Bernard Lagat, 41, Is Making Olympic History But Says, 'I Don't Believe I'm Old'
Next month in Rio, 41-year-old Bernard Lagat will make history as the oldest American ever to run at an Olympic games.
At the Olympic trials on Saturday, the veteran runner came from behind to pass 5 runners, some 15 years his junior, in the final lap of the men’s 5,000-meter.
Lagat crossed the finish line in first place with a time of 13 minutes and 35.5 seconds, two-tenths ahead of second place finisher Hassan Mead and less than a half-second ahead of third-place qualifier Paul Chelimo.
“I train with young guys and I don’t believe that I’m old,” Lagat said after the race, according to Sports Illustrated. “If you believe that you’re old, you’re going to run like an old man.”
They push me every single day and at the end of the day, they tell me, ‘Man you make us really feel bad,’ he continued. “Because I don’t give up.”
Lagat made his first Olympic appearance at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney where he won a bronze medal for his native Kenya. In 2004 he took home a silver medal in the 1,500-meter.
Then in 2008, he made his first Olympics appearance for the U.S. (where he moved to attend college) at the games in Beijing with a disappointing ninth place finish in the 5,000-meter. He competed for the U.S. again in London in 2012 with a fourth place finish.
After qualifying for his fifth Olympics, Lagat collapsed on the track, overcome with emotion. When he stood back up, third-place finisher Paul Chelimo jumped on his back in celebration.
“He is my mentor, my role model. I look up to him,” Chelimo, who also grew up in Kenya before moving to the U.S., according to ESPN. “Making the team today, I was so happy. There is nothing better than him making the team and me making the team. I’m going to Rio with my legend.”
“My daughter,” Lagat said, according to Yahoo Sports, “tells me, ‘Daddy, I want you to make it to the Olympics so I can go watch gymnastics.’ ”
While Lagat has said he plans to retire later this year, his fellow runners think his time on the track is far from up. Fourth place finisher Eric Jenkins, 21, said: “I’ll probably retire before he does.”
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