DOHA, October 3, 2019 – Double Olympic champion David Rudisha last raced on July 4, 2017, and has been out of action due to a quad muscle strain and back problems. He is now looking to make up for lost time having fully recovered, and is planning a grand comeback for Tokyo 2020, where he could become the first man to win three consecutive Olympic titles in the men’s 800m.
A misdiagnosed injury was not the only setback the 30-year-old has had to deal with in the last 18 months; his marriage crashed, his father died, and in August 2019 he got involved in an accident that left his car in an irreparable state. But through it all, he has emerged in one piece and is raring to go because he believes he still has good years ahead of him.
DIFFICULT TIMES In an interview with Olympic Channel, the world 800m record holder narrated his ordeal: “In 2017, I was looking forward to defending my world title in London. And just before those championships, while training in Kenya, I had a muscle pull. I had to stop. It was very tough as I had prepared for the whole season. I was ready, almost there. But I still had a lot of pain in my left leg.”
“Around that time, I also had issues with family. Sometimes when it comes to trust it’s very difficult. I separated with my wife, it was not easy.” Then in early 2018, I lost my father, who was a very close friend. It’s been very tough handling all these pressures. I want to put everything behind me and start from here, now that the injury is gone and all that is in the past, so that I can improve myself on the track.”
STOP TRAINING Rudisha revealed that he was adviced to stop training completely so he could heal properly, because he had “a sitting bone problem”. So for over a year and a half, since 2018, he just concentrated solely on his recuperation from an injury he first felt in 2016.
“I remember while training for the Rio Olympics, I was pointing to the physios that I have some discomfort. I wanted them to do something,” he said to Olympic Channel. “In 2017, I still had the problem. I was still training, competing, but I was in pain. I did some scans and tests, but we couldn’t detect the problem. We thought it was coming from the back of sciatic nerve, but it turned out to be a misdiagnosis”
In 2018 it got worse. I had to stop. I went to the Netherlands with Michele Boeting [manager]. They did a thorough check, all the way to the back, and the doctor there found the problem. He advised me to stop completely until I healed, otherwise if I continued training or competing, I’d worsen the problem.”
TIME TO LOSE WEIGHT Now that the injury is “almost gone”, Rudisha is ready to get back into training slowly.
“I am going to start my training in the next few weeks,” he said. “I’m not fit, I’ve added a few kilos. I have gained about 12 kilos. I am going to start working on my weight. My challenge for now is to lose the weight fast, and start building up my training slowly.”
“I’m very positive about this because Tokyo 2020 is something I have been talking about over and over again, even before my injury. I want to do my best to be there and to take part, because not many of the 800m athletes have participated in their third Olympics.”
FROM THE STANDS In the meantime, Rudisha is just a spectator, but everytime he watches the men’s 800 meters, there’s always somwthing drawing him to the track. “To watch from outside it’s quite different because I feel that emotion, adrenaline. Sometimes I find myself moving while I am watching. When I am supporting, maybe my compatriots, and when I see them making some mistakes, I feel like reaching out to them, but I can’t. “I still feel like that is where I belong. I feel like I’m not done yet. It’s tough for me to watch from outside. I’m used to being on the track more than outside here.”
VERY PAINFUL Rudisha had previously missed more than one year of competition in 2013 and 2014 due to a right knee injury after running in New York’s Central Park. He said that was the last he thought his career was over. “It was very painful,” he recalled. “I couldn’t even do 15 minutes of jogging.”
However, he returned to win the 2015 World and 2016 Olympic titles, becoming the first repeat Olympic men’s 800m champ since New Zealand’s Peter Snell in 1964. “In 2015 a lot of people didn’t even think I could do something, win major races, but I believed in myself.”
CONSISTENCY Rudisha owns the three fastest times in history, including the world record 1:40.91 set in an epic 2012 Olympic final. How does he see the event in his absence: “Since I left the track there has not been any consistent runners. It’s anybody’s race. It is now open.”
He continued: “Nijel Amos is very good, a very good athlete. He has twice run under 1:42. There is also Emmauel Korir. Last year he was close to 1:41. Going back to 2010. I did some 1:42, then 1:41, before I broke the world record.
“In 2012, I also did 1:41 twice, before I broke the world record. That’s consistency. I was just coming close and repeating that performance. These guys might run very well today, tomorrow it’s different. They are not even winning.”