A night with 800m Olympic champion David Rudisha

On Wednesday night Athletics Victoria and Athletics Australia were pleased to have David Rudisha talk to 150 coaches and athletes about his life, athletics, training, Olympic gold and his ambitions in the next two years.

As David Rudisha entered Melbourne University’s Ernie Copley Pavilion, applause showered the room. Everyone present was either an athlete or a coach, and obviously a huge admirer.

The six ft three, 70kg man gracefully seated himself for the interview. It was a beautiful moment.

Rudisha is the sixth of seven children, born in Kilgoris, Narok County. Unlike many Australians who are fortunate enough to train in their home town and have access to world class facilities, Rudisha’s home town didn’t have many opportunities for aspiring athletes. At just sixteen year of age he decided to move to Iten, Keiyo District where runners including Lucas Rotich and Daniel Salel trained, and opportunities were rich and hopeful.

Rudisha had an endearing sense of innocence. His parents were also athletes, and his father Daniel, who won silver in the 1968 Mexico Olympics in Kenya’s 4 x 400-meter team played a huge role in sparking the flame for his love of running.

“I still remember when I saw my father’s medal and I asked him, “how did you get this medal?” He said it was from the Olympics, and I liked it, I liked it and I told him I also wanted one time to get mine like this, so he just laughed at me, Rudisha said.”

Success doesn’t come easy, but losing never dampened Rudisha’s spirits.

“When I was growing up I used to like athletics a lot and my father always motivated me. Sometimes he’d go to town and come home with sweets and he’d make us run around the house for them. I used to come last because I was the younger one, but he’d give me the same number of sweets as the faster one. So I think that’s part of who I am today.”

Rudisha’s coach, an Irish missionary called Brother Colm O’Connell is currently in Kenya, so wasn’t able to attend the interview, but Rudisha’s agent James Templeton was welcomed and was able to discuss the importance of training well, and remaining grounded.

“When Brother Colm and I met David in 1987 we shared very similar views about development of young athletes. I would say to them, “listen, forget about the money. Money’s got nothing to do with it. You’ll earn money if you run well but we don’t chase it.”

Money isn’t everything, but the harder one works, the luckier one gets and remaining humble is an important part of athletics. Templeton continued.

“The focus is on racing, getting you prepared and giving you the opportunity. Just because you become a professional doesn’t mean everyone’s saying “you beauty let’s chase the dollar here and there.””

Preparation for up and coming races can be a delicate task, but it’s important for the athlete to think independently and not solely rely on his coach or agent.

“He’s been good, he’s got a very strong sense of what he needs and his preparation and competition and getting himself ready. Rudisha’s always been very focused when it comes to preparing himself,” Templeton said.

A wave of laughs washed over the room as Athletics Victoria interviewer Tim Crosbie turned to Rudisha and asked:

“Quite often you start your campaign here in Australia. Is that because of this guy [James Templeton] introducing you to this tribe called the Australian’s and you’re getting quite comfortable with this tribe?”

To which Rudisha replied, “Well I think that is one connection.”

Like anything, it’s not good to get stuck in ruts, and having something to look forward to is important which is why Rudisha is currently in Australia. Templeton notes that they don’t pretend Rudisha’s going to be ready to run  01:41:00 right now, but when he’s training in January he knows Australia’s coming up. It’s nice to have that short term focus.

“Training camps are nice for athletes. It’s a break. A change in routine. It’s always very good.”

The majority of Rudisha’s training is on the rough track in his home country and he’ll be back next Monday until sometime in May before the next race on Tuesday 26 May.

The focus this year is on the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, before defending gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Rudisha says everything is like a build up and are using this year as a stepping stone.

“The kind of training we do this year we select next year and the kind of training we are starting now, we are building up. This holiday I might be doing some small training and a bit of exercises at the gym just to keep fit, so next year when I start the big year for the Olympic dream, I’ll be starting somewhere.”

James Templeton interrupted, “I don’t want to disagree with you sitting up there…”

Fans admirably laughed.

“But World Championships are big championships and that sort of talk could mean that Beijing doesn’t really matter for you but you’ll be giving it everything. The world championships mean everything but the Olympics mean absolutely everything.”

Everyone knows the Olympics are coming up. And of course that’s their number one focus.

By Alexandra Nelson – http://alexandranelson.co/2015/03/19/from-winning-sweets-to-winning-gold/