Bernard Lagat won both the 5,000 meters and 1,500 meters in 2007 in Osaka, Japan. In 2008, in Beijing, he did not advance to the final of the 1,500 meters and was out of contention in the 5,000 meter final. Why? Injuries, and just plain old bad luck!
Now, in 2009, Bernard is feeling great, won the Mile at Millrose and won the 3,000 meters at Stuttgart, Mr. Lagat is having some dreams of a double in Berlin…Bob Ramsak reports on this ambition of the double…
FOR LAGAT, DOUBLE AMBITIONS REMAIN
By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2009 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved
STUTTGART, Germany â€“ When he effortlessly kicked past Ethiopian Abreham Cherkos to win the 3000m at Saturdayâ€™s Sparkassen Cup in Stuttgart, it was abundantly clear that this was not the same Bernard Lagat who struggled at last summerâ€™s Olympic Games.
â€œYeah, I have my speed back,â€ said Lagat, who was hoping to succeed Hicham El Guerrouj as the Olympic champion at both the 1500 and 5000m. But it wasnâ€™t quite in the cards for the Kenyan-born American, who captured both world titles the year before in Osaka.
â€œIt was unfortunate what happened in Beijing. I developed an injury training in my summer home here in Tubingen, and it was really hard for me to train hard. So everybody was in good shape at the Olympic, and I was not.â€
Lagat won both events at the U.S. Olympic Trials in late June, but in Beijing, he didnâ€™t advance from the semi-finals in the 1500m, and was never a factor in the 5000m, finishing a distant ninth, nearly 30 seconds behind winner Kenenisa Bekele.
That experience, he said, is now in the past.
â€œIâ€™m getting my speed back, and I can train without any problems. Iâ€™m hoping for good things for Berlin.â€
For now, Lagat said heâ€™s planning to defend both titles in the German capital in August. As the reigning champion, heâ€™s given automatic entry by the IAAF, while national rules simply require that he compete at the U.S. championships without the added pressure of finishing among the top-three.
Training and competition-wise, he said, â€œNothing is going to change this year. Iâ€™m hoping to run both events, but Iâ€™ll have to make a realistic judgment when itâ€™s closer to the world championships. If the 1500 is going better, Iâ€™ll choose that. If the 5000 is going better, Iâ€™ll run that.â€
And with two solid races behind him this indoor season, and three to go, Lagat believes heâ€™s right on target for August.
â€œI won in New York and knew I was in good shape,â€ he said of his record-equalling seventh victory in the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games on Jan. 30. â€œIâ€™ve been training really well, and my coach has been brilliant. Even before coming to New York, I knew that I was in better shape than last year.â€
He added that while his 7:35.41 run in Stuttgartâ€™s Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle wasnâ€™t indicative of that form –his target was his own American record of 7:32.43, which ranks him as the fifth fastest in history– it did show him that things are progressing nicely.
â€œI felt really good. I could have gone faster. I was thinking, â€˜Should I take it?â€™ But with two kilometers to go, I decided to just reserve my energy and to run for the win. Then the pacing was a little short. I saw 5:07 at two kilometers, and to get it back was a little late. I was hoping for 5:03 or 5:04. I was hoping to get the American record but I missed it my a lot.â€
Although the record fell out of reach, he knew the victory wouldnâ€™t. Cherkos made his move at the bell, moving to the front but just a stride ahead of Lagat.
â€œ I knew I was going to pass him. When you have that confidence you donâ€™t panic. I actually let him go so I could catch him in the end.â€
Heâ€™s taking that confidence on the road, first to LiÃ©vin, France, for tonightâ€™s Meeting du Pas-de-Calais, where heâ€™ll start as the favorite in the mile. Heâ€™ll face Frenchman Mehdi Baala who at 30, will be making his debut over the distance. Baala too displayed good form on Saturday with his runner-up finish in the 1000m clocking 2:17.29, just shy of his 2:17.01 national record.
â€œIâ€™m looking forward to LiÃ©vin,â€ Lagat said. â€œHopefully we can run fast.â€ After that, heâ€™ll head to the Aviva Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham, England, on Feb. 21 where heâ€™s been assured of a fast race. Meet organizer â€œIan Stewart has promised me that heâ€™s going to make it really fast.â€ Then heâ€™ll wind up the indoor season with a memorable first in his career, his first appearance at the U.S. indoor championships, set for Boston on February 28.
â€œIâ€™m really excited about that,â€ he said.
NOTE: Photo, Bernard Lagat prior to his 3000m race in Stuttgart (07-Feb-09). Photo courtesy of Bob Ramsak/The TRACK PROFILE Report
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