June 14, 2014
New York, NY-
For Duane Solomon, the question heading into Saturday’s 800 meters was: Which race should I run?
“I had two different game plans,” he admitted later. “Either I lead or Rudisha does.”
With that, he hung his head.
“I raced Rudisha’s race. I guess I respected him too much.”
Indeed, Kenya’s world-record holder David Rudisha commanded a great deal of respect following his 1:44.63 victory Saturday. Granted, the performance was nothing compared to the absolute domination he displayed here in 2012 while setting the meet record of 1:41.74. Still, it signaled an important step in Rudisha’s return from the knee injury that sidelined him for most of 2013.
And, judging by the scrum of reporters hoping to interview him after the race, his star stature hasn’t dimmed with the time off.
“I still need to do a lot, because I started a little late this year,” Rudisha told a throng of reporters that seemed significantly larger than any other athlete had managed to draw Saturday.
“I felt better today, but I need a few races to bring my body back.”
Starting in an outer lane, Rudisha wasted no time putting himself front and center, tucking in right behind rabbit Daniel Dye down the opening backstretch. Dye passed the 400 meters at 50.48.
Solomon latched onto Rudisha’s shoulder, as per his second game plan — and hung on through 700 meters.
Rudisha hit 600 meters at 1:18.03, followed by Solomon, then a fast-charging Mark English of Ireland.
Rudisha managed to pull slightly ahead over the last 100 meters to clinch the victory. Solomon held onto second place until the final meters, but then got passed by English, who finished in 1:45.03. Solomon took third in 1:45.13.
Next came Polish racers Marcin Lewandowski (1:45.37) and Adam Kszczot (1:45.79).
Reactions and future races
Hometown favorite Robby Andrews, of nearby Manalapan Township, N.J., faded over the last 150 meters for eighth place in 1:46.28.
“I tried to move the last 150, but it wasn’t there,” Andrews said after. “I’ve been feeling great. This whole year has been a huge turnaround for me.”
Andrews will race the 800 meters at USATF Outdoors, he said, then head off to Europe.
Rudisha said he’ll next race at the Glasgow meet on July 12 and then the Monaco meet on July 18. After that, he’ll race the Commonwealth Games.
But first, he said, he’s heading home to Kenya for 3.5 weeks of training.
For Solomon, the take-home lesson was that he needs to race more aggressively. He’s better off hitting 600 meters in, say, 1:16 instead of 1:18, he said.
“These guys have, I would say, a better kick than me,” he said. “My main strength is to hold on to my speed.”
After racing at USATF nationals, he wants to head back home to Orlando, where he can get in some solid training, get his strength back up.
As for Rudisha’s trajectory, Solomon insisted the Kenyan can be beat — so long as Solomon doesn’t cede ground at the start.
“He’s beatable,” Solomon said. “It’s not a bad race, all in all. But I expected to run a quicker time today and come home with the win.”
800 Metres – Men Race 2
1 Rudisha , David Lekuta KEN 1:44.63 4
2 English , Mark IRL 1:45.03 2
3 Solomon , Duane USA 1:45.13 1
4 Lewandowski , Marcin POL 1:45.23
5 Kszczot , Adam POL 1:45.37
6 Vazquez , Wesley PUR 1:45.79
7 Rotich , Ferguson Cheruiyot KEN 1:45.90
8 Andrews , Robby USA 1:46.28
9 Rutt , Michael USA 1:46.33
10 Rimmer , Michael GBR 1:46.75
Dey , Daniel USA DNF