NAIROBI, Kenya, May 7- As a country, it is common knowledge that Kenya has more than its fair share of distance running talent, only rivaled by neighbors Ethiopia.
However, despite possessing tens of current, former and retired Olympics, world, Continental, Africa and All Africa Games champions and not forgetting elite circuit title holders, few Kenyan runners have entered the pantheon of greatness.
This is baffling considering the East African nation has the capacity to produce global sporting icons in the scale of say Chinese with gymnasts, Brazil with football or America with basketball.
Retired double Olympic champion Kipchoge Keino, who is the president of the country’s National Olympics Committee, retired former 3000m steeplechase record holder, Moses Kiptanui, twice women’s marathon champion, one time record holder and four-time Boston winner, Catherine Ndereba and the late men’s Olympic champion Samuel Wanjiru can be termed as the select few Kenyan runners who have commanded global attention.
Others in that hallowed group are former marathon men record holder, Paul Tergat and of course, the renowned peace ambassador and former women’s marathon record holder, Tegla Loroupe.
In David Rudisha, the country has perhaps its answer to global sporting giants such as Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, America’s LeBron James, Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Germany’s Sebastian Vettel.
At 24, Rudisha is yet to fulfill his enormous potential and who knows how further he can raise the bar in the pristine track event of men’s 800m that he has bossed since 2010.
When everyone deemed they have seen it all from the lanky 6 foot 4 inches powerful runner who gave London 2012 Olympics one of its signature individual performances, ranked among the top ten iconic shows in the Games, Rudisha is back for more.
“The difference between being a good athlete and being a great athlete is somebody who can pull motivation out of nowhere. David is the Olympic champion, world champion, record holder, you might wonder, what is left for him to achieve,” his coach, Irish Brother Colm O’Connell summed of the prized runner.
O’Connell said great athletes can always manage to move a notch higher in their motivation and preparation and that is something, he said, David needs to look at this year.
“He has shown he can handle the tag of favoritism, he has done it before, he went to the biggest arena in London and performed under pressure and I think he is becoming an athlete of occasion. When occasion demands it, he performs,” O’Connell summed of the prized runner.
Just like those gathered, he was blown away at his sparkling new career best of 45.15 over 400m set at the low key domestic track and field series as he launched his 2013 season. Considering the punishing elevation of Nairobi (4,921ft), the performance that eclipsed his 45.50 effort record in Sydney in 2010 was staggering.
The last time he ran in front of his home crowd, Rudisha stopped the clock at the jaw-dropping 1:42.13 during the trials for London Olympics last July and it was a performance that was correctly cited that he was primed to break his own world record.
For it to happen at the Olympics final itself, 1:40.91, to be precise, ushered the world champion into yet another pedestal and it was not surprising other great 800m runners of yore including Sebatian Coe, Wilson Kipketer and Alberto Juantonera were quick to usher him into the high table in the aftermath.
“I’m happy to start here at home and run that time. I have won all titles an athlete can ever wish and dream to become but I want to be motivated because they are those who have defended them several times,” he said.
“This year, we have World Championships and I want to go there and defend my title in 800m,” Rudisha categorically stated after tearing the track last Saturday, a week ahead of his IAAF Diamond League debut in Doha.
“He is not an ordinary athlete because of how he views his races himself and how he prepares. David knows exactly what he wants, I have to base most of my training and mental preparations on how he responds,” his coach conceded.
For 38 years, the Irishman has moulded most of the most renowned Kenyan distance runners, including Wilson Kipketer, the man Rudisha succeeded as record holder who switched his allegiance to Denmark and for him to make that assessment on the current king of the two-laps speaks volumes.
“He cannot relax on his laurels. In London, it took a world record to win gold, that tells you how much David has taken it to the next level and this year, the men 800m will be one of the most followed,” Brother Colm cautioned.