Bernard Lagat after his historic 1500/5000 double (© Getty Images)
Osaka, JapanFour days after his emphatic win in the 1500m final Bernard Lagat opened a new chapter of athletics history on the final day of the World Championships in Osaka’s Nagai Stadium.
The 32-year-old American became the first athlete to take the 5000 m as well in the history of the championships. He prominently joins two of the greatest runners ever, who have achieved this feat at the Olympic Games: Finland’s legend Paavo Nurmi did it in 1924 and Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj repeated it 80 years later in Athens. Bernard Lagat clocked 13:45.87 and just edged out Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge (13:46.00) with Moses Kpsiro (Uganda/13:46.75) taking third.
'It took my very best'
“Following in the footsteps of these two is fantastic,” said Lagat, who won a silver medal in the 1500m at the Olympic Games in 2004 and bronze at the 2000 Olympics when he was still running for his native Kenya. After having lived in America since 1997 he was granted US citizenship in 2004.
“Being the first to have achieved this at the World Championships really means a lot to me,” he said. “When I flew into Kansai airport in Osaka I could never have imagined that I would leave with two gold medals. I had no doubts that I would be strong in both events. But I was not sure about the gold medals because of the strong competition. It took my best to win the 1500 metres and it took my very best to then take the 5000 metres today. ” Lagat said that the 1500 “Was the more challenging one, because somehow the 5000m was a bonus for me.”
The race played out perfectly for Lagat, still the second fastest man ever over the 1500m. A slow pace for much of the race helped Lagat, who admitted that his legs were no longer that fresh after his series of races.
But he also said: “I would have been ready for a faster pace as well.” For whatever reason, none of his opponents picked up the pace, and it was obvious that Lagat would only wait to unleash his great kick.
“I have worked so often in the past as the pacemaker for others. So this time I simply sat in and waited. Normally noone can beat me when I am kicking in the last lap – but unfortunately Bernard Lagat was there,” said Kipchoge, the champion in 2003.
It was then that Lagat revealed that the gold and silver medal winners were originally living almost next door to each other in Kaptel. “Yes, the winners today are from one small village in Kenya,” Lagat said, as the pair posed for photos during the post-race press conference.
Next up, elusive Olympic medal
“This success in Osaka will give me alot of confidence regarding the Olympics next year,” Lagat said. “I will prepare very seriously for Beijing but first I will have to qualify. Only after that will I decide if I go for the 1500 metres, the 5000 metres, or maybe both again,” said Lagat, who thinks that it is within his capability to improve his personal best in the event, which stands at 12:59.22 from last year. ”I think a time of 12:50 minutes will be possible for me. But I am not going to run another 5000 metres this season so I will go for this next year.”
More immediately, Lagat will contest the 3000 at Zurich’s Weltklasse Golden League meeting on Friday.
“There will be no pacemakers, so I will just run and test my ability.”
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF