Alex Rowe (Vic) could become the nation’s fastest ever 800m runner in his own right this Australian Athletics Tour, with confirmation today that world record holder David Rudisha(KEN) will compete at upcoming events in Sydney (NSW) and Melbourne (Vic).
Set to pit the 22-year-old rising star against the Olympic champion in the two-lap race, any time below 1:44.40 from Rowe would ensure his sole claim on the Australian record he currently shares with 1968 Olympic Games gold medallist Ralph Doubell.
Rowe is arguably in ideal shape to strike a challenge for the time too, with his victory taking performance of 1:45.38 at the Canberra Track Classic this past weekend a qualifying performance for the 2015 IAAF World Championships and more than three seconds quicker than his season opening performance at the Adelaide Track Classic in 2014.
“The opportunity to race against the best gives me the opportunity to bring the best out in myself. I’m excited for him to get here to run as fast as I can domestically,” Rowe said.
“I believe that after my run in Canberra where I ran the 1:45 that I can definitely bring that time down in to the 1:44’s. Once I am in that time zone then I guess the mark of 1:44.40 will be there at the back of my mind and hopefully I can post a time in or around the mark.
“When I equalled the record in Monaco it was an unusual feeling because there were limited people to celebrate it with. My close friends and family weren’t there and the prospect of doing it in Australia is a whole lot more attractive. For my parents to be there, and my coach Justin (Rinaldi) too. To do it in his presence after the hard work he has put in these past years would be great.”
Rudisha’s international resume is one of the best in the business.
The current world 800m record holder and Olympic champion, he won the IAAF World Championships gold medal in 2011 and has crossed for victory at 16 instalments of the IAAF Diamond League. His trophy cabinet also includes two top of the podium finishes at the African Athletics Championships and the men’s 800m win at the 2009 World Athletics Final.
Making his Australian debut at the 2010 IAAF Melbourne Track Classic, Rudisha has won the 800m at events on the Australian Athletics Tour on three occasions, with his best time on local soil being 1:43.15. It will be his first appearance in Sydney and Melbourne since early 2012.
“I’m very pleased to be coming back to run in in Sydney and Melbourne in March. I’ve had some very good races at these meets in the past and I’m expecting some stiff competition this year with Alex in great form already and likely to be in even better shape later in his season. He can push the national record if the conditions are right and I want to help him do that if that’s the form he is in,” Rudisha said.
“My trips to Australia are about training. It’s a very good setup for me. The training environment is comfortable and there are plenty of great places to get some kilometres done. The Tan is one of my favourite spots to run and it’ll be good to get back there.”
Rowe’s coach Justin Rinaldi is also excited about the opportunity now open to his charge, and other Australian middle distance runners including Glasgow 2014 starters Jeff Riseley (Vic) and Joshua Ralph (NSW), following the confirmation of the London 2012 Olympic gold medallist.
“As a coach I couldn’t be happier about Athletics Australia confirming a runner like David Rudisha. Getting someone like him out here allows Alex, and the other boys in the 800m, to focus on trying to beat him rather than trying to beat the clock and chasing a qualifying time. David is someone the boys will need to chase and if they can do that, and even better than that go past him, the times will follow,” Rinaldi said.
“Our goal is that Alex will always go through the first 400m in 50.8. We positive split the second lap and are working toward him hitting a time of 52-high. If he runs the latter 400m time as he chases David then we will hopefully see a new personal best for him, but he needs to execute his race plan well and work hard in that last 200 metres.”
The Sydney Track Classic and the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge, to be held on Saturday 14 and 21 March respectively, double as the Australian Athletics Tour Finals for 2015.
Set to welcome Australia’s best athletes, and a plethora of invited talent from around the world, the two events will provide a tantalising taste of the competition expected at the 93rd Australian Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championship Selection Trial in Brisbane on the last weekend in March.