MELBOURNE, Australia, Sporting Alert – David Rudisha started his Olympic 800m title defence with a victory over the two-lap event at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Melbourne, Australia on Saturday (5). Complete Results
Rudisha entered the race as the overwhelming favourite, but the World record holder had to dig deep into his reserves to fend off the challenge of Australia’s Luke Mathews, who was rewarded for his brave effort with a qualifying mark for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
The Kenyan global star posted a time of 1:44.78 to win for the fifth time here, but Mathews celebrated the biggest after he produced a massive lifetime best of 1:45.16 to take second behind Rudisha.
Rudisha, who moved away from the field after the pacemaker stepped off the track, looked well on his way to securing a comfortable victory, but Mathews, on his own mission, put up a strong fight in front of the home fans to challenged the World and Olympic champion in the last 100m.
“I knew it was going to be a pain-train. I just had to get on his heels and hold. Through 500m I wondered, but I held on, held on and held on,” Mathews said.
“The crowd made me lift. I’ve run at the World Juniors, a couple of races in Europe, but that was the best atmosphere of my life.
“Going through 600m I thought he was vulnerable. That’s the thing though, to think that I can pass him is half the challenge.
“I didn’t get there today, and I’m not going to say that I’ll get him straight away in the future, but hopefully it’s there. To get the time done is an absolute relief.”
After the race, Rudisha admitted that the local favourite made him had to work.
“I am happy to be back here and picking up my fifth win,” he said.
“I saw him…. he was really there you know. I was aware that someone was strong behind me and I had to work a little bit extra in the last 100m, but I think the race was good because coming here I was hoping for something like 1:44, 1:45.”
Australia’s James Gurr finished third, but just missed the Olympic qualifying standard of 1:46.00 after crossing the line in 1:46.09.
In the women’s 400m, Morgan Mitchell surged past Jamaican Christine Day, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and IAAF World Championships fourth-placed finisher, in the final 50m to record a time of 52.16 for victory.
Day looked well on her way to take the win after moving ahead of the field at the 200m mark, but the Jamaican quarter-miler who took second in 52.68 secs, was unable to hold on in the homestretch and was overtaken by a very strong finishing Mitchell.
Another Australian Anneliese Rubie was third in 52.89, while Commonwealth Games 400m hurdles champion Kaliese Spencer was fourth with a time of 53.12.
Elsewhere at the meet, veteran Kathryn Mitchell won the women’s Javelin throw with a mark of 64.37m in the final round to earn the Olympic Games standard, Tom Walsh of New Zealand won the men’s Shot Put with a mark of 20.87m, while Eleanor Patterson of Australia cleared 1.93m to win the women’s High Jump.