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Silver lining for ‘King David’ as Amos soars

RUDISHA-SEMISNAIROBI, Kenya, July 31- A reversal of the London 2012 Olympics final at the Commonwealth Games saw David Rudisha beaten to silver by Botswana’s Nijel Amos in the men 800m final at a packed Hamden Park in Glasgow on Thursday night.

Rudisha who is still finding his feet after a debilitating knee injury that almost saw him quit the sport and kept him out for more than a year; had no answer to the searing finishing pace of Olympics silver medallist Amos, who took the honours in 1:45.18 against 1:45.48.

“The race was good but the last 100m was difficult. I didn’t have good preparations. Amos is a tough competitor. We were racing together in a tactical race but he was better tonight,” Rudisha admitted after the race.

“This gentleman will always be the hero of the 800m,” said the champion in tribute to his Kenyan archrival.

South African Andre Oliver took bronze in 1:46.03 ahead of Bahamas World Relays champion, Ferguson Rotich, who came just outside the medals in 1:46.09 while the third Kenyan, Evans Rotich, who made the final as the fastest loser, propped the field in 1:47.34, long after the horses had bolted.

In an enthralling re-match of the historic London Olympics final that ended with Rudisha setting the jaw-dropping 1:40.91 record, the Kenyan brought an imposing reputation whilst Amos, his bridesmaid on that occasion in 1:41.73 (third fastest of all time) was simply the in-form athlete on the planet this season.

Their second and most recent encounter of the campaign before the Glasgow final at the Herculis meet in Monaco yielded a 1:42.45 world lead for the Botswana star on July 18 and it was he who sealed his ticket for the medal race with the fastest mark of the Wednesday semis of 1:45.65.

With this in mind, Rudisha who ran a year best of 1:42.98 for fifth at the Monaco showdown elected to go out in front from the start and led at the bell but in a pace that was nowhere near the 49.50 he ran at 400m when he led seven of the eight London Olympics finalists, including Amos, to lifetime bests.

The 2011 World champion crossed 400m in almost 51 seconds with compatriot, Rotich on his shoulder a step behind Amos who was in second as the absorbing tactical affair unfolded.

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With 300m to go, Oliver and Rotich obstructed Amos’s view as Rudisha, with calculated strides as opposed to the jet-heeled turn of speed which is his hallmark, started accelerating for the finish. As they came for the final bend, the Botswana ace was still boxed in but Oliver did the professional thing and allowed him through at the home-straight.

Confident of his pace and the fact Rudisha was not firing on all cylinders, Amos deployed the afterburners with 50m to go, caught up with the Olympics champion before firing past and sealing a historic triumph over his hero in a great advertisement for the Glasgow Games.

The respect between the pair was all there to see as they embraced after the titanic contest but as Amos went to Oliver to salute the tiny pocket of his compatriots at Hamden Park, Rudisha, the Maasai Moran not accustomed to losing, stared to the distance for a while absorbing the outcome before embarking on a muted lap of honour.

The dark hue on his face was reminiscent of the shade that he wore after his crushing semi final defeat at the 2009 Berlin World Championships when he was boxed out of medal race.

What followed was a period of total dominance that started with the then 1:42.01 African record in Rieti before he broke the world record for the first time the next season at the Olympiastadion where his dreams had been crushed a season earlier when he ran 1:41.09.

On August 29, 2010 in Rieti, he lowered his world record further before collecting the Worlds crown the next summer in Daegu. That set the platform for his successful assault at his own standard and a maiden Olympics gold in 2012.

As for Amos, it was a memorable triumph over the almost immovable object in 800m running as he became the first runner to beat Rudisha thrice in the same season since Rieti 2009 having also won his comeback race in Eugene, Oregon on May 31.

In the men 400m Hurdles final that came right after the two-lap decider, Kenya’s thin hopes for a rare medal dissipated when Boniface Mucheru came home sixth in 49.99 as South Africa’s Cornel Fredrick’s took the top medal in 48.50.

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