Athletics Athletics

Langat eyeing Moscow redemption


NANCY-LANGATNAIROBI, Kenya, July 27- A career threatening knee injury almost forced early retirement for the Beijing 2008 gold medallist, Nancy Jebet Langat two years ago.

But after several visits to specialists both in Kenya and Germany, the double women 800m and 1500m Commonwealth titleholder, who does not turn 32 until August 22, is on a comeback trail ready to pick up the pieces and take the war to her rivals at the World Championships, which starts in Moscow on Aug. 10.

“I have always played the underdog status in major championships. The world championships will not be any different, I have to fight my way up there and hope to curve my niche and win something.

“It is too early to think of the medals, though. I have to qualify to the next stage and that is the most important aspect,” she said Saturday in Nairobi.

Langat, a Kenya Air Force officer, is not afraid if she will remain the last soldier standing in the line of battle in Moscow.

“I have fought many battles, both on track and in my career as a soldier. The World Championships is another front where I will be lining up to exploit on the chink in the armory of my opponents. It is always good to exploit on areas not many people think there is a chance,” she added.

Yet, Lagat is not even the polished gem that she was five years ago in Beijing, when termed as the lone wolf in a pride of lions she had enough strength to bite and win the gold medal at the Birds Nest Stadium.

During the Kenyan trials, she finished third behind World Indoor champion Helen Obiri, whom she has introduced to the four- lap race and world junior champion Faith Chepng’etich.

The 1,500m race, though an event many Kenyans have staked claim to, they have failed to win a gold medal at the World Championships.

And now despite basking in the glory of her unprecedented triumph at the Beijing Olympics Lagat is keen to have her name entered in the annals of history as the first Kenyan to win women’ s Olympic and Worlds women’s 1,500m gold medals.

“I will be yearning to impress in Moscow for it will serve a perfect gift for my birthday (August 22).

“I am still rusty coming from my injury, but again, it will be hard to everyone. The most important thing is to remain focused and hope my teammates, — Helen Obiri (4:01.41) and Faith Chepng’ etich (3:56.98) — will provide the cover to cushion me from the opponents so that I can prevail,” she said.

“I am grateful this year that I can afford a smile after injury ruled me out for two-and-half years. We can deliver the medal but there is serious challenge from Diamond League winner Abeba Aregawi of Sweden,” said Lagat.

She needs to be at her best to stop a stellar line up, which comprises season leader. This season Aregawi has the fastest time of 3:56.60 with Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba (3:57.54) and American Gabrielle Anderson (4:01.48) in toe.

They will all be in Moscow.
Kenya has not won a medal in women’s 1,500m since IAAF World Championships began in 1983 as Russia, USA, Bahrain and Ethiopia runners have dominated the event.
“I do not look at other runners as I prepare for a race. That will mean you will not be focusing on your strength. I plan my own race and I believe the wide experience I have had in the race will be quite helpful,” Lagat said.
“It motivates and means a lot to me because I know very well that many wanted to make the Kenya team. I have my chance now and I will make maximum use of it. To recover the two and half years I lost through injury.”
Lagat, who was the 2010 Kenyan Sports Woman of the Year, did not look outside home for inspiration, as her father Joseph Lagat was an international long distance runner. Lagat is a cousin of former Amsterdam Marathon winner Alice Timbilili.