TWO summers ago, David Rudisha floated over the Olympic track as though invisible wings were on his back, a solo flight from the front delivering one of the most emphatic victories of London 2012 in the 800 metres.
That the Kenyan, now 25, obliterated the world record coated his gold with an additional layer of lustre. This was a performance for the ages.
For the first time since sparking superlatives in Stratford, Rudisha has returned to Britain but now he is playing catch-up. A freak foot injury, sustained in the unlikely surroundings of New York’s Central Park, effectively sidelined him for the entirety of 2013. Three races into his comeback, and with his body, if not mind, restored to rude health, he will look to edge closer to his imperious best this weekend at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Glasgow.
Even an approximation would signal that it will require something astonishing to deny his forthcoming crack at a maiden Commonwealth title. “Winning gold at the Olympic Games and being the first athlete to go below the one minute and 41 seconds barrier is my biggest achievement to date,” he said. “Having only just returned to track action, my victory in New York has given me a lot of confidence and it is something I will take with me to Hampden Park.”
Form is temporal. In his case, class – you sense – will not easily be lost. He will pit himself against a trio with quicker times to their names this season, including South Africa’s Andre Olivier, who will assuredly contend for a podium place when they reunite later this month. “I’m just looking for good improvements,” Rudisha added. “I don’t think 1:44 is the sort of time that I’ll be happy to be running all the time. I want to see myself get the world-leading time and close in on 1:42.”
The initial session of Scotland’s first Diamond League meeting includes seven events counting towards the series standings, with Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross taking on the impressive Jamaican Francena McCorory over 400m and British champion Laura Weightman hoping to encroach on the three-way battle for supremacy involving Abeba Aregawi, Hellen Obiri and Sifan Hassan in the 1500m.
Welsh 400m hurdler Dai Greene, fresh from a successful return from injury in Hungary last week, will be one of several British athletes making a last attempt to earn the qualifying standard for the European Championships before the selectors convene on Monday, while Katarina Johnson-Thompson will use the long jump as an assimilation exercise for Hampden ahead of the Liverpudlian’s bid for Commonwealth heptathlon gold.
Scottish interest tonight will centre on the 400m hurdles where Eilidh Child will maintain her assault on the top of the world rankings. Third-fastest here, behind American pair Cassie Tate and Christine Spencer, the 27-year-old has been denied a re-match with domestic foe Meghan Beesley, whose withdrawal with a foot injury might threaten her participation at Glasgow 2014.
Yet even with her face on posters and billboards, Child remains blissfully insulated from increasing expectations. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m in Bath and I’m away from it all,” she claimed. “People keep asking: ‘how are you coping with all this? You must be feeling nervous’. The thing is I’m not really at the moment. I don’t know how I’ll deal with it when the Games come around. I probably won’t know until the day of the race.”
Elsewhere, Edinburgh’s UK champion Allan Smith, chasing the European standard of 2.28m, will make his Diamond League bow in the high jump with fellow Scot David Smith also granted a late call-up. “It’s very friendly because I do live with him,” said the former of his near-namesake. “But we’re there to do the same job.”
• Energy firm SSE is to give UK athletes two free tickets to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games for family and friends. Every athlete competing for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, will be offered a pair of tickets for their sport.