Throwback Thursday: The greatest 800m race of all time.

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David Rudisha in the 800m final at London 2012. Paul Rowlett via Flickr

It was a race that had everything.

A huge stage, huge stakes, breathtaking battles and record-breaking pace.

With 800m world record holder and two-time Olympic champion David Rudisha now back on the comeback trail, few can argue his greatest ever moment came at London 2012.

It was the scene of his fastest time and his first Olympic gold. But while he was certainly the main man that day, the race is also known as the greatest 800m race ever for reasons other than just David Rudisha’s world record.

Make no mistake, the Kenyan was already the best around, there was no such thing as tactics when coming up against Rudisha. He was so quick, so strong and so dominant that those hoping to beat him could only go hard or go home.

In the 2012 Olympic final, they did just that.

Rudisha was already the world record holder from 2010 with 1.41.01 and the world champion, he made the most of his ability to lead races from gun to tape with ease.

This was already apparent throughout the heats; a mere flexing of the muscles for Rudisha. He cruised through the rounds with little effort – his lead only ever being threatened once by 2004 Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy – who soon had to regroup after feeling the pace of the Kenyan.

The pre-race favourite was therefore all set for a first ever Olympic medal and was up against a very interesting mix of athletes in the final.

Three of them were still teenagers, with Nijel Amos, Mohammed Aman and Timothy Kitum still young enough to compete in junior international competitions the following season.

Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki meanwhile was looking to kick on from his world silver medal the previous year, with US duo Nick Symmonds and Duane Solomon and Britain’s Andrew Osagie basked in the loud and proud home support.

What the Brit didn’t know however was that he was about to run a time that would gain a special place in history. But perhaps not for the reason he would have wanted.

As the gun went, Rudisha burst into the lead as always and the rest followed suit. It was world record pace from the off and everyone ran their hardest two laps possible, trying to keep up with the tall figure up front.

While the pace and eventual world record of course proved a step too far for them, nearly all who crossed the line that day produced the race of their lives.

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Famously, last placed finisher Osagie ran a personal best of 1.43.77, a time that would have been good enough to win three out of the four previous Olympic 800m finals.

That was the sheer magnitude of quality that this special race had produced.

In front of Osagie, Rudisha walked away with the world record, while silver medalist Amos ran a world junior and Botswanan record of 1.41.73, 17-year-old bronze medalist Kitum grabbed a 1.42.53 PB, while there were PBs for Symmonds and Solomon and an Ethiopian record for Aman.

Kaki meanwhile was probably the most disappointed of them all, walking away with just a season’s best.

Now, more than six years down the line, all but one of the PBs and records broken that day still stand, with just Aman’s being improved.

Rudisha has still gone on to achieve big things such as another world Olympic gold despite being injured twice.

Now, as he continues his recovery from injury, the 2020 Olympics could yet see the great man lead out another 800m final as part of a much changed field.

But whether this does come into fruition or not, it is certainly very unlikely that it could reach the sheer magnitude of his world record race in London six years ago.

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First published on: 25 October, 2018 5:36 pm

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