Claudia Ekai, KweséESPN 475d

David Rudisha down but not out

On Wednesday night, current and double World and Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha was beaten for a third time this season by unfancied Nicholas Kipkoech at the IAAF World Challenge Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava in the 1 000m.

A few days earlier, Kipkoech had run in Nairobi as he sought to make the Kenyan 800m team for the IAAF World Championship, but the 24-year-old could not secure a ticket to London as he finished sixth in his semifinal in a time of 1:47.2. Thus his win over Rudisha came as a surprise.

That said, 800m World Record holder Rudisha was making his debut at 1 000m, while Kipkoech has now run it three times, so he there's not need to panic yet... despite it being his third set back of 2017.

A look back in time reveals that the greatest two-lap runner of all time has always found a way to bounce back, and usually he does so when it matters most, on the biggest of stages.

In 2014 he struggled to retain his invincibility, losing four out of eight races, including fifth- and seventh-place finishes in that year's Monaco and Eugene IAAF Diamond League races respectively.

Meanwhile, before the 2015 World Championships (when he comfortable retained his 800m title in Beijing, China), he lost three straight races - two to Botswana's Nijel Amos in Lausanne and London before a shock defeat to Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich in the Kenyan trials as he struggled to resume to full tilt after a lengthy injury.

As it happened, the same script was seen last year when he was defeated by nemesis Rotich in Shanghai and Stockholm, as well as by the then World Junior champion Alfred Kipketer in the 2016 Kenyan Olympic trials.

Rudisha managed to sneak into third place to grab a ticket to the Rio Olympic Games, and then promptly went on to command the 800m final to win his second successive gold after London 2012. His devastating finish after a proper tactical run meant he became the first man to achieve consecutive 800m Olympic golds since New Zealander Peter Snell in 1960 and 1964.

Both cases have cemented his legendary status as the best 800m runner of all time, hence it's advisable to be wary of his retaliation as he bounces highest when he's at his lowest.

Rudisha opted to sit out the Kenyan trials at Nyayo National Stadium last weekend as he benefits from a Wild Card being defending champion, but the 28-year-old also remains optimistic about his title defence as he goes back to the same track where he broke his own World Record.

It was the very same Olympic Stadium in 2012 where the 800m final will take place on 13 August, that he stormed through the first lap in 49:28 before powering into 1:40.91 as all the finalists except Abubakar Kaki set their personal bests in that super-fast race.

"This is the first time I've not competed in the Kenyan trials; all these years I have been participating and this time I decided to plan my schedule differently," Rudisha said while watching his compatriots last weekend. "I'm looking forward to London and it's great to be watching from stands which is unusual; I feel that energy, that adrenaline, coming as if I'm on the track. It's something I enjoyed."

On his inconsistency this season, Rudisha was honest about his position.

"I have done the foundation and need to find my way, all that remains is just the fine tuning. I have not done speed work and that is what I should now be focused on for the best performance come August.

"Like previously, like last year I have been in that kind of a form, just peaking, getting to the top slowly and now it's about making sure that by August I'm in my top form."

As per his interview at Nyayo, Rudisha is following up the 1 000m in Ostrava by featuring in an 800m and 600m race as he looks to gain speed - especially through with the shorter race.

His 'form' might suggest he's down, but as with 'King David' he's not out ... it's always a case of it's not over until it's over. Until that first bend that leads to his gliding with his kick for home, his brilliance still remains and it's just a matter of when it will be awakened.

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