Friday, February 20, 2009

Bernard Lagat set to run 1500m at Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham...

2007 double world champion Bernard Lagat continues his undefeated 2009 indoor season, as the former Washington State Cougar competes in the Aviva Grand Prix meet Saturday in Birmingham, England.

Lagat, who has won meets this winter in New York, Stuttgart & Lieven, goes against a field that includes Kenya’s Augustine Choge (7:34.37 at 3000 this winter) and Portugal’s Rui Silva, the former World Indoor champion in the 1500m field.

After the Aviva Grand Prix, Lagat will return to the US to compete in the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston next week.

Here's the USA Track & Field release announcing Lagat's participation in the meet:

BOSTON - There are athletes who are competitors, also-rans, contenders, ham-n-eggers, winners, whiners, losers and champions, but it's the history-making stars in all sports that we never forget. American middle-distance runner Bernard Lagat belongs in that exclusive community.

A native of Kenya, Lagat has been making history his entire career, and has set a new standard for American runners since becoming a U.S. citizen in 2004. Coming up February 28-March 1 in Boston, fans will be treated to witnessing Lagat as he competes in his first USA Indoor Championships, held at the Reggie Lewis Center at Roxbury Community College.

Winning medals at championship events is one of the prerequisites for any aspiring track athlete wanting to be considered an all-time great.

A two-time Olympic medalist, Lagat became the first man in history to win gold medals in the men's 1,500m and 5,000 meters at a World Outdoor Championship in 2007 in Osaka, Japan, in the first major championship in which he ran as an American. In the 1,500m final, Lagat charged to the front and crossed the finish line first in 3 minutes 34.77 seconds in winning Team USA's first Olympic or World Championships 1,500m gold medal since 1908, when Hall of Famer Mel Sheppard won the Olympic title.


In the Osaka 5,000m final, Lagat used his devastating finishing kick to sprint past the field to win in 13:45.87 in becoming the first American to win a World Championship medal of any kind at 5,000m.

"The double means a lot to me," Lagat said when his work in Osaka was finished. "I'm the first one to accomplish the double, and I feel I'm going to set an example for the young ones. There will be other kids in America who will do what Bernard Lagat did in 2007, no matter how long it will take."

Lagat also made history in becoming the first man to win both the 1,500m and 5,000m at a USA Outdoor Championships, in 2006.

Earning immortal status in the world of track and field may also be accomplished by rewriting the record books, and Lagat has become an accomplished author in the U.S. He began his one-man assault on American records by setting the standards in two events in the same race at the 2005 Tyson Invitational indoor meet in Fayetteville, Ark. Lagat set the U.S. Indoor record in the 1,500m (3:33.34) en route to winning the mile in 3:49.89, which also became the American record. Elsewhere indoors, Lagat set the U.S. 3,000m record of 7:32.43 in Birmingham, England in 2007. He invaded the U.S. outdoor record book on August 28, 2005 in Rieti, Italy, when he finished the 1,500 meters in 3 minutes 29.30 seconds, breaking the longstanding U.S. record of 3:29.77 set by Sydney Maree in 1985.

Lagat has found a comfy home away from home at the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, in New York City. Lagat entered the 2009 Millrose Games looking for his seventh career win in the prestigious Wanamaker Mile, which would equal the all-time Wanamaker win total first established by Ireland's legendary "Chairman of the Boards," Eamonn Coghlan. Lagat held the lead with 1 ½ laps to go when New Zealand standout and Olympic bronze medalist Nick Willis passed Lagat and took the lead. Just after the bell lap Lagat retook the lead and held on for the win in 3:58.44.

"This is not another race for me. This race means a lot," Lagat said following his Wanamaker win. "I have a lot of respect for Eamonn Coghlan. Today, winning seven like him means a lot to me. He is a man who was rooting for me today."

Lagat will attempt to win his eighth consecutive Wanamaker Mile in New York next year.

A devoted family man, Lagat is frequently seen with his three-year old son Miika on his lap when he speaks with the media. Miika, whose sister Gianna was born November 2, 2008, was granted a lesson in the family business when he joined his father for a cool down jog in the bowels of Madison Square Garden following dad's post-race Millrose press conference. But before Miika begins his own running career and takes over as chief operating officer of the Lagat family legacy, his father has more history to write.

Look for the next chapter to be penned at the 2009 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships. It will be Lagat's first ever appearance at a USA Indoor Championships, and with his uncanny knack for achieving greatness at every turn, when the men's 1,500 meters toes the line in Boston be sure to keep your eyes on Lagat and the clock. It could be history in the making.

NOTE: USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

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