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World Athletics Championships Oregon22

Series18 Dec 2017

My greatest challenge – Paul Tergat


Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie in the 10,000m at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney (© Getty Images)

Paul Tergat enjoyed a prodigious career on the track, cross country and road, but one of his most memorable performances was a race in which he was beaten. Here the Kenyan distance legend talks about being denied Olympic gold by just 0.09.

So close yet so far

"One of the defining moments of my career was my 10,000m silver medal at the Sydney Olympic Games. Going into that final, my form was good and I knew in my own mind it would be one of the last track races of my career before stepping up to the marathon.

"With this in mind, I knew I would not leave anything on the track that night and I would give it absolutely everything as I did throughout my career. I remember during warm up we watched the 400m final and that incredible moment when Cathy Freeman won the gold medal. I had known her for many years on the Grand Prix circuit; she was a special athlete.

"I felt good throughout the race and then with about 400 metres remaining I became boxed in. I had to use a lot of energy to get to the front (with 250 metres remaining). This is sport. I never held back. I knew I had to give everything.

"That last 100 metres for me felt like I still had another 400 metres to go because I had already kicked and put so much effort in. With 50 metres to go it still seemed like I had 100 metres to run and even that final 10 metres was not easy.

"At no stage did I ever think I had the race won. I knew I was competing against the very best (in Gebrselassie). When I looked back on the replay, I knew I had won silver. I came to win, but it did not work out the way I had hoped.

"It was hard to accept losing by just 0.09. Maybe if I had competed in the 100m dash rather than the 10,000m it might have been easier to accept. Yet I was satisfied. I wished Haile all the best and told him that I’d be moving up to the marathon. Haile and I became great friends. We still are today. After Sydney and the end of my track career, I actually became a better person and a better athlete.

"It was a defining moment for me. At that point I wasn’t sure if I could transition to the marathon but to later become the first man to run under 2:05 for the marathon was very special."

Steve Landells for the IAAF