JOHANNESBURG – Injury free and in good shape, Olympic favorite David Rudisha looks ready to dominate the 800 meters in 2012 and clinch the one major title missing from his impressive young record.
The 23-year-old world champion from Kenya will begin his "big year" at the opening Diamond League meet in Doha next month. He said he would then probably need three more races to be ready for the London Games — his first Olympics.
Rudisha followed up his two world record-breaking runs in 2010 by winning the world title last year in Daegu, South Korea, giving him world and African titles in both junior and senior categories over two laps.
In London, an Olympic gold would complete the set in a sensational start to his career.
"Being the world record holder and world champion, those are good titles, but I am missing the big one, the Olympics," Rudisha said Wednesday.
After missing the meet in Doha for the first time since 2007 last year with injury, Rudisha added he's confident with his preparations this season after returning home "sharp" from his preseason camp in Australia. It was an ominous warning to his Olympic rivals.
"I know it's a big year," Rudisha said on a conference call from Kenya. "It's every athlete's dream to compete and win the Olympics in his career. The way I have been training ... I think I'm in good shape. Going there, I'm not going there to lose. I'm going to win that title."
Taking Olympic gold was still going to be "tough," Rudisha said, because of his reputation as the favorite. But he's inspired by father Daniel's silver medal in the 4x400 relay at the 1968 Mexico City Games.
"Yes I know people are expecting a lot from me because of my reputation in the 800 meters," he said. "I know there's a lot of pressure from everywhere.
"I know it's tough and it's hard to maintain and always win races. I want to bring back a gold medal so we (him and his father) can have two medals from the Olympics."
Despite his status as the outstanding 800-meter runner of the last two seasons, it's not yet guaranteed that Rudisha will be on the Kenyan team for the Olympics. With about 18 Kenyans already having run within the qualifying time for the 800 in London, the African country's Olympic trials will be competitive.
"In Kenya it's quite difficult. There's no guarantee. I cannot depend on selection," Rudisha said, although it's almost certain that the country will send their world record holder to the games as a wild card pick even if he doesn't qualify automatically by finishing first or second at the trials.
Rudisha also said this year's Olympics was "the right time" for him to compete in the 4x400 and follow in his dad's footsteps.
"I think this time around I'm a bit flexible," he said. "I think I can do that."
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