The Kenyan led from wire-to-wire to become the first man in history to run under 1:41.
In the 800-meter final at the Olympic Games in London on Thursday night, world-record holder David Rudisha of Kenya elevated his game on the world’s biggest stage, as well as those of the seven men who followed him across the finish line.
Leading from wire to wire, Rudisha made history, becoming the first man ever to break the previously thought to be unbreakable 1:41 barrier, running 1 minute, 40.91 seconds to take two tenths of a second off his own record set in Rieti in 2010. Behind him, 19-year-old Nijel Amos of Botswana finished second in 1:41.73 — and pending world-junior record — while Kenya’s Timothy Kitum, only 17 himself, took third in a personal best of 1:42.53. All eight man in the field ran a best-ever time for their respective place in the Olympic final, and for the first time in history, eight men all broke 1:44 in the same race.
Towing the eight man field through the opening 200 meters in a blazing 23.7 seconds, Rudisha already had complete control of the pace and was dictating the race. His message to his rivals: hang on, we’re about to go for a ride.
Coming through the opening 400 meters in 49.3 seconds with the entire field in tow, Rudisha began to stretch out his advantage on the back stretch, covering the third 200 in 25 seconds flat. The Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki, who attempted to hang with Rudisha through the first lap, fell off on the backstretch as Kenyan Timothy Kitum and 19-year-old Nijel Amos of Botswana gave chase.
Rounding the final turn, Amos gave chase with every obvious last ounce of effort in his body, but it wasn’t meant to be, as this night belonged to Rudisha, who strode smoothly across the finish line to the thunderous applause of 80,000 appreciative fans, including Lord Sebastian Coe, the LOCOG Chairman who was also once the world-record holder in this event.
Finishing fourth and fifth in personal-best times were Americans Duane Solomon, who ran 1:42.82, and Nick Symmonds, who clocked 1:42.95. It was the first time under 1:43 for both athletes, who were the top two finishers at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, with Symmonds winning that race. Interestingly, Solomon’s time is 22 hundredths of a second off the American record of 1:42.60, set by his coach, Johnny Gray, in 1985.