Last time Rudisha had an 800 race this big, it was 'magic'
BEIJING (AP) The last time David Rudisha was competing at an event this big, it turned into a ''magic moment'' for athletics.
It was the 2012 London Olympics, and with one of the greatest shows of front-running, the Kenyan set an 800-meter world record for the ages.
Injuries have slowed him since, and after he missed the 2013 world championships with a bad knee, Rudisha is finally back at the worlds that open this weekend, though hardly the overwhelming favorite he once was.
''Problems like injury, you have to give it time,'' Rudisha said Thursday, two days ahead of Saturday's 800 heats.
At his level, it shows. And with such rivals, it immediately counts.
Instead of Rudisha, Nijel Amos of Botswana has been the big name over the past two years, although the world championships in Beijing could well be a very open race.
''I'm not the favorite, of course,'' Rudisha said, pointing to Amos instead. ''That also is good for my pressure, because it keeps (it) off a bit.''
Not that he can't live with pressure. Rudisha was the man to beat in London three years ago, coming off his first world title the year before and slew of great performances.
He even told his rivals in the final to be ready for a world record, and he delivered on his word, winning in 1 minute, 40.91 seconds - one-tenth of a second better than the mark he already owned while becoming the first man to run a sub-1:41.00 for the 800.
He threw all his tactics overboard, took on everybody once the group settled down and never let anyone get on his shoulder. With 300 to go, against the best in the world, he simply ran away for a stunning victory.
''This was beauty in action,'' then IOC President Jacques Rogge said, adding it provided a ''magic moment'' for the London Games.
Now, at 26, Rudisha wants to bring that mantle of invincibility back - if slowly.
''I'm happy that even without that 100 percent form, I've been able to compete,'' the Kenyan said. ''I know I'm not in my best form. So I know when I'll get there, I'll be back. I'll be able to control races again.''
AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed to this report.
Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert