By Robert Taylor, Special to Trackalerts.com
It seems Usain Bolt not only overshadowed all the male sprinters in his era but also the greatest 800m race ever ran. Bolt ran three tremendous finals, no doubt about that. His 100m time was 9.63, a new Olympic record and second fastest 100m of all time.
The 200m race equaled the former world record set by Michael Johnson in the 200m at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. This was a record that was once believed would take multi-generations to break. Bolt also anchored the 4x100m relay team to a new world record of 36.84. This is the first in recorded history that a team has ever gone under 37 seconds.
On the other hand, David Rudisha of Kenya ran the greatest 800m race anyone has ever seen. We might have seen tighter finishes that caused excitement, but never for the times all eight finalists ran. In the London 2012 Olympics 800m final, Rudisha did something unheard of in middle distance running at a championship setting. He ran the race as a rabbit for himself and the other athletes. He ran the first 400m in a time of 49.28. Usually at a major championship, middle distance race becomes a tactical race rather than a rabbit induced race. In this case, Rudisha set a new world record while pulling the others to run their life time best .
The final eight had times of Rudisha 1:40.91, second place was Nigel Amos of Botswana with a time of 1:41.73, in third place was Rudisha fellow country man Timothy Kitum, with a time of 1:42.53, fouth and fifth places were occupied by the two Americans, Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds with times of 1:42.82 and 1:42.95 respectively. Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia, Abubaker Kaki of Sudan and Andrew Osage of Great Britain made up the other positionswith times of 1:43.20, 1:43.32 and 1:43.77. Incidentally, second and third were junior athletes; both took the top spots in respective positions at the world junior games earlier in the year. All eight finalists times could have won an Olympic final or medal with the exception of the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.
In putting this race into perspective, one would have to go back to 1996 to find an Olympic 800m final that had anyone with times that could match the top five in the London 2012 final. In the 1996 race, Vebjorn Rodar of Norway won with a time of 1:42.58, Hezekiel Sepeng from the Republic of South Africa came second with a time of 1:42.74 and Fred Onyancha of Kenya came third while running a time of 1:42.79.
In terms of how close the finishers were in 1996, one could say it could have been a more exciting race than the 2012 final. However, nothing brings more excitement than a world record in track and field. Looking on the times recorded none of the previous medal winners could have medal in the 2012 race unless they too have the capability to be pulled to greater heights like what happened at London 2012.
Some might say it should be expected that Bolt would have overshadowed everyone and anyone in the 2012 Olympics. After all, Lord Sebastian Coe and his London 2012 Olympics committee members actually marketed the Olympics around Bolt. In addition, Bolt’s aura and charisma would overshadow anyone regardless of his or her performance (s). These are valid points which explain the cause but this does not negate the fact that arguably the greatest race at the London 2012 Olympics was overshadowed. One can say this was the most animated anyone has ever seen Ruidisha behaved after a race and this expresses how great that race was. Not saying it was right or wrong but it is a pity such greatness happens when the “great man” (using the British commentator term) is performing too.
I too am overawed by Bolt and I think he deserves all the attention, accolades and astonishments he engendered. I just believe the greatest race at the 2012 Olympics was run by David Rudisha. Unfortunately, he had to share or cede the spotlight to Bolt. I guess Rudisha should understand more than most the life other sprinters are living under Bolt's shadow. Short sprinters are known to have huge egos. That shadow must be difficult for some to accept.
On the surface, Rudisha seems to be humble and level headed so he might take everything in syride while seeking to set his legacy to heights many will talk about when he retires. A tremendous athlete like him is a treat for track and field fans to watch perform.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, TrackAlerts.com.