London: David Rudisha predicted a world record and delivered with an overpowering show of front-running to win the Olympic 800-meter title.
When many were hoping that Usain Bolt would set such a mark in the 200 later Thursday, the Kenyan stole some of the Jamaican sprinter's thunder at the beginning of a balmy evening suited for setting great times.
Rudisha set off with his giant strides from the starting gun, immediately took the lead and steadily built on it, as many of the year's greatest middle distance runners could never even get close.
He finished in 1 minute 40.91 seconds, shaving .10 of a second off the mark he set in 2010.
"Yes, he's the greatest runner," said Timothy Kitum, Rudisha's teammate who took bronze. "He told me he's going to run a word record today. He's the best."
Immediately, he lifted his arms in victory as the time flashed just next to him and the 80,000-capacity crowds at the Olympic Stadium erupted in wild cheers, celebrating the first world record of the track and field program.
In the stands chief Olympic organizer Seb Coe and IAAF President Lamine Diack were shaking hands to celebrate the success.
"That was simply an unbelievable performance," Coe said. "Rudisha showed supreme physical and mental confidence to run like that in an Olympic final."
"Instead of just doing enough to win the race he wanted to do something extraordinary," said Coe, a former middle-distance champion. "Rudisha's run will go down in history as one of the greatest Olympic victories."
In the women's 800, Kenyan compatriot and defending champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya easily advanced into Saturday's final along with other semifinal heat winners, world champion Mariya Savinova of Russia and 2009 champion Caster Semenya of South Africa.
Rudisha's record run only added to the excitement of another big day on the track.
A simple 4x400-meter relay heat turned into high drama when South Africa first crashed out of the race with Pistorius waiting for a baton that never arrived in the changeover zone. Almost two hours later, a jury of appeal surprisingly ruled to give Pistorius's team Lane 9 — which otherwise would have been vacant — in Friday's final because it could not be blamed for the collision with Kenya.
"Emotional roller coaster!" Pistorius sent in a Twitter post. "Really can't wait!"
South Africa won a silver medal at last year's world championships and now has a chance at an Olympic medal.
First, the South African team never made it to the third section of the 4x400-meter relay in the opening heat after Mogawane crashed, leaving Pistorius no chance to run.
When he realized the race was lost, Pistorius raised his hands to his head, and waved his arms down in frustration. "It's not the place you want something like this to happen," Pistorius said.
The judges later ruled that Kenya's Vincent Kiilu had cut across Mogawane, causing the collision and leaving the South African with a dislocated shoulder.
It seemed Pistorius had run his last race in London, until the surprising ruling was announced.
"The Jury of Appeal met and agreed to advance the South African team to the final, even though they did not finish the race, considering that they had been severely damaged in the incident with Kenya," the IAAF said in a statement. "South Africa will run as an additional team in lane 9."
Pistorius' entire track career he's been trying to prove he's good enough to compete with the best. He even had to fight the international governing body for athletics, taking his case to sport's highest court to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes on his carbon fiber blades. Some still argue they give him an unfair advantage, but he was cleared to compete in 2008 and has never looked back.
Now Pistorius still has the chance to leave the London Games with something more than the distinction of becoming the first amputee athlete to run in an Olympic track and field competition.