MELBOURNE, March 4 – African 800m record holder David Rudisha laid down a marker for the rest of the athletics season with a blistering 1:43.15 in the two lap race at the Melbourne IAAF Track Classic meet on Thursday.
Rudisha, who became the fourth fastest 800m runner of all time last year of 1:42.01 which he set last year in Rieti, Italy.
"It’s the beginning of the season and I just wanted to run something good," Rudisha told reporters.
"I’m very happy, I expected to do well,” added the African champion.
Fellow Kenyan Sammy Tangui took up the pace-setting duties before Rudisha powered to the front with 300m remaining and left Australian Ryan Gregson almost three seconds in his wake.
Meanwhile, Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop’s topsy turvy form continued after finishing fourth in the 1500m in a time of 3:43.67.
Kiprop, who was promoted to the gold medal position at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test, was checked early in Thursday’s race and never fully recovered.
The previous Australian all-comers record of 1:43.97 was also set at Melbourne’s Olympic Park by another Kenyan, David Lelei, back in 2000.
Australian Jeff Riseley, running at the elite level for the first time since the world championships last August, overpowered New Zealander Nick Willis in the final straight to win in 3:42.70.
Australian Jeremy Roff grabbed second place in 3:43.06 and Olympic silver medallist Willis was third in 3:43.33, one spot ahead of Kiprop (3:43.67), the man who pipped him in the Beijing final.
World and Olympic champion Steve Hooker was at a loss to explain a rare off night after only clearing 5.65m in the pole vault.
The conditions were perfect on a warm, still night, but Hooker was unable to take advantage, bombing out after three straight misses at 5.85m.
"I wanted to minimise my jumps so I would be fresh when I was jumping a bit higher," Hooker said.
"Sometimes that can backfire and tonight it certainly did.
"Up until I was out of the competition, I thought it was going to be a big night."
Elsewhere, 2007 world champion Tero Pitkamaki of Finland won a tight javelin competition with 83.32m ahead of New Zealander Stuart Farquhar (83.26m).
Britain’s Andy Baddeley won the 5000m in 13:20.85 from Kenyan Jonathon Komen (13:25.46).
Australia’s world champion Dani Samuels was untroubled in winning the women’s discus with 62.97m, while compatriot Sally McLellan declared herself unimpressed with her winning time of 23.59 in the 200m.