He has all the natural talent needed to win an Olympic gold medal but it comes
down to tactics. Yuri Borzakovskiy has already shown impressive form in this
Olympic season: having been beaten by Wilfred Bungei, the 2001 World
Championship silver medallist, who ran a world best for 2004 in Seville, the
23-year-old Russian took revenge on the Kenyan in the opening meeting of the
Golden League in Bergen in Norway.
"right" />But the 64,000 dollar question remains the same as before in his
brief career. Does he run the first lap too slowly, then try to win with his
speed in the home straight? Though he has shown variations of this tactic in
the last couple of seasons, he still prefers to leave it to the last lap. At
the 2003 World Championships in Paris, this tactic brought him
"merely" a silver medal: with 400m still to run, he was sixth but led
in the home straight, only to be beaten at the finish by the Algerian Djabir
Said-Guerni. At the Games in Athens, the challenge should also come from the
current World Indoor champion, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (South Africa) and the
Kenyans. We shall have to wait and see how Andre Bucher (Switzerland), the 2001
World champion, has recovered after an injury in last years outdoor season.
Also in question is the form of the world record holder, Wilson Kipketer
(Denmark), who showed last year that perhaps he is no longer the top man over
YURI BORZAKOVSKIY: NATURAL BORN RUNNER
His style is all ease and grace. Success came early in winning the World
Youth 800m title in 1998 and achieving an impressive victory for Russia in the
European Cup the following year. Going into the 2004 outdoor season he had
twice broken the junior indoor world record as well as once the junior world
mark outdoors. He ran his outdoor personal best of 1:42.47 at the 2001 Golden
League meeting in Brussels. The previous year he broke the world junior record
with 1:44.38 in Dortmund.
He attracts praise and criticism in almost equal measure. Praise, certainly,
since how else could it be for a runner who set a European junior record in an
Olympic semi-final in Sydney? But there has also been criticism for the way he
ran in the final in 2000: Andre Bucher and Andrea Longo (Italy) led through the
first lap in 53.43, not a quick pace by any means, but Borzakovskiy was well
down. When Nils Schumann beat Wilson Kipketer to the gold medal, the Russian
trailed in sixth.
Borzakovskiy ran in the 2002 European Championships in Munich but in the
400m. His old rivals, Schumann, Bucher and Kipketer were racing over two laps
while the Russian qualified for the 400m semi-final. But finishing seventh
meant no place in the final for him. Sometimes he gave the impressive he was
doing a training session rather than competing at a championship.
He was back to his favourite distance in the 2003 World Championships in
Paris, beaten only by the Olympic bronze medallist Said-Guerni. Borzakovskiys
reaction was: "Im very happy with this result, it was a fantastic
race." He deservedly has the respect of all his rivals. Mbulaeni Mulaudzi,
the World Indoor champion from South Africa, discussed with his coach the
potential threat from Borzakovskiy before the championships in Budapest this
year. His coach, Makonde Makhumisane, summed the Russian up thus: "If you
let him have an inch, hell run away from you!"