David Rudisha: World Record-Holder at 800 Meters

David Rudisha celebrates his 2012 Olympic 800-meter victory. Rudisha set a world record of 1:40.91 in the London final. Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Early in David Rudisha’s running career, another native Kenyan - Wilson Kipketer - identified Rudisha as someone who could break Kipketer’s 800-meter world record. Kipketer was proven correct – twice – in 2010, as Rudisha lowered the world mark to 1:41.09, then to 1:41.01. Sandwiched between those performances was Rudisha’s Diamond League championship-clinching victory over Abubaker Kaki. In 2012, Rudisha won his first Olympic gold medal and lowered his 800-meter world mark to 1:40.91.

Good Genes

Rudisha’s father, Daniel, won a silver medal in the 1968 Olympics as part of Kenya’s 4 x 400-meter relay team. He later showed the medal to his young son, hoping to inspire David to achieve running success of his own. According to David, his dad’s achievement did, indeed, give him a boost of self-confidence.

Evolving Career

Rudisha began competing seriously, in the decathlon, in 2004. Following in his father’s footsteps, he switched the 400 the next year, while attending secondary school at St. Patrick’s Iten. His coach at St. Patrick’s, Colm O’Connell, then suggested Rudisha try the 800. O’Connell has been Rudisha’s coach ever since.

Early Career Highlights

In his first meet outside of Africa, Rudisha won the 800-meter World Junior championship in 2006, in Beijing. In 2007 he won the Africa Junior championship plus a pair of Golden League meets, in Zurich and Brussels. Rudisha gained African championships in 2008 and 2010 and first broke the African 800-meter record in Rieti, Italy in 2009 (Kipketer was a Danish citizen, so his world mark didn’t count as the African record).

Bumps in the Road

Leg injuries prevented Rudisha from competing in Kenya’s Olympic trials in 2008. He earned a spot on the national team for the 2009 World Championships, but laid back too far in the semifinal. His finishing kick only brought him to third place and he didn’t qualify for the final.

Golden Moments

Rudisha gained his first major international senior title in 2011, earning the 800-meter gold medal at the World Championships.

To avoid the disaster of 2009, Rudisha set the pattern he would follow afterwards. As soon as the runners were permitted to leave their lanes, Rudisha sprinted from lane 6 to the inside lane to take first place, and he never let go. Rudisha held off his challengers and pulled away down the final stretch to win in 1:43.91. He used the same tactics to win the 2012 Olympic gold medal, except at a faster pace - posting a 49.28 split over 400 meters, and then running the second lap in 51.63 to set the world record. After battling injuries - which prevented him from running in the 2013 World Championships - Rudisha came back to earn the 2015 World Championship gold with another wire-to-wire success.

Additionally, Rudisha won the first two Diamond League 800-meter championships, in 2010-11.

Stats

  • Height: 6-3
  • Weight: 157
  • Birth date: Dec. 17, 1988
  • Hometown: Kilgoris, Kenya
  • Personal best: 1:40.91 (800); 45.50 (400)

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