BEIJING –– David Rudisha strained every sinew to win gold, Genzebe Dibaba dominated in the way the Kenyan once did and Usain Bolt’s second sprint showdown with Justin Gatlin moved a step closer at the world athletics championships today.
While Rudisha’s 800 meters victory was not a patch on the brilliant run that won him gold in a world record time at the London Olympics, there was a reminder of one of the great nights of that Games when Britain’s Greg Rutherford won long jump gold.
Nicholas Bett showed finishing speed his compatriot Rudisha would have been proud of to win a surprise gold in the 400 meters hurdles and Cuba’s Denia Caballero was a shock winner in the women’s discus courtesy of her opening throw of 69.28m.
Since a serious knee injury in 2013, the once all but unbeatable Rudisha has looked vulnerable against fast-finishing rivals and so it was as much with relief as joy that he celebrated the return of the world title he also won in 2011.
“I am delighted about this gold medal,” he said after crossing the line in one minute 45.84 seconds.
“It means a lot to me. Especially after all those disappointments I had this year. During the last month I had a problem with my speed but when I got it back I knew I could win this race.”
Pole Adam Kszczot came closest to running Rudisha down and took silver, while Amel Tuka finished third to win a first world championship medal for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Genzebe Dibaba’s family already owns 11 Olympic and world distance gold medals through her sister Tirunesh and cousin Derartu Tulu and the 24-year-old added a first at 1,500m with a stunning display of front-running.
Slowed by the tactics of her rivals over the first 700 meters, the Ethiopian took the lead with two laps to go and destroyed her rivals with the sort “It’s great to have such a strong performance,” said Dibaba, who finished in four minutes 8.09 seconds.
“My sister won the gold medal in this stadium at the  Olympic Games so I wanted to share this family experience.”
Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon declared Dibaba her “hero” after winning silver, while Sifan Hassan was a distant third to take bronze for the Netherlands.
Bett gave Kenya its first gold medal in the 400m hurdles with a scorching finish to clock 47.79 seconds, the fastest time of the year and his own personal best.
Running in lane nine where it is impossible to see your rivals for most of the race, the 23-year-old went past more than half the field after the final bend to pip Russia’s Denis Kudryavtsev on the line.
Rutherford, who won Olympic gold on “Super Saturday” in London, proved himself a championship performer of the highest class by securing a full set of major titles with a leap of 8.41m, his best of the year.
“European champion, Olympic champion and now world champion, it’s unbelievable, it’s the most incredible thing,” he said after battling a severe headache to win gold.
“I have been dreaming of this for a long time. I can’t believe I’ve done this.”
Rutherford joined an illustrious list of Britons who have simultaneously held Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth titles in Daley Thompson, Sally Gunnell, Jonathan Edwards and Linford Christie. Australia’s Fabrice Lapierre also fought through the pain of a hamstring injury to win silver and bronze went to the youngest of the trio of Chinese in the final, Wang Jianan.
While the 50,000 crowd at the Bird’s Nest certainly got behind their long jumpers, Bolt elicits near frenzy every time he takes to the arena where he first made his name in 2008 and stormed to victory in the 100 meters on Sunday.
Still feeling the effects of that victory over in-form American Gatlin, the Jamaican began his defence of his 200 meters title by running 20.28 seconds to win his first round heat.
“Tired, tired, tired,” he said. “I was comfortable but it still doesn’t stop me from being tired.
“It was rough but it was just one of those things. I’m still bit little sore but I guess that is from the rounds and the fact that I didn’t compete that much this season.”
Gatlin admitted defeat in the 100m had taken an emotional toll on him but he certainly looked in good shape physically as he ran 20.19 to win his heat.
“The race felt good,” said the 33-year-old. “Coach just said to dominate from the start, work the curve, come off the curve attacking, hold my form in the straightaway and just ease into it.”
Bolt shot out of the blocks and led for the entire race before easing up over the final 15 meters to cross the line in 20.28 seconds.
Gatlin, unbeaten in the 200 meters since 2013 and the 2005 world champion at the distance before his second doping ban, was even more dominant in the following heat, maintaining his form through the line to win in 20.19.
The 33-year-old American, who owns the fastest time of the year (19.57), said he would have eased up but for the presence behind him of Japan’s Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, who finished second in 20.35.
“The 100 meters final was a difficult one for me, also emotionally,” said Gatlin.
“But now I’m going for 200m. I have two days to go. My race would have been slower but Sani pushed me so much. This young guy from Japan is phenomenal.”
Anguillan young gun Zharnel Hughes, who trains with Bolt in Jamaica but runs for Britain, edged the fifth heat in 20.13 courtesy of his dip for the line, while Panama’s Alonso Edwards ran 20.11 to win the second.
The fastest time of the heats, however, came from Ramil Guliyev, who ran quick times as a junior but lost a big chunk of his career to a ban after deciding to represent Turkey rather than his native Azerbaijan.
The tattooed 25-year-old ran a national record of 20.01 but said he thought he go faster.
“It was a good run, now I’ll prepare for the next one,” he said.