Rudisha struggling for form, gunning for greatness

Wed Jul 20, 2016 9:16pm EDT
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By Drazen Jorgic

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - David Rudisha tore up the tactical script at the London Olympics to smash the world record in one of the greatest ever 800 meter runs and emerge as an athletics superstar to rival the sport's biggest names.

For Kenya's "King David" to cement his Olympic legacy by becoming the first man to successfully defend his title since the 1964 Olympics, however, he will need shake off doubts about his form and mental fortitude after a mediocre season.

Rudisha finished third in the Kenyan trials and his Diamond League form has been poor. His mentor and coach, Brother Colm O'Connell, last month questioned Rudisha's mental toughness and said he had "done very very little training" with him in 2016.

Few expect Rudisha, who hails from Africa's Maasai tribe, to dent the world record of 1:40.91 set in London, the zenith of his illustrious career.

Yet it would be foolish to write him off after he snatched his second world title in Beijing last year after a similarly off-color season.

"I feel that my body is coming back pretty nicely and I am in better form than last year. I am focused and determined to defend my title," Rudisha said after the Kenyan trials.

A Rudisha victory would go a long way toward lifting Kenyan spirits after the African nation's pristine reputation was tarnished by a spate of doping scandals that at one point threatened the country's participation at Rio.

Rudisha's beaming smile and the manner of his 2012 victory, which his childhood hero and now IAAF President Seb Coe described as "the most extraordinary piece of running I have probably ever seen", catapulted him to global stardom.   Continued...

Athletics - Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Men's 800 meter trials - Eldoret, Kenya - 1/7/16 - David Rudisha reacts. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya