The dullness of a man’s boot is a handicap, so realized the American soldiers who were trying so hard but in vain to win the hearts of Japanese women soon after the World War II. Years before Kiwi came into the market, desperation to don shining boots had driven many to soot and wax, sometimes even spit! They all knew what a shining boot was- an object of seduction, a symbol of success and gentlemanliness. Fast forward, today, and David Rudisha brings this shoe business to a close with his famous tagline, ‘Wakati mtu anapongarisha viatu vyake, sio viatu pekee vinavyongara’- when a man shines his shoes, it is not only his shoes that shine. And David Rudisha is sure a good student of his own teaching in the message of endorsement for the Kiwi brand. Just 23 years of age, and with only 6 years of running experience, Rudisha, the current Olympic and world record holder in the 800 metres has managed to shine for himself and for his country in a way no other man has.
For what shall be said of this man who on Thursday evening, just by his sprint brought back a country’s spirit of oneness, albeit for a night? The only time most of us felt such warmth; such love for our nation might have been when the country voted out former president, Daniel Arap Moi. Many have called Rudisha a beast on the track. Others have said that he is an echo of his own name, Rudisha, bring it back home. Former Olympic medalist and BBC commentator Steve Cram calls him a product of his own discipline, and his performance, one of the great Olympic performances ever. At 21, back in 2010, Rudisha broke the world record twice in the space of eight days. The same year, he was named the IAAF’s Athlete of the Year, the youngest to achieve the award.
Rudisha, in living the legacy of his own name, broke a record broken by only two men before him since 1969, recording the best time. In 1981, the Chief of the London Games, Sebastian Coe, set the record time, 1:41.73, broken only after 16 years by Wilson Kipketer. Rudisha becomes the third man to break it, clocking 1:40.91, . This is also the first time anyone has ever run under 1.41min in the 800m race.
Perhaps, what makes Rudisha’s performance at the 2012 London Olympics so overwhelming, other than his shining boots, is the way he makes winning seem so easy. He is a gentleman on the track, gracefully dominating, keeping everyone else behind him. He does not struggle, he is elegant in his stride. Even when we were all on the edges of our seats, we knew he was going to win this one. We just didn’t know how far away he was going to throw us by surprise, or by how much he was going to break his own record. Things were getting bad, we were becoming desperate for a medal, and some signatory performance to remind the world who Kenya is. As my friend Benjamin said after the race, “When things are this bad, and hopes are fast fading, we need men like Rudisha and Kitum to bring us back”.
Steve Cram in reaction to Rudisha’s performance at the 800m race wondered how one would ever put that race into words, because amazing and spectacular are not words enough. There really is no better way to describe Rudisha’s performance, even after that race than to stick to the good old Kiwi line, ‘fyatu fimeng’ara’(sic), his shoes shine.
Worthy of mention is how Rudisha chooses to inhabit somewhere in the background of his own win, unlike Kemboi and his famous dance and hug. But it would be a bit unfair to compare the two because Kemboi well deserves these theatricals. Rudisha’s win, however, remains graceful and most powerful.
Four years from now, we are in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. David Rudisha will be there. By how much will he break his own record?
In the meantime, his shoes shine, and so do we!
Have a thing or two to say to Rudisha? Congratulate him on Kiwi’s Facebook wall.