It wasn’t just the best race of the Olympic Games, but it was the best middle-distance race of all-time.
David Rudisha’s world record and gold medal winning time of 1:40.91 was an easy choice for the Performance of 2012.
King Rudisha gracefully accepted his crown at the Olympic Games as he kicked away from the best 800m field in the history of the event.
If someone would to place a sure bet for who would medal in at the Olympic Games, some would put their faith in Rudisha. The defending World Champion and current world record holder was the overwhelming favorite to win gold and anything less would be a disappointment.
Rudisha did not disappoint - he made history.
From the gun, neither The King and the rest of the field in the Olympic 800m final would not be deterred from one another. Rudisha lead the field through 200m in 23.4 seconds, but he had company.
The hunters trying to chase down the Masai gazelle was Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki, the silver medalist in 2011, Ethiopia’s Mohammah Aman, who was the only one to beat Rudisha in 2011, rising star and world junior champion Nijel Amos from Botswana, and the Surprise of 2012 Duane Solomon.
A bit off the pace was compatriot Timothy Kitum, Britain’s lone hope of Andrew Osiage, and the always dangerous Nick Symmonds in the back.
The field stayed relatively the same though the next 400m. Rudisha would come through 400m in 49.28 seconds with Kaki and Aman still in hot pursuit.
When he set his two previous world records, he went through 400m at a quicker pace. His first world record of 1:41.09 was set with a split of 49.1 and his 1:41.01 was done via a 48.9 first quarter-mile.
He also had the courtesy of a pacemaker, but time was the least of his concern during that faithful day in London. The gold medal was the primary goal and time would be an added bonus.
As the eventual champion turned onto the backstretch, something relatively special started to unfold. Relative to everyone in the stands watching the race, but not relative to the guys trying to hold on for just 300m.
Rudisha would start to open his stride, maintain his metronomic upper body, and slowly begin to distance himself from everyone else. Cameras on the backstretch projected images across the globe of pained faces and grimes from everyone expect Rudisha.
Six seconds later... gritting teeth.
Calm, collected, and composed, the King was going to rightfully going to claim his throne.
Rudisha continued his wire-to-wire run as he passed through 600m in 1:14.30. He was now 0.29 seconds ahead of schedule. While all eyes now turned toward the world record (oh, and the gold medal), there was actual competition between the other seven men behind Rudisha.
Amos slipped past Aman, Kitum moved to the outside, Kaki began to fade, and Solomon was moving up.
By 700m, it was clear that Rudisha would take home the gold. Even though he was powering down the homestraight, Amos wasn’t losing much ground. The battle for third would go to the other Kenyan in the race, Timothy Kitum.
Rudisha would stride across the line with the gold medal guaranteed, but took a quick look up to the scoreboard to see something even more special than an Olympic victory.
Wire to wire, on his own, and in the Olympic final, Rudisha had broken his world record with his time of 1:40.91.
The face of history.
Interestingly enough, the world record and gold medal aren’t the only reasons why it was the performance of the year. Rudisha took down the best 800m field in history.
Each of the eight athletes had produced the fastest times for their respective place in the history of the 800m.
Note: The updated list is available at apulanta.fi.
Despite its incredible nature, this isn’t the first time an athlete has set the world record won the Olympic gold in the 800m final. Back in 1976, Alberto Juantorena had also dominated some of the best middle-distance runners in the world en route to his WR/gold medal run of 1:43.50.
If any competitor has an eye for the scale of Rudisha’s run, it’s Lord Sebastian Coe. Lord Coe, who held the 800m for eighteen years, told The Guardian, "He had the balls to go in there and think I am so much better than anyone else that he could do that. In Olympic finals you are not supposed to gamble with the till but he did," Coe said. "It comes from consummate physical and mental confidence. If you look at the field, that is arguably the greatest 800m ever run."
Class, skill, and balls. That’s what it takes to have the performance of the year.