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David Rudisha will not defend Olympic 800m title

David Rudisha

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 15: David Lekuta Rudisha of Kenya celebrates with the flag of Kenya after winning the gold medal in the Men’s 800m Final on Day 10 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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Kenyan David Rudisha will not defend his Olympic 800m title, extending a four-year absence from international competition during which he was set back by injuries.

“I can’t comment on his future at the moment and whether he will compete in 2022 or not,” Rudisha’s agent wrote in an email, confirming a report. “He is currently contemplating on what he wants to do next.”

Rudisha, 32, is the greatest 800m runner in history.

At the 2012 Olympics, the Maasai warrior lowered his world record to 1:40.91, leading from the break and towing six of the seven other finalists to personal bests.

“It was the performance of the Games, not just of track and field, but of the Games,” said London 2012 chairman Seb Coe, a former 800m world-record holder.

In 2013, Rudisha discovered a right knee injury while running in New York’s Central Park. He went more than one year between competitions, yet returned to win the 2015 World and 2016 Olympic titles, becoming the first repeat Olympic men’s 800m champ since New Zealand’s Peter Snell in 1964.

Rudisha last raced internationally July 4, 2017. Since, he missed time after a quad muscle strain, back problems, a car crash and surgery for a broken ankle.

In Rudisha’s absence, American Donavan Brazier won the 2019 World title and remains the Olympic favorite.

Brazier, 24, can become the first American to win an Olympic 800m since Dave Wottle did so wearing a hat in Munich in 1972.

“I think the target’s on my back just because I won 2019, but it’s definitely not as big of a target as [Rudisha] had on his back post-2012,” Brazier said in February 2020. “I’m not thinking that I’m like this David Rudisha takeover, because I’m not really damn near close to his times, but I think, for now, I’ve got that small target on my back. I guess I’m just trying to make it as big as possible.”

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