ELDORET, Kenya, May 22- Olympic 800m champion and world record holder; David Rudisha is carrying a heavy load of expectations on his return from injury as he heads to Eugene for the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting on May 31.
This will be third stop of the IAAF elite 14-meeting this season after Doha where he was expected to feature and Shanghai last weekend.
“The best thing about all this is that I am back into competition. I have been out since May 2013. I pulled out on the even of last year’s Prefontaine Classic race in Eugene and the one-year has been hell.”
“I have been in and out of the country seeing doctors to diagnosis and observe my recovery from the knee injury.”
“But I am now back to that level of competition. That is the greatest feeling I have and I want to see how my body will react on the track, against the best athletes,” Rudisha told Xinhua on Thursday in Eldoret.
The 2011 world champion was expected to end his exile from track in Doha on May 8, but he felt some pain in his calf and opted out. Now he is feeling good and ready to take on the challenge in Oregon.
“I target to run between 1:44 and 1:43 at the Prefontaine Classic. I have always started at that level, be it in Australia or even last year in Doha. I target the same in Eugene. I don’t see myself running slower,” said Rudisha.
“It is my first race after a long time though, and there are doubts if I will be at the level I am always at. My legs will answer all the critics. Running 1:43 or 1:44 will be a fair judgement on my form as the season starts.
“There are other many competitions coming and I will confirm where to run beyond the Eugene and New York events,” he said.
Given Rudisha’s penchant for fast paces, along with a field that includes four of the nine fastest men in history, the men’s 800m is one of the year’s most anticipated events at the Prefontaine Classic.
Rudisha has been dominating the world since he won gold at the 2006 IAAF World Junior Championships. The Kenyan has set three world records, including the current mark of 1:40.91, set when winning the Olympic title in London.
The 25-year-old missed most of 2013 with a knee injury, diagnosed just a day before he was scheduled to run last year’s Pre Classic.
In Rudisha’s absence, Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia took full advantage, winning the world title in Moscow and his second IAAF Diamond Trophy.
“It will be good to run against Aman. I believe the training has been good and it is now time to test myself, not against time, but against fellow competitors. With everything being fine, I know I can do well and win. But everyone wants to win,” said Rudisha.
Still only 20 years old, Aman is also the only man to ever beat Rudisha since 2010, and he has done it twice, although Rudisha has the career head-to-head edge, 5-2.
Aman, who won in Eugene last year, successfully defended his 800m title earlier in 2014 at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. This will be Aman’s first race against Rudisha since May 2013.
Botswana’s Nijel Amos, also still only 20, was the closest to Rudisha at the London Olympics, taking silver as an 18-year-old. His 1:41.73 in that race not only shattered the world junior record, it also made him the fifth runner ever to break 1:42. That was the only career meeting between the two.
“The competition is not easy, and that is why I train hard to be the best. I leave on Tuesday for Eugene and believe me, I know my body, it is in good form,” said Rudisha.
Nobody has more wins over Rudisha than 24-year-old Abukaker Kaki of Sudan. He has five, but none since 2009.
Kaki is a three-time winner at the Pre Classic, taking the 1000m in 2010 and the 800m in 2011 (1:43.68), both with meeting records, then edging Aman by 0.03 in a thrilling finish in 2012.
The slowest PB among those four is 1:42.37, which is faster than the 29-year-old US record of 1:42.60 set by Johnny Gray in 1985.
The second-fastest US runner ever is Duane Solomon, fourth in that epic 2012 Olympic final with 1:42.82. Now 29, he is undefeated in seven races so far this year, indoors and out, and holds the current world-leading mark at 1:43.88.
Fellow US runner Brandon Johnson also enjoyed his best season last year. Also 29, he clocked 1:43.84 in only his second serious year in the 800m, having previously concentrated on the 400m hurdles. Like Rudisha, Johnson will be making his Prefontaine Classic debut.
The two medallists behind Aman at the World Indoor Championships are included. Silver medallist Adam Kszczot of Poland earned silver ahead of Britain’s Andrew Osagie. The latter is one of six men in this field who also featured in the London Olympic 800m final.
Also in the field is France’s World Championships finalist Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, who last year won the European under-23 title.
Seven-time U.S. champion Nick Symmonds had hoped to compete in this year’s race but has had to withdraw with a knee injury.