RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — They are buddies, Usain Bolt and David Rudisha, two runners who both made loud statements at the last Olympics.
Off the track, one of them speaks louder — and much more often — than the other.
Even though Rudisha, the 800-meter Olympic champion from Kenya, refers to Bolt as his brother from another mother, you really couldn’t get two more contrasting characters.
You can see and hear Bolt coming from a mile away. The sport’s No. 1 showman is all fabulous flash and dazzle, with the Bolt show opening this week in Rio de Janeiro with a packed news conference featuring Samba dancers, loads of selfies, and the Jamaican busting out a few moves of his own to some banging music for his adoring audience.
No big deal for Bolt, but it’s safe to say that wouldn’t happen with Rudisha.
Apart from a couple of tweets — one of them politely thanking the airline crew that flew him over to Brazil — you’re unlikely to see or hear much of the softly spoken and completely unassuming Rudisha until Friday. But then, when the running begins and the world-record holder over two laps stretches out his long legs on the first day of the track competition, you might remember that he also provided one of the most pulsating performances of the 2012 London Games with a record-breaking, wire-to-wire win.
It was Rudisha versus the clock in the 800 final fours years ago — the rest of the field faded into insignificance — and it was a race of such pure dominance that even Bolt appreciated it. In London, the fastest man in the world put a media interview on hold to watch Rudisha get his gold at the medal ceremony, with Bolt standing to attention in respect as the Kenyan anthem played. Maybe that was payback for Bolt winning the 200 meters on the same day, and stealing Rudisha’s thunder.
Rudisha really likes that Bolt is about much more than just self-promotion.
“When we meet, we always have a word since we know each other and it’s a great thing since we respect each other like brothers from different mothers,” Rudisha said. “He always makes time to come and watch us run, which tells you he’s a true athlete who does not only go to support his event. I also make sure I don’t miss his races when I have the chance.”
Funny thing: Rudisha says he and other Kenyans look up to Bolt as a “big brother” — Bolt, at 29, is two years older than Rudisha but of all the roles you might entrust to Usain Bolt, the responsible older brother isn’t the first one that comes to mind. Still, Rudisha seems to have learned a little from Bolt. Often portrayed as humble, shy even, Rudisha can now do a little boasting of his own. There’s plenty to boast about. He holds the three fastest times ever over 800 meters, as Bolt does in the 100, and has seven of the top 12.
“That performance is not a joke, those fast times. I have run under 1 minute, 42 seconds more than any other person,” Rudisha said in an interview in Kenya ahead of the Rio Olympics. “I don’t think anybody will run like that anytime soon.”
In Rio, Bolt is ready to put the finishing touches on his legacy, while Rudisha is still building his. Rudisha has that Olympic title, and world titles in 2011 and 2015, but he still remembers a stinging failure at the 2009 world championships, when he got boxed in and eliminated in the semifinals. He was angry at the time and the memory still spurs him on.
Rudisha’s form this season has been understated, copping a couple of losses in the Diamond League and only finishing third in the Kenyan trials, before putting up a world-leading time of 1:43.35 last month in Hungary. That’s put him only slightly ahead of Kenyan teammate Alfred Kipketer and American rival Boris Berian.
But, again, he doesn’t mind a quiet buildup. Rudisha has a habit of saving his best for when it counts.
“There is always that expectation (to run fast times) and it requires a lot of discipline when I appear in any meeting, since it is not easy to do the times everyone expects all the time,” he said. “So I try not to go all out for those fast times but to stay in shape. My preparations have been coming (good). I know in Rio I will be somewhere there.”
If he retains his title, Rudisha might even get to keep this gold medal. He gave the one from London to his father, Daniel. That was returning the favor after his father, a silver medalist with Kenya’s 4×400 relay team at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, gave his medal to a young David years back to inspire him.
“I always admired his medal and when I brought the gold back to him, it was the realization of the dream,” David Rudisha said.
Dad’s take on his son’s success?
“I’m Rudisha,” he said. “He’s riding on my name.”