Kenya's David Rudisha breaks new ground in 800m
Far from the madding 80,000 crowd of London 2012's showpiece arena, a 63-year-old Irish missionary will have been leaning against the bar of the Kerio View Hotel on the edge of the Great Rift Valley last night, watching the fastest 800m race in history on television, savouring another Olympic success from afar.
In keeping with his self-effacing nature, Brother Colm likes his world-beating middle and long distance runners to get on with the business of winning their global titles without himself getting in the way of the attendant fuss at major championships. He will have raised a quiet pint in celebration of David Rudisha's stunning victory, the champagne moment of the track and field programme thus far.
The latest world-beating product of the remarkable Brother Colm's stable of middle and long distance runners at St Patrick's High School in Iten happens to be a fully-fledged Maasai warrior. A herd of 50 cattle was slaughtered in Rudisha's honour at the initiation ceremony two years ago. Last night the 6ft 3in, smooth-striding powerhouse of a Kenyan slaughtered both the opposition and his own world record.
It was a show-stealing performance even on a night when the Lightning Bolt was in the spotlight, a tour de force run that will have brought a gentle smile of satisfaction to the face of the genial Brother Colm. It will have also brought a smile of admiration to the face of the chairman of the 2012 organising committee. In his previous life as plain Seb, Lord Coe broke the 800m record twice over. His best was 1min 41.73sec.
Last night Rudisha produced a breathtaking display of sustained near sprinting pace. He blitzed through 200m in 23.4sec and 400m in 49.28sec before reaching the line in 1min 40.91sec. That was precisely 0.10sec inside his most recent world record, which he set in the Italian town of Rieti in August 2010.
It was the fastest in-depth two lap race in history. In second place was Nijel Amos, an 18-year-old from Botswana. He matched Coe's old world record figures, clocking 1:41.73, a world junior record. In the bronze medal position, with 1:42.53, was Rudisha's compatriot Timothy Kiptum.
Britain's Andrew Osagie was eighth and last but still smashed his lifetime best with 1:43.77, a time that would have won the last three Olympic finals.
The stadium erupted, and with good reason. "I am very happy," Rudisha said. "I've waited for this moment for a very long time. To come here and get a world record is unbelievable. I had no doubt about winning. Today the weather was beautiful and I decided to go for the world record."
It was a second Olympic medal for the Rudisha family. Daniel Rudisha, David's father, anchored Kenya to 4 x 400m silver in 1968.
It also added a sixth Olympic gold medal to the fairytale success story of Brother Colm. A native Corkman, he arrived at St Pat's in 1976 as a geography teacher, learning the rudiments of middle and long distance training from a fellow teacher at the school, Pete Foster – brother of Brendan Foster.
"I arrived in July 1976, the same week the Montreal Olympics opened," he recalled. "We listened on Pete's beaten-up old radio to the BBC commentary of Brendan running in the 10,000m and getting a bronze medal."
If Brother Colm could not be there to see Rudisha's golden moment, it was fitting that Lord Coe should be in the house. Rudisha might be cast in a similar mould to Alberto Juantorena – the giant outhouse of a Cuban – but it is the featherweight Coe that the tall Kenyan has striven to emulate.
"If you see the way Lord Coe used to run, he was small, yes, but he was a really strong athlete," Rudisha said. "I have watched videos of his races on YouTube and in his world records he was really strong, pushing in the last 200m all the way.
"Lord Coe is a good friend of mine. I came here in February and he took me around the Olympic Stadium. I wanted to come here and make him proud."
Thanks to Brother Colm, the Maasai warrior did just that.
The Bolt of middle-distance running
David Rudisha's father, Daniel, who won silver in the 4x400m at the 1968 Olympic Games, last month backed his son to outrun Usain Bolt in the 4x400m final. "He can beat him hands down because somebody who runs 800m has a better chance of beating somebody who runs 100m and 200m in the 400m relay," he said. Unfortunately Kenya, without Rudisha, were disqualified from their heat yesterday so we will never know. The pair have dominated their chosen events in recent years, Bolt breaking his own world records three times and Rudisha achieving the same feat twice.
David Rudisha's world records at 800 metres:
1.41.09 Berlin, August 2010
1.41.01 Rieti, Italy, August 2010
1.40.90 London, August 2012
Usain Bolt's world records:
9.72 New York, May 2008
9.69 Beijing, August 2008
9.58 Berlin, August 2009
19.30 Beijing, August 2008
19.19 Berlin, August 2009