Mon, Jul 11, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Lagat qualifies for fifth Olympics at 41

AFP, EUGENE, Oregon

Bernard Lagat, center, celebrates with daughter Gianna, right, and son Miika Kimutai after winning the 5,000m final at the US Olympic trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Bernard Lagat on Saturday rolled back the years to secure a remarkable fifth Olympic Games appearance, sealing his ticket to Rio de Janeiro at the age of 41 with a rousing win in the 5,000m at the US trials.

The veteran Kenyan-American, a bronze medalist in the 1,500m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, stormed home on the final straight at Hayward Field to finish clear of Hassan Mead and Paul Chelimo in 13 minutes, 35.5 seconds.

It was a tactical masterclass from Lagat, who had been largely written off before arriving at the trials in Oregon.

Lagat had dropped out during the 10,000m final last week as searing temperatures took their toll. However he reveled in cooler weather on Saturday for what he later described as his greatest Olympic qualification.

“Of the five this is my biggest achievement, because at 41 a lot of people had ruled me out,” Lagat, who represented Kenya at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics before switching to the US for the Games in 2008 and 2012. “I was reading the newspapers and they were hardly mentioning me.”

“I said: ‘Okay,’ and that explained what people feel about me at 41,” he said. “I don’t blame anyone, but I wanted to come and do the best I could and run really hard and show that I’m ready to represent the United States.”

Lagat attributed his sprightly performance to training with younger runners.

“I train with young guys and I don’t believe I’m old,” Lagat said. “Because if you believe you’re old, you’re going to run like an old man. These young guys push me every single day.”

“What you saw today is what we do in training every day,” he said. “This was my sixth Olympic trials and out of the six I’ve made five.”

Lagat’s victory came after a devastating 52-second final lap that laid waste to the field.

“The last 400 meters was exciting. My head was just counting the numbers. I was thinking to myself we have one, two, three, five people ahead of me. I thought: ‘This is it,’” he said.

Lagat revealed that he had also been given added motivation to qualify for Rio because of demands from his children.

“My daughter tells me: ‘Daddy, I want to go back to the Olympics so I can watch gymnastics.’ We were watching gymnastics all day yesterday. So I’ve made my daughter’s day today. I’m very happy for that,” he said.

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