David Rudisha of Kenya stole the show at the IAAF Grand Prix in Rieti, Italy, by running a marvellous one minute, 42.01 seconds to break the long-standing African 800 metres record at the weekend.
The 20-year-old shattered the previous continental record of 1:42.28 set by compatriot Sammy Koskei in August 1984. Rudisha’s was also the fourth fastest 800m in history, behind legends Wilson Kipketer (1:41.11), Sebastian Coe (1:41.73) and Joachim Cruz (1:41.77). It is also the world’s best this season.
Rudisha is the son of Daniel Rudisha, the Olympic 4x400m relay silver medallist at the 1968 Mexico Games.
It is the sixth time the 39-year-old annual track and field meeting has had a world’s seasonal best and nudged the 1:41.83 meet record set by IAAF ambassador Kipketer in 1996.
In Rieti, three men dipped under 1:43. The 2007 world champion and 2009 world silver medallist, Alfred Kirwa Yego, was runner-up in a new personal best time of 1:42.67 ahead of Berlin world champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (1:42.86).
Dutchman Bram Som clocked 1:43.59 while World bronze medallist Youssef Saad Kamel, also 1,500m winner in Berlin, was fifth (1:44.83).
Interestingly, Rudisha was not even on the starting lists of the Rieti meeting until Friday night when, immediately after his victory in Brussels, a phone call was made to the organisers asking for him to be slotted in.
The African record is a big redemption for the tall 2006 World Junior champion after he crashed out in the semi-finals on the only cool and rainy day of the World Championships last month. His post-Berlin form has been excellent, his Rieti run scoring his third win since then after Zurich (1:43.52) and Brussels (1:45.80).
“I knew that I was in good shape and that I was ready to run 1:42. I am happy because I have bounced back after missing the Worlds final. During the semi-finals held on Friday, 21st August, it was very cold after the rainfall. I loved running in Rieti and I want to return next year,” he said.
Rudisha, who said he comes from “a small village” in southern Rift Valley”, is coached by Brother Colm O’Connell. He started with the decathlon but his coach advised him to try the familiar 400m. He started running the 800 metres in 2005.
Kenyan Ruth Bisibori, seventh in Berlin, broke the meeting record in the 3,000m steeplechase with 9:13.92, taking the lead from the very beginning and passing the two-kilometre mark in 6:05 inside the pace of the meet record held by 2005 world champion Dorcus Inzikuru and continued to push in the final kilometre.
The women’s 1,500m had the top three from the Worlds, but Lisa Dobriskey (Britain), the Berlin silver medallist, held off double World champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal (Bahrain) in a dramatic neck-and-neck battle to the finish line.
Broke world record
Another Kenyan, William Biwott (3:33.00), who broke the World Junior Mile record in the Dream Mile in Oslo, Norway, won the metric mile race ahead of Leonel Manzano (USA, 3:33.59) and compatriot Geoffrey Rono (3:33.59).
Joseph Kiplimo (7:31.20) had a narrow win against Sammy Mutahi (7:31.41) and last year’s Rieti winner Edwin Soi (7:31.48) in the men’s 3,000m. The first Ethiopian was Abreham Cherkos Feleke, fourth in a new PB of 7:31.81. Seven men dipped under 7:33.
World 5,000m silver medallist Sylvia Kibet took the women’s race in 8:43.93, followed by Ethiopian Kalkidan Gezahegne (8:44.33) and Kenyan Mercy Cherono (8:44.67).