TWENTY-four year-old USA-based Alex Amankwah will respond to the starter’s gun in the Olympic 800m men race this morning as the athletics championship roars off at the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange in Rio de Janeiro.
The Alabama University student has been looking forward to this race with gusto, hoping to pull something remarkable of the potentially absorbing race.
“I’m really excited at this event. It’s truly historic and hope to do my best,” the young man, who is the first Ghanaian athlete to qualify for the Rio Olympics, said ahead of the event.
He last competed for Ghana at the 2015 All Africa Games in Congo-Brazzaville and has a personal best time of 1.45.91 set at an international event last year, but that inspiring effort may not be enough to match the best of the world.
Kenya’s David Rudisha holds the world’s in the 800m event record with a time of 1:43.35 set in the Hungarian town of Szekesfehervar nearly a month ago. If all go as envisaged, the Kenyan defending Olympic champion and world champion would become the first since New Zealand’s Peter George Snell (Tokyo 1964) to retain his Olympic 800m title.
Indubitably, Rudisha would have a formidable battle on hand as he comes up against his two countrymen – the 2013 world Under-18 and 2014 world Under-20 champion Alfred Kipketer and Ferguson Rotich, who were first and second respectively at the Kenyan Olympic Trials in June, where Rudisha finished third.
Botswana’s Nijel Amos, who chased Rudisha home in London and got the silver medal, Algeria’s Olympic 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi (also runs 800m), Ethiopia’s 2013 world champion Mohammed Aman, USA’s Brian Berian and Canada’s Brandon McBride are some of the marquee names in the 800m campaign.
Unfortunately, these are some of the tough guys the unseasoned Ghanaian will be facing today and it looks as though the road will be too gravel-laden for him to tread on.
From John Vigah, Rio de Janeiro