Eugene, Oregon – The long wait by World Record Holder David Rudisha to return to competition is set to end at the Prefontaine Classic on May 31st. The 800 meter Olympic champion is excited to be finally racing at the highest level again, as his first start of 2014 will also mark his debut at historic Hayward Field. Given Rudisha’s penchant for fast paces along with a field that includes four of the fastest nine in world history, the men’s 800 is one of the year’s most anticipated events.
Rudisha, only 25, has been dominating the world since he won gold at the 2006 World Junior Championships. The Kenyan has been ranked No. 1 in the world by Track & Field News five times since 2007, and has set three world records, including the current standard of 1:40.91 set in winning the London Olympics. Rudisha missed most of 2013 with a knee injury, diagnosed just a day before he was scheduled to run last year’s Pre Classic.
In Rudisha’s absence, Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia took full advantage, winning his second IAAF Diamond Trophy and earning the No. 1 ranking from T&FN. Still only 20 years old, Aman is also the only man to ever beat Rudisha since 2010, and he’s done it twice (although Rudisha owns the career head-to-head edge, 5-2). Aman, the defending Pre Classic champ, won gold at last year’s World Championships and in March earned his second title at the World Indoor Championships.
Botswana’s Nijel Amos, also still only 20, was closest to Rudisha in the London Olympics, taking silver as an 18-year-old. His 1:41.73 in that race not only shattered the world junior record, it also made him only seventh ever to break 1:42 (and the only besides Rudisha this Century). That was the only career meeting between the two.
Nobody has more wins over Rudisha than 24-year-old Abukaker Kaki of Sudan. He has five, but none since 2009 (Rudisha an 8-5 career edge). Kaki is a three-time winner at the Pre Classic, taking the kilo in 2010 and and the 2-lapper in 2011 (1:43.68), both with meet records, then edging Aman by 0.03 seconds in a thrilling finish in 2012.
The slowest PR among those four is 1:42.37, which is faster than the 29-year-old American record of 1:42.60 set by Johnny Gray in 1985. The second fastest American ever is Duane Solomon, 4th in that epic London Olympics at 1:42.82. Now 29, he enjoyed his most successful year last year, ranking No. 4 in the world by T&FN. He is the current 2014 world leader at 1:43.88, and can be counted on to forge a strong pace from the minute the gun goes off.
Fellow American Brandon Johnson also enjoyed his best season last year. Also 29, he clocked 1:43.84 in only his second serious year in the 800, having previously concentrated on the 400-meter hurdles (best of 48.59).
The two medalists behind Aman at the World Indoor Championships are included. Silver medalist Adam Kszczot of Poland earned silver ahead of Great Britain’s Andrew Osagie. Osagie was a finalist in the London Olympics as well as last year’s Moscow World Championships. Another finalist from Moscow in this field is Pierre-Ambroise Bosse of France.
Many-time U.S. Champion Nick Symmonds, who was ranked No. 2 in the world last year, was confirmed for this year’s race but has had to withdraw with a knee injury.
Source: Prefontaine Classic