8) I'll say this every time I'm asked: Bernard Lagat is an engaging and likeable guy and one of the best runners in history, whether Kenyan or American. The 1,500/5,000 double is for real men only, which is why only the legendary Paavo Nurmi (1924) and Hicham El Guerrouj (2004 and he's legendary, too) have done it. Props. That said, two issues with Lagat leave me uncomfortable:
a) He became a U.S. citizen in March 2004, before the Olympic Games, and yet he didn't announce it until after he had competed for Kenya in Athens, having never told the Kenyan federation. Lagat says he got surprised when his application for citizenship moved more quickly than he expected. That's plausible. And once he became a U.S. citizen, he was ineligible to run the '04 Games for either country. And he knew it. "I knew the only way for me to run was to just run for Kenya," Lagat told a small group of journalists in Osaka. It was a tough situation, and Lagat dealt with it by deceiving everyone involved.
b) He remains unclear on his heartfelt reason for taking U.S. citizenship. On the one hand, he preached the American dream. "I met my wife here, I was educated here [at Washington State]," says Lagat. "I want to raise my family here." Yet, he also sounds like a man who was tired of fighting for Olympic and world championship spots in the brutally tough Kenyan system. "When I was in Kenya, I was with a lot of athletes who were really talented: Noah Ngeny, William Chirchir ... It was very hard for me mentally."
Lagat made two Olympic teams and medaled twice in the 1,500 meters. Yet it would have been tough for him to make another Olympic team. "I kept on being competitive," says Lagat. "But in order to make the next, I have to beat [his peers] and now we have all the young runners." I'm sure Lagat loves the U.S.A.
But while U.S. distance running is improving tremendously, it remains easier pickings than in Kenya. Almost anywhere would be easier. I think Lagat was at least partly taking a handy means to prolong his International championship career. And, hey, he's been good for U.S. distance running, not only in the medal table, but also just by his presence giving the likes of Alan Webb and Matt Tegenkamp a world class target. I just wish Lagat would come totally clean.
These observations, justified IMO, are part of a meet wrapup article.