Just as in 2010, David Rudisha (KEN) was the story of the 800 in 2011 – this time carrying the heavy mantle of WR holder. And, just as in 2010, the question on the table was whether or not Abubaker Kaki (SUD) would find a way to upset his rival.
Rudisha wasted no time putting the target squarely on his back as he went out during the Australian summer season and scorched a 1:43.88 WL in Melbourne on Mar 3rd – a mark that only 5 men would get under the rest of the year! Another quick 1:44.80 in Sydney on Mar 19th and we wouldn’t see Rudisha again until the end of June as he took some time off to nurse a slight injury – giving the rest of the contenders and opportunity to win some races and test themselves.
But with Rudisha on the sidelines, the first 800 of the Diamond League (Doha) went to miler Asbel Kiprop (KEN) in 1:44.74, before Khadevis Robinson’s (USA) Rome win over Mulaudzi (SA), Kiprop (KEN), Lalang (KEN) and Mutua (KEN) – albeit in a slowish 1:45.09. As May would come and go without anyone stepping up in Rudisha’s absence.
As the season turned to June however, Abubaker Kaki got untracked in Eugene with a 1:43.68 to take the WL – while taking the scalps of Robinson, Lalang and Symmonds (USA) among others – in his opening race of the season. His follow up in New York, saw him pull out only 150 meters into the race, however, with a bad hamstring – leaving a bit of uncertainty as to how his season was going to go. Meanwhile, after finishing only 8th in that Prefontaine race behind Kaki, Nick Symmonds would return to Eugene for U.S. Nationals and turn 1:44.17 to get back into the hunt.
With the Circuit getting under way following the various national championships, Monaco became the site of the first truly fast race of the year as Rudisha (following a win at Kenyan Nationals) would blaze a new WL of 1:42.61, leading Kiprop (1:43.15), Symmonds (1:43.83) and Mutua (1:43.99) under 1:44 – and signaling that Rudisha was over his earlier physical issues. London would provide the final hot race of the year before the World Championships as Rudisha and Kaki would go head to head for the first time in 2011 – with Kaki also coming off a huge run in Monaco having run a 1500 PR of 3:31.76. Kaki stayed close but could not overcome the long striding Kenyan as Rudisha won yet again 1:42.91 to 1:43.13. And so it was that they would head to Daegu.
Daegu would once again pit Rudisha and Kaki head to head, with Symmonds and vet Yuriy Borzakovskiy (RUS, winner of his nationals in 1:43.99) expected to be in the mix. Rudisha made everyone else a non-factor however; as he went about adding World gold to the WR he set last year – winning in an easy 1:43.91 with Kaki just holding off the closing rush of Borzakovskiy 1:44.41 to 1:44.49.
That out of the way, Rudisha took a shot at a fast time zipping to a 1:41.33 in Rieti – the #5 time ever behind the last four WR runs! He then went to Brussels and won, before ending the season in Milan in his only loss of the year as young Mohamed Aman (ETH) – third in Rieti in 1:43.35 – turned the tables 1:43.50 to 1:43.57, ending Rudisha’s 26 race winning streak. The 17 year old Aman set a World Youth Record with his race in Rieti, and along with Kaki should be a nemesis of Rudisha’s for years to come.
Now, on to the rankings.
No question here as Rudisha was a scant .07 away from perfection, going 10 – 1 on the season. He added World gold to his WR, defeated everyone in sight, and once again broke the 1:42 second barrier as he ran the #5 time ever. Not much else to say, simple Nuff Said.
Just as easy a choice for #2 as Kaki was 4 – 4 on the season – twice taking second to Rudisha and twice unable to finish. He was the World silver medalist, and beat everyone else of note head to head.
Here’s where it gets tough – and this is easily the toughest decision I’ve made so far in my rankings, but I’m going with the Daegu 6th placer here. In a nutshell, he was better than everyone else below him aside from Daegu. He was second in Rieti – the fastest race of the year. He won in Hengelo, Bydgoszcz, Krakow and Stockholm – beating my #4 on three occasions for a 3 – 1 record. And only Rudisha, Kaki and Kiprop were faster on the season.
Another tough call, but at the end of the day I had to go with the 4th placer from Daegu as he had the best season overall outside of Daegu –not counting those ahead of him. In addition to just missing the podium in Daegu, he was 2nd in Lausanne, Birmingham & Bydgozcz, as well as 3rd in Milan, 4th in Brussels & Hengelo, and 5th in Rieti in a long 12 meet season.
The bronze medalist in Daegu, Borzakovski only raced one other time outside of Russia in a 6 meet season. And while he did beat Lewandowski at Worlds, the Pole simply had the better overall season in spite of Borzo’s finishing one place ahead in Daegu.
Next the women’s event.