NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – Following the late withdrawal of world record holder David Rudisha for the IAAF London World Championships due to injury, world athletics governing body boss Sebastian Coe says the globe has been denied opportunity to witness the greatest 800m runner of all time.
Rudisha, a two-time Olympic and world champion, was set to defend his title at the competition that starts August 4-13, but that dream was shattered on Monday – the eve of Team Kenya’s first batch departure to London when the 28-year-old picked a muscle strain at training.
Coe, a silver medallist at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, admitted he is Rudisha’s number one fan and was saddened by the pull out of the Kenyan great who holds the 800m world record in 1:40.91 set in 2012 at the London Olympics.
“It’s a personal sadness to me. He (Rudisha) is the greatest 800m runner of all time. I am probably number one in his fan club forget the position I hold. We are not going to be witnessing a God given talent on the track, it would have been fantastic to have him in London but injuries have no respect to reputation,” Coe asserted on Tuesday.
In his absence, the trio of 2016 Diamond League winner Ferguson Rotich, World U20 title holder Kipyegon Bett and Emmanuel Koroir will be tasked to ensure the title remains in Kenya when the final of the men’s 800m will be held on August 8, a day Kenya will be holding its General Elections.
Team Kenya coach, Julius Kirwa expressed his confidence in the three, saying they are equal to the task.
“In Kenya we have a lot of talent. The three that will be travelling to London are capable of filling in the shoes of our hero Rudisha so there is nothing to worry. Rudisha picked a muscle strain in training and the good thing with him he was honest to say he was not fit,” Kirwa said before the first batch departed for London on Tuesday.
Of the trio, only Ferguson Rotich, who holds a personal best of 1:42.84, has been to the world championships before but he has never won a medal- he finished fourth in Beijing 2015.
However, surprise package could be Emmanuel Korir who is the fastest this season having timed 1:43.10 in Monaco Diamond League on July 21 and is expected to face stiff competition from Botswana’s star Amos Nijel who is second fastest this season with 1:43.18.
Youngster Kipyegon Bett lies fifth this season in a time of 1:44.04 he set at the punishing elevation Nyayo National Stadium during the Kenyan Trials for the London worlds held June 24 in Nairobi.
The team will be looking to give Kenyans something to smile about after the controversy that surrounded the selection of the men’s 800m team that saw USA based Michael Saruni dropped despite meeting the qualification mark.