WHAT A DAY for Ireland! I’m finding it difficult to write about the track action after witnessing Katie Taylor make history both for herself and for our country.
If you have a taste for more sporting excitement two other legends of sport are in action tonight in the Olympic Stadium and one of them has a strong Irish connection.
David Rudisha has won the men’s 800m, breaking his own World Record and stunning the Olympic Stadium! The Kenyan hero crossed the line in 1.40.91s, dipping under the 1.41s barrier for the first time ever.
He brought almost all of the field to new personal best times, including a World Junior record for the 2012 sensation, Nijel Amos from Botswana who finished second.
With a first Olympic medal at stake it was thought that breaking his record of 1.41.01s was not Rudisha’s priority tonight. The Kenyan had admitted that running 1.40s was something he believed was achievable this season.
Most assumed the attempt would be made at a paced Diamond League meet later this summer. But Rudisha brought a fantastic honesty to his event running from the front, as hard as he could, from gun to tape.
There is an Irish input into this gold medal. His coach is a Corkman, Brother Colm O’Connell, who first came to Kenya in 1976 and was thrown into the role of athletics coach at the school where he taught. From these humble beginnings, Br. Colm’s athletes have won nine Olympic medals and 25 World Championship medals.
Rudisha is one of the few athletes that Br. Colm has coached to senior level. Br. Colm will have watched the race tonight miles away from London, at his home in the Rift Valley, but no doubt with a smile on his face.
Can Bolt respond?
It has been said that if there was no Usain Bolt, then Rudisha would be the stand-out star of track and field. Tonight Rudisha’s achievement may well eclipse anything Bolt can conjure up.
At 20.55 Bolt lines looking for the double-double and once again his training partner is the only foreseeable obstacle in his path. The 200m World Record stands at 19.19s, the Olympic Record at 19.30s. Neither Jamaican has broken 19.80s in 2012.
Yet, Blake has set a personal best in the 100m this year and his 200m time of 19.26s from 2011 is better than Michael Johnson’s old world record. Couple that with the fact that Bolt is nearer his best that we imagined before the Games started and the Olympic Record should be bettered. As with the 100m final, I think the World Record will still stand when Bolt crosses the line.
The race for 200m bronze is fascinating – Europe’s fastest, Christophe Lemaitre, takes on the two men who were disqualified in the Beijing final for lane infringements. Churandy Martina and Wallace Spearmon crossed the line second and third behind Bolt four years ago but never made it to the podium.
Shawn Crawford, who benefited from their misfortune, made the magnanimous gesture of presenting the silver to Martina but the Dutchman is in form to win a medal by right tonight.
As if he needed it, Spearmon has even greater reason to be hungry – he has three World medals in this event but no Olympic honours. Lemaitre has a difficult task from the inside lane and the third Jamaican, Weir, could use the advantage of lane eight to finish ahead of him.
In stark contrast to the four gold medals Bolt has to his name, Rudisha was competing in his first ever Olympics for his first ever taste of Olympic glory. The World’s fastest man will need to add a fifth and a new World Record to outshine David Rudisha tonight.