David Rudisha says he is “looking to do something better” than the 1:43.10 he ran in the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Doha on May 11. Given that the fastest 800-meter time ever run on U.S. soil is 1:42.58 (by Vebjorn Rodal of Norway, in winning the 1996 Olympic Games), the 23-year-old Kenyan’s first competition in the U.S. could be a memorable one.
“This is an Olympic year, and people always expect a good performance from me,” he said. “The only thing you can do is to train and to be ready to give a good performance at the competitions, especially the big event, which is the Olympics.”
In 2008, a young Rudisha missed the Olympics with an injury. “It was really tough,” he said. “I knew if I could be there, I could have done something. A good thing is that I was still in high school, and had many years to come. Maybe next time is going to be the right time for me. I’m in a better position now. “
On Saturday, Rudisha will face Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki, the man who finished right behind him to earn the World Championships silver medal last summer and was ranked #2 in the world to Rudisha’s #1.
“We have come a long way,” said Rudisha. “We started together as juniors in 2006 and we have been competing since then. I like him because he’s a determined athlete. He is still working hard and you can see it in his performance. He is my friend. I like him.”
Asked what advice he would give Robby Andrews, the American making his major professional debut on Saturday, on how to compete against him, Rudisha gave a long smile. “The important thing for an athlete is that you might be doing good training and you might be in good shape, but mentally you are not set. It’s good to harmonize the physical and the mental training so you can get a good result. As a young athlete, there are things you cannot force. It’s just like building a house. You cannot start from the top; you start from the bottom, from the foundation building up.”
Earlier this season, Rudisha ran 45.82 for 400 meters at a meet in Australia, as part of his speed buildup. He said he likes doing the 400, but avoids the distance as the season progresses because he fears that mixing it in with 800s might disturb his rhythm. However, he made one thing clear: if Kenya makes the 4x400-meter relay in the Olympics, he’s throwing his hat in the ring for a spot.
Hurdlers: Aries Merritt, David Oliver, Jason Richardson
It could take a sub-13-second performance to make the United States Olympic team this season in the 110-meter hurdles.
Reporters asked Aries Merritt, David Oliver and Jason Richardson—three of the top six hurdlers in the world this season—whether all three of them could dip under 13 seconds at the Olympic Trials in two weeks. Of the three, only Oliver, the American Record-holder, has a sub-13 to his credit: The Olympic bronze medalist clocked 12.89 in 2010. Merritt and Richardson are both hurdlers on the rise. Merritt upset China’s Liu Xiang to win the World Indoor 60-meter hurdles title this year.
“I don’t think it’s possible, I think it’s probable,” said Richardson, who exploded onto the world scene last year when he clocked 13.04. “Aries has run some wind-aided 12s, David has run most of the 12s on the record books, I’m tap dancing in the 13-area. Eugene always provides an amazing environment to run fast and with the added pressure and the importance of the meet, I know that we’ll lock together and put together a great show. So I think everybody could go under 13. I just hope that I’m a lower 13.”
But there is a chance that those sub-13 races could come even before Eugene, when the trio faces off at Icahn Stadium in the adidas Grand Prix on Saturday. Merritt recorded two wind-aided races under 13 seconds this season, most recently when he posted a windy 12.96 last week at the Prefontaine Classic. That race, which Liu won in 12.87, included five of the top six hurdlers in the world. That type of field isn’t uncommon in the hurdles, where the best line up against each other almost every week.
“I don’t think it can hurt us,” Merritt said when asked if it helps to see top-caliber competition regularly. “I think it helps us. We push each other. We try to push each other to the best performance each and every time we step on the track.”
Oliver said that the other hurdlers aren’t his main concern.
“I think as hurdlers, we never really have that big of a problem competing against each other for the simple fact that we’re more or less competing against 10 hurdles. We’re not running against individuals. We’re trying to work on what we’re doing in practice in a competitive environment. It’s not like, ‘who’s the fastest man over 100 meters?’”
Jeremy Wariner and Oscar Pistorius
When three-time Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Wariner and “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius take the line at the adidas Grand Prix, they’ll both be looking for the same thing: to erase the memory of faulty performances at the Prefontaine Classic last week.
“Coming off of last week, mentally I was kind of upset,” said Wariner, the 2004 Olympic 400-meter champion, who placed fifth at Pre. “I didn’t run the way I wanted to. I kind of had a block, between 200 and 300. I was in good position at 2, but after that I backed off and just didn’t move anywhere. Not a good finish, so I was kind of upset after the race. But I took a day, regrouped and had a great workout this whole week so I’m ready to go for tomorrow.”
Pistorius said that he was battling a tight hip in Eugene but assured the gathering that he would be ready in New York. The double-amputee superstar still needs to run another “A” standard of 45.30 to be named to the South African team for the Olympic Games and is running out of chances. He ran 46.86 at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon last week and apologized on Twitter afterward.
“Confidence is a massive thing for us,” he said. “It’s not just physical fitness. I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. … But that race was not a reflection of how hard I train and it’s frustrating.”