Good son Lagat seeks payback to U.S.
Friday, 15 August 2008

BEIJING, Aug 13 (bdnews24.com/Reuters) - Bernard Lagat will fulfil a pledge he made to his mother and give the United States a golden payback if he wins the Olympic 1,500 metres for his adopted country.

The Kenyan-born 33-year-old finished second behind Hicham El Guerrouj in Athens four years ago and received comforting words from his mum.

"She told me my time would come at the next Olympics and I would win gold," he told a news conference on Wednesday. "I promised to work extra hard. If I win she will be jumping up and down and I wish I could be there to see those emotions."
Lagat, the world 5,000 and 1,500 metres champion, is competing in both events in Beijing but it is the gold medal for the shorter distance that he really wants.

He also won bronze for Kenya in the Sydney 1,500 and would end a title drought of a century for the United States if he completed the full set of medals at the Bird's Nest next week.

"The 1,500 gold medal would be amazing … that's the one I've been dreaming about since 2005," said Lagat. "It would mean my career has been really successful and I would be very satisfied."

"The 5,000 is not my event and there's too many laps there for me," he added. "The 1,500 is my priority and I want to treat that one as if it's the only hard race I'm doing."

SPORTING EXCELLENCE

Lagat was born into a family of 10 in Kenya and helped tend cattle on their farm before his academic and sporting excellence enabled him go to the United States for college in 1996. His family sold land to buy his air ticket.

He is one of a trio of foreign-born Americans trying to become the country's first Olympic men's 1,500 metres champion since Mel Sheppard took the title in London in 1908.

For Lagat, it is also the chance to repay the American taxpayer for funding his college education and he will have no mixed feelings if he wins gold. "When the American national anthem is played, I feel enormous pride, the same way I felt when the Kenyan anthem was played," he said.

"My loyalty is for the country I'm representing right now and that is the United States … I don't feel any shame, I don't feel any regrets, I'm just really happy to see the flag being raised for something I have done."

Whatever happens in Beijing, Lagat will not be retiring after the Olympics.

"I feel like I'm getting stronger and faster, I think I'm actually 22 when I'm really 33," he said. "This is not the end of my running career."

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