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A journey from Gun to Tape

The curtains of the London Olympics came down to an event that saw some of the best athletes take to the field and if there are any two that stood out it was Kenya’s David Rudisha and Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.

One of the unforgettable moments was when Bolt, along with his 4 by 100 metres team mates Yohan Blake, turned away from BBC track reporter Phil Jones to acknowledge the Kenyan national anthem.

Bolt paid his respect to Rudisha’s victory, a brief but profound episode was display of maturity that would seem at odds with the often clowning celebrations that are so characteristic of the Jamaican.

At the same time, here was proof of the impact that Rudisha’s powerful run had had on the entire Olympic Games. A day later, the 23-year-old was invited on the coveted sofa at the BBC studios for a chat with former football star and TV presenter Gary Lineker, an honour that throughout the Olympics had only been largely accorded to British medal winners.

Maybe, his invitation had to do with the heat that BBC got on Social Media for disrespecting the moment by insisting to carry on with the interview.

Rudisha’s world record-breaking 800 meters was one of the many outstanding moments at the event changing his international profile of the man who the British press had taken to calling ‘The greatest athlete you have never heard of’ before his performance in London.

The race has been ranked alongside Bolt’s three gold medals and the double gold of British Mo Farah, as the best performances of the track and field events at London 2012.

Training

Rarely is the story of what it takes to get to that tape and emerge one of the greatest athletes. Two new fascinating films take the cameras away from the adrenaline of the track on competition day to the rarely seen and talked about training program of Bolt and Rudisha.

The behind scenes that includes sacrifices, sweat, stress and the team that helps get these athlete to the finish line and emerge World Record holders.

Writer and filmmaker Jackie Lebo, who has cultivated considerable trust within the athletics community in Kenya through her years of research on the performance of runners, tells the story of Rudisha’s preparation for the Olympics in the movie ‘Gun to Tape’.

The story is told through the narration of 63-year-old Irish priest, Brother Colm O’Connell, who first spotted Rudisha in a 200 metres race at the provincial schools competition, in 2004. It was O’Connell who guided the ‘tall and elegant’ teenage runner to middle distance races.

The film talks to the runner’s father, Daniel Rudisha, a silver medallist at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, and his coach highlighting his training and his success in 800 meters. He has broken the world record thrice, most recently at the Olympics.

Lebo and her crew followed the athlete for months at the high altitude training camps in Iten. When I asked her about the experience she immediately light up.

“One day we found the students at Chepkoilel University having a sports day and there was very loud music playing, when they found out we were there to shoot Rudisha they very kindly turned off the music for a couple of hours so we could shoot,” she said.

In the film, Rudisha is seen from his first competition, his losses and his training regime alongside his pacesetter Sammy Tangui. They are synchronized in their running that sometimes it is hard to tell one from the other is some of the shots.

The other subject in Lebo’s film is World Marathon Champion, Edna Kiplagat. Unlike Rudisha, whose career progression has been steady from the Junior Championships to the Olympic gold medal, Edna, who is coached by her husband, world class marathoner Gilbert Koech had to wait until she was in her thirties before she could come into her own.

A mother of two Edna’s story is one of personal sacrifice as her husband takes the role of ensuring Edna trains and the children are tended to.

In the film we see Edna is at her best when training with runners stronger than her as they push her harder to attain speed and endurance. In fact, Edna and her marathon rival Mary Keitany share a warm camaraderie away from competition.

“After taking the top two positions at the London Marathon earlier this year, both Edna and Mary held a joint party and that for me, was another of the memorable scenes,” says Lebo.

Going into the Olympics marathon as the favourite Edna finished at position 20 while her friend Mary was fourth. Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo took the silver behind Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana.

‘Gun to Tape’ was screened in Nairobi on July 27. Though the movie ended with the two athletes having qualified for the Olympics, Lebo was in London to shoot at the games to add four minutes of the final outcome.

While the success of Kenyan middle to long distance runners can be attributed to a combination of factors including the endurance of living and training in high altitude, the dominance of the Jamaicans in the sprints has left the world in awe.

“What goes on away from the track is the reality,” says Bolt says in the movie ‘The Fastest Man Alive’ which follows his training. It’s produced and directed by French filmmaker Gael Leiblang.

“Competition is the easy part,” says Glen Mills, his deceptively easy-going, publicity-shy Jamaican coach. He says Bolt has to balance his love for the party and the discipline and commitment required for training.

Respect

The hour and a half long documentary, which has just been released in the UK, is an intimate portrayal of how life has changed for the man who was born in rural Jamaica.

It shows a tall and skinny Bolt at age 14, running at the 2001 World Youth Championships, in Hungary, and then there is the first time he gave his lightning bolt salute to the ecstatic crowd in Kingston a year later. It shows him in his home environment, the people behind the fastest man – professionals to help him be at the top, teammates, family and friends.

For the first time, Bolt opens his heart in a dramatic fashion, about his disqualification for a false start in the 100 meters final at the 2011 World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South.

“I pretty much squandered it. All I could hear was something saying go, in my head, and I just went, and after I thought, what the hell just happened,” he says in the documentary.

Leiblang, who got the exclusive rights to follow Bolt for seven months, says the most important part of making the film was after the Daegu disqualification and Bolt was still able to face the cameras.

“How many champions would accept to talk on the record after defeat? I had great respect for him then.”

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