Lagat: 'This is for everybody in the United States'

OSAKA, Japan -- In his first big race as an American,
Bernard Lagat won the world championship that had long eluded him.

His stirring victory in the 1,500 meters Wednesday night was
something he never quite accomplished as a Kenyan.

"This is a dream come true," the 32-year-old runner said.
"I'm a champion for the United States of America."

Lagat, an American citizen since 2004, became the first U.S.
runner to win a world 1,500-meter championship.

"When you're carrying this flag, it means a lot," Lagat said.
"You're representing everybody, the victims of Katrina, everybody.
Those who are serving in the war in Iraq. This is for everybody in
the United States."

No American has won an Olympic gold medal in the event since Mel
Sheppard in 1908.

"I didn't know the statistics until I was reading on the
Internet yesterday," Lagat said. "Crazy me, searching the net. I
read that nobody has won since 1908, that means 99 years and I'm a

Lagat's history had been one of "almost" in major events. He
lost to the great Hicham El Guerrouj by .12 seconds in the 1,500 at
the Athens Olympics. He won the bronze in the 2000 Olympics and was
second to El Guerrouj at the 2001 worlds in Edmonton.

"I'm champion," he said. "I've never been a champion -- never,
never. I've always come close."

The night was bitter for Lagat's teammate Alan Webb, the
24-year-old who entered the race with the top time in the world
this year. Webb led much of the race but faded to eighth.

"Just a colossal breakdown," he said.

Lagat's triumph and defending champion Michelle Perry's close
victory over Canadian Perdita Felicien in the 100-meter hurdles
gave the United States 10 medals, five of them gold, at the world
track and field championships.

In the 1,500, Webb took the lead early and stayed there for much
of the race. But with 50 meters to go, virtually the entire pack
passed him. Lagat shot to the lead from the outside, just as he had
done in the semifinals.

He won in 3 minutes, 34.77 seconds.

"My coach James Li is a genius in laying out strategies,"
Lagat said. "We worked it out this morning in my hotel room. He
told me `You have everything it takes. You have the speed, you have
the endurance. You have experience.' That's the most important

Biologically, it was a Kenyan sweep. Kenyan-born Rashid Ramzi
was second, running for Brunei. Shedrack Kibet Korir of Kenya was

Lagat has lived in the United States since 1996, when he
enrolled at Washington State. He has long made his home in Tucson,
Ariz. He announced in 2005 that he would run as an American. He
didn't become eligible to compete for the United States in a world
championships or Olympics until Saturday.

"Congratulations," Webb said, "his first world title. He's
been around this sport a long time, and my hat goes off to him. He
ran a great race."

Now Lagat moves on to the 5,000. The first round is Thursday
"I will celebrate tonight with my son and my wife, everybody,
my coach, my family," Lagat said. "But it's back to business

Webb's worlds are finished, and he was bitterly self-critical.

"I wish I could have learned a lesson from that, but I learned
nothing and got nothing out of it," Webb said, spitting out his
words. "If I wanted to get seventh, I would have gone for seventh,
or whatever the hell I got. I didn't come to get seventh, I came to

Perry barely defended her 100-meter hurdle title, leaning across
the line with a style learned from coach Bob Kersee.

"A Bobby Kersee lean, the BK lean," Perry said, laughing.

Perry was timed in 12.46 seconds, Felicien in 12.49. American
Ginnie Powell was a distant fifth in 12.55. Powell revealed Tuesday
that she had a hairline fracture in her left knee, the result of a
crash into a hurdle in Paris on July 6. She had not raced since

Felicien gave Canada its first women's medal since 2003, when she won
the world title. This one came on her 27th birthday.

"We haven't won a medal in a while," she said. "I hope this
can boost the morale on the team. We've got a very talented

Despite complaints that he's a bit weary and has a sore left
hamstring, 100-meter champion Tyson Gay won both his 200-meter
heats, including a 20-second dash in the semifinals. Gay said he
ran for a fast time after he saw Jamaican Usain Bolt win the first
heat in 20.03.

"My hamstring feels a little bit better but I still don't have
that pop out of the blocks. I'm looking for that tomorrow," Gay

The stage was set for a U.S. sweep of the men's 400 when Jeremy
Wariner, Angelo Taylor and LaShawn Merritt each won his semifinal
heat. Merritt was the fastest at 44.31 but Wariner, reigning world
and Olympic champion, went 44.34 even though "shut it down" the
final 60 meters.

"The way I felt just now," he said, "[Friday] is going to be

Christine Ohuruogu won the 400 only weeks after ending a
one-year suspension for missing three doping tests. Ohuruogu came
back stronger than ever, clawing back over the last 20 meters to
sweep past Jamaican Novlene Williams and dragging Nicola Sanders in
her wake to silver for a 1-2 British finish.

The British athletics federation said Ohuruogu's violation was
due to forgetfulness. The 23-year-old is also appealing a British
lifetime ban from the Olympics.

"At this time last year I was in complete turmoil. I didn't
know what I was doing," Ohuruogu said. "It hasn't quite sunk in
yet. I'm just happy that I've worked hard and everything has come
together at the right time."