Coach says breaking the world 800m record is not yet a priority for the Botswana athlete
The coach of Nijel Amos says consistency is more important than aiming for records for the Commonwealth and African 800m champion at the moment.
Though Jean Verster, who guided Botswana’s Amos to a stunning victory over David Rudisha in Glasgow, does believe his charge can break the Kenyan’s world record of 1:40.91.
Amos ran 1:41.73 at the age of only 18 when finishing as runner-up behind Rudisha in London 2012. In Glasgow he produced one of the performances of the Games with an incredible home-straight surge after being blocked that made Rudisha, who is returning to fitness after injury, look pedestrian.
Verster told Athletics Weekly: “I think my job at the moment is to make sure he is consistent and slowly improves and I would rather see him run fast at almost every opportunity – at the moment – than to try for records. Remember he is only 20. But I believe he can obviously break the record at some stage.”
The South African, who is a former international distance runner, was not surprised to see Amos kick away in the home straight in Glasgow when training partner Andre Olivier appeared to give him a gap to unblock himself.
Earlier Rudisha had taken them through the bell in a sedate 52.71 and an even slower 1:19.77 at 600m. Despite the blocking, Amos’s winning time was 1:45.18 as he finished three tenths ahead of Rudisha.
“He obviously is fast and strong and ran very conservatively during the first part of the race – especially the first 500m,” said Verster. “As he also trains with Andre Olivier, I believe that gave him a bit of a ‘comfort zone’ feeling coming into the final straight with Andre next to him.”
Some watching the race thought that the Kenyans – Rudisha, Evans Kipkorir and Ferguson Cheruiyot – may have been working as a team to block Amos, but Verster is not so sure.
“It could have been [team tactics], but I personally just think it worked out that way as Rudisha and Rotich were obviously two of the fastest in the race and both wanted to win! Generally though, the Kenyans do run with a plan and as a team,” said Verster, whose training group Potch Running Project operates from North West University’s Potchefstroom Campus.
Amos has equalled Seb Coe’s former world record time despite a running style that hardly seems conducive to quick times, his ragged gait being the polar opposite to the fluid action of Rudisha.
British 800m runner Michael Rimmer has recently been trying to improve on his running style, although he is one of many to have followed the lead of Mo Farah and Galen Rupp in this.
Verster said this is something Amos is also looking at. “Obviously we are working with our sport scientists at the NWU to improve on his biomechanics, especially since he got injured badly last year with his rectus femoris,” said the man who ran his PB for 1500m of 3:38.38 in 1996.
“We also have to get him generally stronger and more balanced. But on the other hand, I believe that runners are born running a certain way – and he has run fast as it is – and sometimes it is not necessary to fix what’s not broken.”
Verster also says the mental aspect is another important element of training for Amos.
“Another objective I have is to make sure Nijel, as well as Andre – actually our whole group – are happy and enjoying what they do,” he said. “The group dynamic is also very important.”