Famed Coach Brother Colm O’Connell Talks Greatness, David Rudisha Past, Present and Future

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by: LetsRun.com
May 24, 2013

Brother Colm O’Connell, the famed coach of 800m gold medallist and world record holder, David Rudisha, does not often leave Kenya to watch Rudisha compete (he’s never seen Rudisha run at the Olympics or World Champs), so it was a rare treat to get to talk to Brother Colm Friday at the press conference on Friday in New York City in advance of Saturday’s adidas Grand Prix (live on NBC 1-3 pm eastern).

We recap the highlights of our time with Brother Colm below (The full 12+ minutes of video with O’Connell are embedded at the end of this story, and if you’ve got time, it’s a great watch/listen).

Editor’s note: Other press conference highlights were that sex definitely sells as the media swarmed Blanka Vlašić before her first competition in 20 months and largely ignored more credentialed gold medalists. More on that here. And LRC talked to American miler Shannon Rowbury about her 2013 and the year Mary Cain is having. More on that here. 

Motivating the World Record Holder and Olympic Champ
Earlier with the the rest of the press corps, O’Connell was asked about how does one motivate a world record holder and Olympic champion.

O’Connell had an interesting response.

“I think David, and (other) great athletes, have the capacity to rise above performance oriented motivation, if I can use that kind of word. It’s not just about the performance. They might be looking at, ‘What can I give back to the sport?’ ‘I’m a role model to young people,’ so I still have a duty and responsibility to be an example both as a person, as an athlete, as a character. I think also the fact that many athletes who achieve at such high standards are seen by the public as being kind of iconic status. Individuals are the lifeblood of the sport. In any sport, we look at the individuals in the sport – rather than the sport as an organization. It’s the individuals who keep the sport going. People like David, like Usain Bolt, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan – all of the great sports people down through the years – they are the people who really attract young people into the sport, not necessarily the sport itself.

Athletes like David who can think like that and can realize, ‘I still have a role to play,’ that’s where the pull their motivation from – not necessarily from breaking another world record or winning another Olympic title – that’s there and that can be motivation, it’s certainly a factor, but I think they rise a little above that.

And some people might say, ‘You make more money, financial also.’ Yes, it’s a consideration but I don’t think any of these athletes are going to starve if they stop running.”

Rudisha Taking on the 1000m Later This Year
During our exclusive one on one time with O’Connell, we asked O’Connell if part of the reason why Rudisha will run a 1000 later this year is to try to keep the Olympic gold medalist and world record holder motivated.

“We thought that the idea of a 1000 meters would take a little bit of pressure off of him.Then you have the idea also that Wilson (Kipketer) holds the world record indoor for the 1000, so that gives him a little extra motivation as well. And (him running) the 400 (early in the season) just as a base of running is motivation for him (also). He’s just extending out a little bit – down to 4 (hundred) and up to the thousand,”  said Brother Colm O’Connell.

O’Connell  also added that the 1000 had been something he’d been trying to get Rudisha to do since 2011 but a ‘niggling injury in May’ of the year prevented them from doing it and they didn’t want to add it in last year during an Olympic year.

Rudisha’s Best Running in the Future?
We then asked O’Connell if the 24-year old Rudisha might be better down the road – maybe at the 2016 Olympics – than he is now. As crazy as that sounds, we asked that because Wilson Kipketer set his last world record just four months before his 27th birthday and Rudisha will be just a year older in Rio – 4 months before his 28th birthday.

O’Connell was philosophical in his response:

“Can a peak be confined to one year? You know sometimes it’s three or four years that they are really on top of their game – whether it’s Wilson or Haile or Bolt – they have a period of time, it’s not confined to any one year.

And every year they might have a different type of performance (that is the highlight). David had two world records in a week in 2010 and then combined it all into one race in 2012. It can come in different ways.

From now on, for David, in Rio, he’ll be 27. Should he be at the peak of 800 meter running? It will depend a little bit as to how he manages himself, along with myself, (and) his agent James Templeton – how we manage him. If he continues running sparingly, which he has been doing (it is possible). I mean he only ran a few races before the Olympics last year and then he came out and pulled out the big one. And then this year, he has run sparingly again – this is only his second 800.

I think a lot depends also on how you manage yourself (that will determine) if he can peak again.

But now what do you call another peak again as well, ‘Do you call it winning another Olympic gold. Do you call it winning an Olympic gold with a world record?’ The peak can move a little bit by what you mean by a peak.

You would say off-hand it’s very difficult to match what he did last year. It’s certainly in one person’s book that would be the peak and that’s it. He might peak another way, but certainly to match 2012 – very difficult.”

We then concluded our one on one by asking O’Connell if the fact that the 800 is stacked with lots of young talent, like 19-year old Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos who ran 1:41.73 as an 18-year old last year, was actually good for Rudisha. O’Connell said it was:

“I think people look back on that (London) now and say there are three or four very young 800 runners nipping on his heels, so he has to be careful, and he showed that by losing his last race, losing to (Mohamed) Aman. He has to be careful. That helps keep him grounded – the fact that he loses a race now and then. He doesn’t carry the tag of being invincible which I think is good. It keeps him on his toes. The day you think you are invincible that is your biggest enemy.”

More Brother Colm From Friday from RRW: David Rudisha’s Coach, Brother Colm O’Connell, Urges Patience on World Record Improvement

More: adidas Diamond League Friday Press Conference: 
*LRC Sex Sells: Blanka Vlašić Returns to Competition and is Swarmed by the Media
*LRC Miler Shannon Rowbury Confident Where She’s At, Talks About Mary Cain Phenomenon

LetsRun.com Previews:
*LRC Men’s Preview: David Rudisha Set To Shine Again As Hagos Gebrhiwet And Dejen Gebremeskel Prepare To Clash
*LRC Women’s Preview: Abeba Aregawi Makes Her US Debut As Americans Rowbury, Uceny, Grace Hope To Contend … Will Brenda Martinez Get Closer To 4:00?
*LRC 2013 adidas HS Boys Dream Mile Race Preview – Will A 5th American Prep Make History And Go Sub-4?

Brother Colm in Kenya

Posted in: Professional