Will Saruni take Rudisha mantle?

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021 00:00 |
Michael Saruni (right) sprints to victory in 800m during the Kenya Tokyo Olympics trials last week. Photo/PD/DAVID NDOLO

On July 31, the global sporting audience will be glued to TV sets to watch the men’s 800m round one in Tokyo with the question as to who will succeed David Rudisha upper most in most minds.

 For close to eight years, Rudisha ruled the roost, breaking the world record and winning two Olympics but has not competed since the 2017 season. 

 He set the world record of 1:40.91 when he won gold at the 2012 London Olympics before retaining his title in Rio de Janeiro in 1:42.15.

He also clinched two world championship gold medals in 2011 and 2015.

 In Tokyo, a new champion will certainly ascend to the throne. US-based Michael Saruni, the winner of the explosive Kenyan trials, is tipped as Rudisha’s successor.

  Saruni will lead world bronze medallist Ferguson Rotich and Emmanuel Korir, another US-based star, in the race to succeed Rudisha.

 Saruni’s physique is deemed fit for the two-lap race and world’s 800m greats that include Botswana’s Nijel Amos expect a tough challenge.

  Watching him blow away a star-studded field that also had Commonwealth Games champion Wycliffe Kinyamal inside Kasarani Stadium on Saturday was simply breathtaking.  

  He toyed around the line up with powerful front running skills while looking at ease.

 That must have warmed his heart given the ordeal he went through in the run up to the 2017 London World Championships. He was dropped from the national team despite having qualified in the trials.

  It was then that his frosty relationships with Athletics Kenya started. And he would go on social media to vent his frustrations even calling AK management corrupt.

He then snubbed trials for the 2019 Championships and came back for last weekend’s Olympic trials.

 “I am currently on the path of minding my own business. I want to let bygones be. I have moved on. But I had to ensure that I become number one here ,” Saruni told people Sport.

  Saruni, who celebrated his birthday last Friday, credits his achievements to coach Paul Ereng, a gold medalist in 800m at the 1988 Olympics, as the most influential individual in his life and takes his counsel seriously.

 “I listen to my coach more. We sit down and make strategies. That has been my biggest secret,” added the athlete who trains in El Paso with UTEP assistant coach Ereng.

  Ereng who attended the trials said age has helped the athlete, citing much improvement in his attitude, personality and performance.

  “Saruni is a top athlete who keeps improving and maturing with age. He is often misunderstood, but that should not take away the potential he has,” Ereng said in his defense.

  Even as Team Kenya prepares to report to camp this week at Kasarani, Saruni has other ideas.

 “Why try to fix something that is working. If training in the US is working, why change,” he paused, a clear indication he doesn’t intend to train with the rest of team Kenya in Nairobi.

 “I will go to the Olympics with uttermost confidence, I know I can achieve it all. I have faith in myself and the mentorship from my coach.

We  are planning on how we tackle the world in my first Olympics,” concluded the athlete with an indoor time of 1:43.98, the second fastest ever.

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