TV Review: 100 Seconds To Beat The World: The David Rudisha Story

In exactly the same way as a chance encounter with a tweet lead to me enjoying the scientific delights of BBC 2’s Operation Cloud Lab, it was a chance encounter listening to Radio 2 while cooking my dinner that lead me to hear an interview regarding an upcoming documentary about David Rudisha and his journey that ultimately resulted in him destroying the field at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

I must admit, that it was purely that interview that drew me to watch it. I’m not the biggest athletics fan and being completely honest, I actually watched very little of the Olympics when they were on. And I am pretty sure that I didn’t watch Rudisha, or any of the 800m running. In fact, he apparently even ran at the Crystal Palace event I tethered the Lucozade balloon at 3 years ago, and I only know that because I’ve just looked it up! But there was something in this interview, something about the way they spoke, their enthusiasm for the story that made me want to see it.

The story essentially is two sided. It started life as a documentary about Brother Colm O’Connell, a Irish missionary who went to Kenya to teach Geography, and ended up taking over the athletics team. Coaching the juniors. But then, Rudisha then arrives and with some guidance from O’Connell and rather a lot of natural talent shines to become the world beating athlete running today.

Rudisha Documentary - Brother Colm O'Connell

Rudisha’s arrival, and progression changes the story so that it becomes more focussed on him. And obviously with the connection to his father, Daniel Rudisha, who in 1968 won Olympic silver in the 4x 400m relay, and therefore, provides an angle of comparison to give the film makers a seemingly more fitting story for the documentary.

For me though, this change, this switching from the story of an Irish Missionary who had no athletics training or knowledge and who was thrust into a seemingly impossible task of coaching on a dirt track with no markings, no equipment, and even a questionable distance, managed to find a way to build the reputation he has for being able to produce world class athletes to one of a tale of an athlete’s journey from those early days of running without shoes to the performance he gave in London left the who documentary feeling disjointed, muddled and sadly, unfulfilling.

Rudisha Documentary - Running Kenya

It felt to me like it had lost its identity. It had forgotten to focus on one core idea and instead was treading lightly across its story giving you just enough information to keep you interested but never delving deep enough to explain anything properly.

I can’t help but feel that both their stories, if focused on individually, would make for compelling and entertaining viewing. The surface facts with are given about Brother Colm, along with his views on life, religion, athletics, mean he is a man you cannot help but admire, like and want to talk to. He is just a thoroughly nice chap with an amazing tale. Which I think he deserved to tell properly. Rudisha is exactly the same. You can see the story. The inspiration of his father and the dedication to emulate his success. The growth of his natural talent and the pain of missing Beijing. Before an amazing night in London, and the realisation of his dreams, talent and ability.

Rudisha Documentary - London 2012 800m Final

Having seen it, I truly don’t know if I’d recommend this documentary or not. It certainly didn’t for me, live up to the hype that it was being given on Radio 2 while my dinner cooked away, it’s too diluted, but it was interesting. There are little nuggets, like the fact that Rudisha dragged the field around London so fast, the last placed athlete’s time would have been quick enough to win gold at the previous 3 olympic games, but they are just passing gems, little tit-bits of information that don’t come along often enough to really make this documentary a classic. If you like athletics, or running, you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did. But as the neutral outsider, I think you’ll struggle to really enjoy it.

Posted on by 5WC in Television First Edition

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