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Posted Aug 8, 2012, 2:27 pm
The received wisdom about the men's track and field events at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu last year was that Usain Bolt was A Sure Thing. The world record holder would take home gold in the 100 and 200 and maybe the 4x100 relay, and others would squabble over the minor medals. Famously, of course, Bolt false-started in the 100, allowing compatriot Yohan Blake to take the gold.
Coming into this Olympics in London, Bolt was far from a sure thing in the 100. Blake had shown good form earlier in the year, as had fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell, and Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay. There were question marks about Bolt's fitness, and his early season times had not been close to his world record best.
Bolt did little to dispel the doubts during the early rounds of the 100, running times that put him neck and neck with his main competitors, but in the final, he delivered, beating Blake and Gatlin into second and third places respectively.
Will Bolt be able to defend his Olympic title in the 200 later this week? Bolt seems a bit slower, his competitors a bit faster.
We'll see. Usain Bolt is certainly A Very Good Bet in this Olympics, but Kenyan 800 meters runner David Rudisha, the world champion, is A Sure Thing.
Rudisha, like Bolt, is both a world record holder and a world champion, but in the 800, the competition is farther back than it is for Bolt. Much farther. In June, Rudisha won the 2012 Adidas Grand Prix on Randall's Island in New York by nearly three seconds. In second place was Kenya's Alfred Yego, the event's world champion in 2007, world championship silver medalist in 2009, and Olympic bronze medalist in 2008. Behind Yego was Kenyan world indoor championships silver medalist Boaz Kiplagat Lalang and two-time world indoor champion and 2011 outdoor world championships silver medalist Abubaker Kaki, from Sudan. Then in Paris in July, Rudisha beat Yego by an astonishing four seconds, with Spaniard Antonio Manuel Reina finishing a hair ahead of Yego in second place.
Rudisha's world record stands at 1:41.01, and he has run under 1:42 six times, surpassing the total recorded by all other human beings since the dawn of fully automatic timing.
Sebastian Coe, who held the world record for 31 years before Denmark's Wilson Kipketer broke it in 1997, ran faster than 1:42 only once. Kipketer ran faster than 1:42 three times, and the only other man to break the 1:42 barrier is Brazilian Joaquim Cruz, who beat Coe for the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984.
Of course, as Bolt showed last year in Daegu, anything can happen to anyone at any time. Rudisha might get gallstones shortly before the Olympic final, as Kenyan great Kip Keino did prior to the 5000 meters in Mexico City in 1968.
Okay, bad example: against the advice of Kenyan team doctors, Keino ran and won.
Rudisha might get tangled up with another runner, and fall to the track, as Finnish great Lasse Viren did in the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. Oops, another bad example; Viren got up off the track, caught the leaders, and kicked away for gold on the last lap.
Yep, he's a Sure Thing.
Roberto De Vido writes cartoons and comics about politics, sports (and life) from a small fishing and farming village an hour southwest of Tokyo.