DAEGU, South Korea, September 1- American Bernard Lagat, who has the favourite tag on his head for the men 5000m world title, is a man who does not want to get into trouble with one of his former teachers.
Despite his superstar status as one of the most accomplished distance runners of our time the Kenyan born Lagat is still wary of incurring the wrath of one Mr. Ngetich, his former Swahili teacher at Kaptel High School 15 years after he left the institution to pursue a career in athletics through the American collegiate system.
Upon ensuring his qualification to Sunday’s final by winning his heat in 13:33.30, Lagat came down to the mixed zone for his obligations to the press and upon being flagged by the Kenyan contingent, the request to speak in Swahili was put through to him.
“If I continue speaking in Swahili and my teacher at Kaptel Secondary hears it, he will be annoyed, so I would rather stop now, can I turn to English?” he posed to the Kenyan journalists.
Having stayed in America since 1996 when he joined Washington State University, his command of the language has not yet faded as he gave his take on Sunday’s final and prospects of reclaiming the title he won in 2007 in Osaka- in Swahili- something that would made Mr. Ngetich proud.
“My intention was to finish somewhere in number three but I felt good out there, ran and finished first. I will now relax until Sunday where it will be everyman for himself,” he added.
“I’m not worried to be among the favourite. My aim is to see whether I can repeat what I did in 2007 but I see a very good 15 runners in the finals. It could be anyone, Mo Farah, Eliud Kipchoge or even I, it will all depend on who has the finishing power.
“There is a lot of pressure but I love pressure, I do well when there is pressure,” the runner who won silver in 1500m at the Worlds for Kenya in 2001 before announcing his switch to the US in May 2004 opined.
On why he opted not to do the 1500m/5000m double in Daegu, Lagat declared, “The men 1500m semi final is this afternoon (Thursday) and we ran the 5000m this morning. If the events were spaced out like in Berlin and Osaka, I would have done it but here, it was not possible and no one is super human.”
Lagat qualified for 1500m at the American championships but his preference for 5000m was explained.
“I have done everything I have ever wanted to do in 1500m and that is why I decided to do the 5000m here and see whether I can win it again.”
For Kipchoge, his former compatriot, the heat at the Daegu Sports Stadium during the heats was the only spot of bother.
The runner who struck gold for his nation at these championships in the 12 and a half –lap race in 2003 is eyeing another medal performance at Sunday’s decider.
“The heat is very intense but I will contest for the medals and give my all,” the Olympics silver winner added.
Thomas Longosiwa, one of the other Kenyans who made the final turned to his maker for inspiration as he prepares a podium tilt.
“I’m praying to God to have favour on me when the first three places are decided. It’s by his grace I have made it this far here,” the runner who contested in the Beijing Olympics final told reporters.
– Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting for Capital Sport from Daegu, South Korea