Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lagat gets another victory for Team Americas in 5000 meter run...

SPLIT, Croatia--The calendar said it was Sunday, a day when banks are closed.

Try telling reigning world indoor 3000 meter champion Bernard Lagat (left/photo by Paul Merca) that.

With a scintillating display of tactical acumen accumulated from racing for over a decade on the international circuit after graduating from Washington State University in 1998, Lagat used his patented kick and took advantage of an opening on the rail to grab the victory in the 3000 meter run at the IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup, and another $30000 check to go with the one he earned Saturday in the 5000 meter run.

Already the winner of the 5000 meter run on Saturday, Lagat was content to let Ethiopia's Tariku Bekele, Uganda's Moses Kipsiro, and Kenya's Vincent Kipsegechi Yator do the majority of the pacesetting.

After cruising through the first 2000 meters in a rather forgettable 5:30.08 or 66 second pace, the three members of Team Africa worked to try and run the sting out of Lagat's kick, led by the younger Bekele, who set a 2010 world leading time of 7:28.70 last week in beating Lagat, and Kipsiro, who fell victim to Lagat's 51-second final 400 in Saturday's 5000m.

In third with 135 meters to go, Lagat used patience and took advantage of Bekele's gift on the final straightaway, as the Ethiopian swerved to the outside of lane 1, allowing the former Cougar enough of a gap to shoot past Bekele, and the rest of the field, crossing the finish in a winning time of 7:54.75, significantly slower than his American record time of 7:29.00, set last week.

Kipsiro, positioned on the outside of lane 2 exiting the last turn, had an unexpected battle with Lagat's Americas teammate Bayron Piedra of Ecuador, but held on to take second again in 7:54.98, with Piedra getting third in 7:55.52. Bekele finished fourth in 7:55.79.

Lagat became the first man to win three individual titles over three different events in the history of the World or Continental Cup, winning the 1500 in the 2002 World Cup in Madrid.

Afterwards, Lagat said, “This is great because I was running against the best in the world,” Lagat said after kicking, for the second straight day, to a convincing victory. “I was running against Tariku (Bekele) tonight. Last night I was running against some of the best guys in the world, and I won it.”

“They kind of went the same,” Lagat said. “But yesterday was more clear. There was just one person I was chasing. Today we were about five of us still together with about 300 metres to go. But I was composed. I know when I have plenty left, and I had plenty left. Yesterday I did too.”

“In terms of strategy they went about in a similar way but this one was a bit more because I had to look at all the other guys because we were still all together with 80 meters to go.”

Before heading off to doping control, Lagat had some words of advice to those who criticized him for doubling instead of giving one of his races to another American:

“And a message for those people who thought I was a bit selfish because I ran two races. You know what, I wanted to come here and do the best that I could. And I’m happy that I did this. The Americas Team got 18 points and I’m very pleased with that.”

While Team Americas held the lead in the four-continent competition for most of the two days, Team Europe won the meet thanks to hometown star Blanka Vlasic's win in the high jump, leaping a world leading mark of 6-8 3/4 (2.05m), and giving Europe enough of an edge to win the meet with 429 points to 419.5 for Team Americas. Africa was third with 292, and Asia-Pacific took fourth with 286.5.

Complete results from the IAAF Continental Cup can be accessed here.

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