NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11 – After a disappointing performance from the national sevens teams and boxers, Kenyans will hope to start counting their medals at the Rio Olympics on Friday when the track and field programme gets underway with the women’s 10,000m final highlighting the day.
The mouth watering women’s final will take place at 5:10pm Kenyan time with world champion Vivian Cheruiyot, African title holder Alice Aprot and US based Betsy Saina seeking to stop a strong Ethiopian team lead by defending champion Tirunesh Dibaba and world leader Almaz Ayana.
But before the anticipated final, ‘King’ David Rudisha will take to the track at 4:10pm local time as the world record-holder starts his Olympic title defence in the heats.
Four years ago in London, Rudisha produced the best race of the meet in the men’s 800m final, cruising to a world record of 1:40.91 that he holds up to date.
But since bamboozling the world in his trademark front running long strides, Rudisha has endured a tough patch of his career, battling a knee injury over the following three years that saw his form dip.
However, he redeemed himself at 2015 Beijing IAAF World Championships where he won gold and after running a world lead of 1:43.35 this season in Hungary, Rudisha is convinced of retaining his crown to become the first man to win back-to-back Olympic 800 titles since New Zealand’s Peter Snell in 1960 and 1964.
“Running a world lead time shows that my form is coming back. The race I ran in Hungary was great for me because that is the best time I have recorded in two years. My body has responded well this year and training has been good. I feel in better form since 2012,” Rudisha told Capital Sport.
Prior to running the world lead in Hungary, Rudisha had been to two Diamond League races and he didn’t impress in either.
He finished fifth in the Shanghai leg behind compatriot Ferguson Rotich, returning 1:46.24. His next race was in Stockholm, Sweden where he recorded 1:46.69.
“It was a tough season after battling with injury. I’ve been working on my endurance and I feel I’m getting better. This season I’ve managed to run without pain and that has been the most important thing,” the Kilgoris-born athlete, son of 1968 Olympics 4x400m relay silver medallist Daniel Rudisha, said.
Rudisha will be joined in Kenya’s team for Rio by 2016 Diamond League leader in 800m Ferguson Rotich and 2014 world junior champion Alfred Kipketer who won the Kenyan Olympics Trials.
Rudisha, the two-time world champion, is wary of the danger posted by his compatriots, who pushed him to a third place finish in the Kenyan Trials in July, and knows well either of them will challenge him for his Olympic crown.
However, Rudisha is looking forward for a Kenyan sweep, noting the team is strong enough to beat competition from the likes of Botswana’s Nijel Amos, 2013 world champion Mohammed Aman from Ethiopia , Frenchman Pierre-Ambrose Bosse and Poland’s two-time defending European champion Adam Kszczot, who took silver behind Rudisha in Beijing last year.
Also in the race is 2012 Olympic 1500 champion Taoufik Makhloufi as well as Americans Clayton Murphy and Boris Berian, both of whom are legit threats to earn the first US medal in this event since 1992.
“As Kenyans we anticipate a tough challenge but I’m glad Ferguson and Kipketer are coming up well. I’m happy to be in the team and to go for my second Olympic and I’m looking forward to it. It’s always tough, nothing comes easy,” the father of one daughter outlined.
“In a championship, threat can come from anyone. You don’t have to focus on one person. The best thing is to be aware of the environment and situation then prepare for any outcome,” the confident Rudisha affirmed.