Botswana’s 800m track star Nijel Amos is in line to make history this year. the Marobela native stands a chance to deliver the country’s first ever gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics later this year and to equal Amantle Montsho’s record of three successive IAAF Diamond League titles.
Amos has established himself as a force in the 800m field, he has dethroned the previously untouchable David Rudisha as the most dominant athlete in his race category. The 22 year old track athlete has developed into, arguably, the measuring stick in his field and with age on his side he could become the greatest of all time.
Gazette Sport has listed reasons why Amos is in pole position to create history and consolidate his position as the world’s best 800m athlete.
He is still the man to beat
Amos is still the highest ranked 800m athlete in the world according to the official All-Athletics.com world rankings. The Motswana athlete is also the reigning 800m Diamond League holder and the current African 800m champion (a title he won in 2014).
Last year, Amos was the most consistent performer in his race category as he won three out of six Diamond League races. His 50 percent win ratio was the highest win rate in the competition and it helped him bag a second Diamond League title.
He also defeated his long time rival Rudisha on five occassions last year. Rudisha won two major races last year (the Adidas Grand Prix and the final of the IAAF World Championships), both races did not feature Amos.
Rudisha benefited from Amos’ absence in the Adidas Grand Prix to record his only Diamond League meet of the year and he also did not have enough competition in the World Championships final as his perennial rivals Mohamed Aman and Amos did not qualify for the final.
As a result, Amos still maintains a psychological edge over his biggest threat heading into the new season, Amos is yet to be defeated by Rudisha in direct competition for almost two years.
World Championship loss was a ‘wake up’ call
Amos’ critics suggested that his semi final exit at last year’s World Championships was a result of complacency while others have argued that fatigue played a huge role in his disappointing performance at the global tournament.
The Marobela native’s rivals Rudisha, Adam Kszczot (Poland) and Bosnia’s Amel Tuka were more strategic than him as they did not compete in as many competitions as he did. This helped them avoid fatigue and they were in better physical shape into the World Championships.
Amos will be better prepared this year and could elect to limit his participation in many competitions in order to be in top shape for the Olympics. He would be wise to take a page out of his rivals’ play-books by remaining scarce until saving his best form for the biggest competitions in the world.
He will be ready for Rudisha’s mind games
Prior to the World Championships, Rudisha labeled Amos as the overwhelming favourite for the competition. Although the words were complementary and a testament to Amos’ progress, they could also be interpreted as ‘mind games’ as the Kenyan star took pressure off himself and deflected attention towards Amos.
He exposed Amos to an unfamiliar territory whereby he was now the center of attention and the spotlight was on him to live up to the billing, meanwhile Rudisha had given himself the underdog tag and capitalized by winning the gold medal as everyone had written him off.
Observers are of the view that Amos fell for Rudisha’s ‘mind games’ and that contributed to his complacency. However, the former world youth champion appears to have learned from his mistakes and has vowed to let his performances speak for him. He has never owned up to being a favourite in any competition and he will be eager to prove his doubters wrong by eclipsing Rudisha again, something he has grown accustomed to in recent years.