World 800m champion David Rudisha and Commonwealth 1,500m gold medallist James Magut start their preparations for the Rio Olympics at the Melbourne IAAF Challenge in Australia on Saturday.
The Kenyans will then head to another local event in Perth scheduled for March 12, where they will be competing for the first time. The Perth championships, however, is not part of the IAAF Challenge.
Saturday’s race will be Rudisha’s first track race since reclaiming his world title in Beijing in August last year. Magut has not had a good run since winning the Commonwealth title in 2014.
A recurring leg injury has seen him miss major events such as last year World Championships in Beijing.
Rudisha, 27, competed in the Melbourne and Sydney legs of the Australian domestic season last year and in 2012. He will be making his fifth appearance in Melbourne, following victories in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Rudisha will be up against world 800m bronze medallist Amel Tuka from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The local challenge will come from Australian 800m record-holder Alex Rowe and national 800m and 1,500m champion Jeff Riseley.
“I’m looking forward to returning to Australia. It has played an important part in my career over the years. As I prepare for the Olympic Games, I am keen to duplicate the build-up that worked for me in 2012,” said Rudisha.
The Olympics 800m champion said he was not focusing on improving his world record, but rather on having his body in great shape for the big season ahead.
“It’s still too early in the season to think about records. What we are praying for is good health and a good season,” he said.
Rudisha led from start to finish to win gold at the 2012 London Olympics and set a new 1:40.91 world record.
This was described as “the greatest 800m race ever, as Rudisha became the first and only runner, so far, to break the 1:41 barrier for 800m.
From Australia, Rudisha will return home to prepare for the Diamond League 800m race in Shanghai on May 14 before heading Birmingham for 600m battle as he prepares to try to join an exclusive group to have defended Olympic gold medals.
Magut’s main rival in the men’s 1,500m is Ryan Gregson, who has been in excellent form, running 3:36.74 in Hobart last month.
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