice race or two races to close the season. That is my aim."
Blessing Okagbare Completes 100 Long Jump Double
Rudisha will leave Nairobi as the king of the meet that ends Sunday. The queen is Nigeria' Blessing Okagbare, who continued her string of multiple titles at championships this year. The senior from the University of Texas-El Paso,who won the 100 Thursday in a meet-record and personal-best tying 11.06, won the long jump (21-83/4) and anchored Nigeria to a win in the 4x100 relay. She's the first woman to win the 100/long jump double in the African Championships, held 16 times previously.
In June she became the first woman to win the 100 and long jump at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She took the 60 and long jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March.
The plan is for her to continue competing through the Continental Cup and then into October at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. She took just three of six jumps Friday, seeking to preserve her body for a long campaign that also includes the European circuit.
She is nursing a painful shin. "it's a minor pain," said the long jumper turned sprinter. "As much as I can, I have to protect myself. That's what I'm doing, trying to do less jumps, trying to get the first jump right. It's not an injury; it's a pain. If I don't care for it, it might lead to an injury."
Okagbare looked exasperated when asked if she was worried about burnout this season:"Really? You think so? I train so hard. We'll see if I'm still competing in October. I have worked hard. I am not training for today. I do extra practice -- that's why I'm still rolling right now. If you don't train well, there's no way you can go through all the season and run good."
A Nigerian radio reporter mentioned the country's track federation wanted her to run the 200 Saturday and Sunday, an event Okagbare has been adamant about not contesting here. "The federation is insisting," the reporter said.
"No," Okagbare said. "Don't I have a decision. I'm not runnng it. That's it."
The queen had spoken and then left.
Men's 800m Results:
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Editor's Note: Dick Patrick one of the best track and field journalists on the planet (formerly with USA Today) is in Nairoibi giving seminars to journalists at the African Athletics Champs.