The middle-distance events of the 800m and 1500m never fail to bring a blend of anticipation and excitement to the Olympic Games, whether it be from a front-running trailblazer or a hold-up performer.
Both track events have been dominated in recent years by African nations, and this was emphasised to good effect inBeijingwhen Wilfred Bungei ofKenyatook the men’s 800m, while teenager Pamela Jelimo became the first woman from that country to take gold in the two-lap race.
Meanwhile the Kenyans were unstoppable in the 1500m as well, courtesy of Asbel Kiprop, the current world champion in the men’s, and Nancy Lagat in the women’s. Four years on and it could well be more of the same, with David Rudisha holding solid claims as he bids to become the fourth Kenyan to lift the 800m title.
Initially a 400m performer, Rudisha has been a revelation since stepping up in trip, showing signs of things to come when capturing the World Junior Championships in 2006. He has already broken Wilson Kipketer’s 800m world record twice, and won the world title last year.
There is an Olympic medal in the family already, as David’s father Daniel took silver as part of the 4 x 400m relay team in Mexico in 1968, and on the evidence so far, they now need to make room for the gold.
It seems such a long time since Steve Ovett and Sebastien Coe fought out their memorable duels in both events inMoscowin 1980, and we await the arrival of another truly top-class British middle-distance runner, male or female. Kelly Holmes famously doubled up on a night of glory in Athens eight years ago, but our best chance of success in London lies with Jenny Meadows in the 800m.
The Wigan girl took bronze at both the 2009 and 2010 World Championships and won last year’s Diamond League, but she faces a daunting task against the likes of the Russian Mariya Savinova and Caster Semenya of South Africa.