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Sports

First Olympics for 800 record holder Rudisha

David Rudisha is the fastest 800 meter runner in history. His is the favorite in the 800 meter race at this summer's London games, but the 23-year-old Kenyan has never competed in the Olympics before.

In just three years, David Rudisha has changed the men's 800 meter race completely. The 23-year-old Kenyan is the reigning world champion and record holder in that event, but he has yet to compete at an Olympics.

With his 6-foot, 3-inch frame (1.9 meters), Rudisha is an imposing presence on the track. His rapid rise in world running has made him the favorite to win Thursday's final.

Strong pedigree

Rudisha was born in Kilgoris in Kenya's Rift Valley. The small town has produced such running greats as two-time 800 world champion Billy Konchellah, and Rudisha's father Daniel, who won silver in the 4x400-meter relay at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

In 2005, Rudisha began training with Brother Colm O'Connell. The Irish-born Catholic missionary turned coach has produced 25 world champions and four Olympic gold medalists since 1976. It was O'Connell who suggested he switch from running the 400 to the 800.

Within a year, Rudisha was the Junior World Champion. The young Kenyan continued to make his rise, but injury saw him miss the Kenyan qualifiers for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. "My moment will come some day, I am still young," Rudisha said at the time. His fellow countryman Wilfred Bungei went on to win gold in the event.

Breakout performance

Rudisha made his first senior international splash at the Italian International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Grand Prix in 2009. He broke the 25-year-old African record in the 800, finishing in 1 minute 42.01 seconds.

One year later he broke the world record by two hundredths of a second at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin. His time was no fluke; eight days later he made history again at the IAAF Grand Prix in Italy. He broke his own world record, clocking in at 1:41.01 seconds.

Rudisha's historic pace saw him become the youngest ever IAAF World Athlete of the Year at age 21. His star continued to rise, and in 2011 he won gold at the IAAF World Championship in Daegu, South Korea.

First time Olympian

It is in London where Rudisha can finally prove himself on track and field's biggest stage. His strong showing in the preliminary round, where he won his heat, has him well on his way to Thursday's final.

Rudisha is confident in his abilities, and told the AP news agency his father is his inspiration. "I always knew I had the talent because I have the genes," he said.