Athletics Athletics

Rudisha’s dream driven by family passion


NAIROBI, Kenya June 5 – The saying goes like father, like son, a tired cliché that has existed for generations on end.

World 800m record holder, David Rudisha, who like father Daniel, developed to be a reputed athlete is among those itching not to be judged under the shadow of their elder.

Since returning home victorious from Daegu World Championships last September, only one mission has clouded his mind and Rudisha has not shied away from repeating ad nauseum at every available opportunity since – winning the Olympic gold in London this summer.

One of the biggest motivations driving this two-lap force to shift his guns on London glory is the deep hunger to do one over his 66-year-old father who was among the Kenyan quartet that won silver in the 4X400m relay at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

To put it into perspective, the internal rivalry in the Rudisha household is best illustrated by an anecdote his manager, James Templeton, shared with this writer.

“There was this group of foreign journalists who went to the family home in Transmara and they met his father. On being ushered into the house, they inquired, “Where is Rudisha?”

“The old man looked up and replied firmly, “The man you are looking for is Lekuta! I am Rudisha!”

On Saturday, the eve of his departure for the Samsung Diamond League meeting in New York via a brief stop over in Australia, Capital Sport caught up with the World, Continental and African 800m champion in his Iten base.

After a light work-out at the Kamarin Stadium, a well beaten and watered dirt track marked in white chalk in the bowels of Iten, Rudisha or as he was christened by his father, Lekuta, sat down to field the questions of the day.

When the subject of his father was brought up, his blow stiffened, eyes narrowed and he proceeded to emphatically declare his sole purpose was to craft his own history.

“Since 1968 when he won silver, it has been long and I have taken over from him. He was a 400m and 4X400m relay runner and I’m an 800m runner, I have moved one step.

“My father was doing well and they brought Kenya a silver medal in 4X400m and this is the best year and the right time for me and I hope to go there and have a good competition and add our family another Olympics medal, this time, hopefully, the gold medal.”

However, he pays homage to the influence of the man who helped his country make history as the first African nation to win an Olympics medal at the lap-relay when he raced the first leg of the final as Charles Asati, Naftali Bon and Munyoro Ngamau completed the event in 2:59.64 for the second medal.

“As I young person you normally have a lot of hopes and when I was growing up, I knew I had a talent of running right from the beginning. I used to play around with neighbours kids and also in school.

“My passion was in running and I knew one time, I will become an athlete and that is why I started developing my career very early. The first time I saw my father’s silver medal from the Olympics, I really admired it since it was so beautiful and I said to myself, I will one time have mine since that was my dad’s. It really motivated me.”

Rudisha reveals that when he turned 15, he realised what it takes to be a champion like his dad.

“When I saw his medal, I would become very excited but I realised all I had to do is training and that is when I knew about sport and got into training programmes,” he added.

The world record holder conceded his desire to shine at the Olympics was also fuelled by the constant recitals of the exploits of his father when the family gathered for a chat.

Mzee (elder/dad) is a very funny man and he liked making a lot of stories about sports. He told us many stories about his friends, about his running and how they trained.

“He encouraged me the first time he saw me running at the Districts when I was in primary school. He was very happy and he had a lot of hopes for me and showed me how to do a little bit of training. At that time, he was my mentor.”

The Daegu champion would move on to join famed Patrician Irish clergyman, Bro Colm O’Connell when he completed his primary education at his native Ol Tanki village and as another limp line states, the rest is history.

Having devoted most of his time since November to get in top shape for London Olympics, Rudisha who is aiming at running the fastest time on US soil on his American debut in New York explained the toll his mission is taking on his family.

“I know it’s a tough situation to find yourself in the middle of this but when you get there, that is when you learn how to handle the situation. The best thing is when you get a supportive family that understands sport and career, it makes things easier.

“My family are supporting me and they are proud of what I’m doing. They appreciate what I’m doing and they know that when I do well, I’m bringing pride to the family and like as a man, this is my career and any man who works hard is the pride of the family,” the husband to Lizzy and father to Charlene, 2, explained.

Besides running, what else can Rudisha do in 1:41.01, his standing world record over two-laps?

“I don’t know, I can do many things,” he says while bursting in loud laughter, “I can’t tell you now, running is my concentration now and after that, when I finish this one day, I will sit down and see what I can do in 1:41.01!”