For 13 years, Wilson Kipketer was confident his 800 metres world record of one minute, 41.11 seconds was safe, until a new phenomenon emerged from the cradle of St Patrick’s High School in the high altitude, athletics-rich Keiyo town of Iten.
On Sunday, the Kenya-born Dane will watch as the young Kenyan David Rudisha makes his first deliberate attempt at one of the oldest track records in Berlin.
Rudisha will be on a double mission to Berlin’s Olympic Stadium: To exorcise the ghosts that saw him fail to make the final of last year’s World Championships on the blue track on which South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi struck gold; and to shatter Kipketer’s world record.
For a young man who wanted to run 1:42 consistently, he surprised many when in Heusden, Belgium, he went under the 1:42 barrier to clock 1:41.51 in July, the third fastest of all-time.
Now, with more than 47,000 spectators expected to pack out the lower tier of the 1936 Olympic Stadium, and a gathering of 40 athletes who have won medals at recent Olympic, World, and European championships, there are plenty of thrills to look forward to.
Alongside the record, Rudisha will be challenging the meet record of 1:42.98 Brazil’s Joaquim Cruz achieved in 1985.
Rudisha flew to Berlin feeling more prepared for Berlin.
“I am more experienced and exposed now. When I ran in there at the World Championships, I was nervous and lost on tactics because I stayed behind the pack for long. Now I have learnt my lesson and will be eying to run fast,” said Rudisha.
Berlin will be the first stop for Rudisha while Brussels, the final leg of the IAAF Diamond League on August 27, and Rieti, Italy, which comes a day after, are the only meetings lined up for the two-time Africa champion. However, he would like to challenge Kipketer’s 1:41.11 in Berlin and “lie low” in the two other races.
Kipketer set the world record in Cologne, Germany, in 1997 and Rudisha feels that Germany would be a perfect place to crush it.
Rudisha, 21, sent the home crowds into ecstasy, in Nairobi as he set the fastest time in the two lap race on African soil when he won the 800m race in 1:42.84 last month during the Senior African Athletics Championships.
This was a massive improvement on his own championship record (1:44.20) set two years ago in Addis Ababa. Rudisha, 21, is carrying along his “tailor-made” pace setter Sammy Tangui to Berlin and Rieti hoping to make history.
“It is a person I have learnt to run with. I hope he can go through the 600m fast and let me take over from there. It will depend on the weather, the crowd and my body. But for now I feel good and ready for any challenge,” he said.