RIO DE Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 16 -World record-holder David Rudisha produced a last-lap kick to defend his Olympic 800m title in style at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday morning.
Rudisha, also the world champion, timed a season’s best of 1:42.15 to become the first man in 52 years to defend the 800m title.
Running under wet conditions, Rudisha put behind him a torrid period that had seen him slump in form after battling injury to wade off a final stretch challenge from reigning 1500m Olympic champion Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi.
Compatriot 2014 world junior champion Alfred Kipketer, who won the Kenyan Trials, paid up for a blistering start to the race, having bolted upfront after the gun but tiring off in the final 300m to finish seventh in 1:46.02.
Another Kenyan, 2015 Diamond League leader Ferguson Rotich finished fifth in a season’s best of 1:43.55.
Kipketer, 19, in his maiden Olympics, surged forward after the gun, but at the end, it worked to give Rudisha good pacing especially in the first lap which they went through in an astonishing time of 49.23, faster than when Rudisha broke the world record in 2012.
Rudisha kept on Kipketer’s shoulder and with 300m to go, the reigning Olympic champion used his trademark long strides to wade past his compatriot, powering into the next 100m with Makhloufi and Frenchamn Pierre-Ambroise Bosse following.
Despite the close challenge from Makhloufi and Frenchamn Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, Rudisha’s powerful kick was enough to pull him clear of the chasing pack with the Algerian settling for silver in a national record of 1:42.61.
American Clayton Murphy dipped into his energy reserve in the last 30meters of the race to cross the line in a personal best of 1:42.93 ahead of the reigning World Indoor champion Bosse.
Rudisha’s surge took Bosse and Makhloufi with him, but as the trio entered the home stretch of the Olympic Stadium, it was clear there would be only one winner.
Rudisha, who produced the run of the London Games in 2012 to win gold in a world record of 1:40.91, roared through the line to claim his second Olympic gold, Makhloufi outsprinting Bosse, who eased up too early to allow Murphy in for an unexpected bronze.
Rudisha’s lucky stars had aligned themselves straight from the heats and into the semi-finals with his greatest rivals Botswana’s Nijel Amos and Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman failing to make it into the final.
The Kenyan trio had hoped to sweep the podium, but a tactical mess by Rotich and Kipketer meant the feat was never achieved.
The last time this happened was by the USA in 1904 and 1912.