Botswana bullet rules Glasgow

 

Harare – Two years ago in London, they brought the 2012 London Olympics to a standstill – with the greatest track race of the showcase and iconic Kenyan athlete, David Rudisha just beat the then teenage Nijel Amos to the gold.

It was such a great race that Rudisha needed to break the world record for him to beat the then plucky 18-year-old Amos who settled for silver but, clearly, served notice that he had arrived on the big stage.

Last week, in the Commonwealth Games’ 800m showdown for gold in Glasgow, Botswana’s rising athletics star Amos beat his idol, the world champion, with a late burst for gold, in the home stretch, which illuminated this sporting showcase.

This was no ordinary success story.

This was a triumph of David over Goliath, as Rudisha is the first man to run under 1 min 41s in the 800m, holds the three fastest times over the distance in history, six of the eight fastest times and half of the 20 fastest times over 800m.

Amos is just a 20-year-old upstart and there was no camouflaging the fact that he was the underdog who had just dethroned the heavyweight when he powered to his finest hour in Glasgow.

The authoritative Guardian newspaper of Britain equated Amos’ sensational triumph in Glasgow to American boxer Joe “Smoking Joe” Frazier’s titanic victory over the legendary Muhammad Ali in the ‘Fight of the Century’ at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1971.

The late Frazier out-boxed the great Ali in a brutal 15-round contest that has since been acknowledged as one of the greatest heavyweight boxing contests of all-time.

The Guardian said Rudisha, in his post-race appearance in Glasgow after the sensational upset, provided the world with echoes of a swollen Ali, after his defeat to Frazier, winking at the hundreds of fans at his hotel, determined to cast light on his darkest day.

Yes, Amos had beaten Rudisha twice in Diamond League meetings before, going into their Glasgow showdown, and the great Kenyan had been slowed, to some extent, by the knee injury he recently suffered.

But, a few weeks before this meeting, Rudisha had matched his world’s best time, in the same Scottish city, in a Diamond League meet.

“I want to tell them (the supportive crowd) not to lose hope because I’m coming back from the problems I’ve been going through,” Rudisha told reporters after receiving a standing ovation after the race.

“Hopefully next year will be another great year for me.

“It wasn’t so bad. I am happy to have a silver medal. Nijel is a tough competitor and he was very good.”

And, Rudisha is right, Amos was very good – especially in the home stretch.

The Botswana athlete appeared to have fallen victim to a good team plan by Rudisha and his Kenyan compatriot Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich who had boxed out their main threat leading into the final 100m dash with the world and Olympic champion in control.

But Amos, running from outside the main group, then found a reserve tank to draw his energy from, while everyone around him appeared to be tiring, and sprinted past them all on his way to victory in one minute 45.18 seconds.

“It is a really great moment for me,” the 20-year-old Amos said. “Trailing in the last 100 I panicked a little bit because I looked up at the screen and thought ‘Oh, I’m in a box’.

“When you’re in that position it’s not easy to get out but my training partner (Olivier) was behind me.

“He let me through and then followed me. I’m lucky I was there with someone who really cares about me.

“David congratulated me after the finish and said ‘You’re growing up’. I’m really happy to have someone like him in the race.”

Ironically, Amos trained watching clips of Rudisha’s forces on YouTube and when he won an Olympic silver in London, he received six cows as a gift but his sister, Francisca, felt he was in danger of losing his focus as he floated in fame.

He crashed his car in an accident, started losing his appetite for training and even back a musician under the stage name DJ Zoroski.

Of course, as he showed in Glasgow last week, Amos has not only got back his focus but he can also run faster than even the greatest 800m athlete the world has ever known.

August 2014
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