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Jebet set to add World to Olympic gold

Saturday August 1 2009

By CHRIS MUSUMBA

Having won in Beijing against everyone’s expectations, Nancy Jebet Lagat is not taking things for granted and might even savour the prospects being both the World and Olympic champion in women 1,500m race.

But there is the small task of qualification through the strenuous preliminary rounds in Berlin, World Championship which kicks off on August 15.

“It would be good to win the gold again in Berlin, but you have to take into account that that is not the focus to us for now. I need to get myself back to my peak form, similar to the one that took me to Beijing,” she said.

Lagat, however, is not losing sleep over what type of performance she will get in Berlin. Together with Viola Kibiwott and Irene Jelegat, she said they will be able to storm the pressure from both the current world leader and champion Bahrain’s world champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal 3:56.55 in Rome. In the same race Viola Kibiwot 4:03.22 was fifth.

“There are about four or five athletes who have also run under the four minutes. But time will not be important in Berlin, how we handle the pressure will count and I intend to navigate through the preliminaries and get to the finals. From there, anything is possible,” she said.

Lagat has clocked a personal best of 4:00.23 in winning the gold in Beijing. But then, nobody had given her a chance. Even her compatriots Kibiwott and Jelegat had beaten her in the trials. Yet she emerged from the obscure position to triumph while Mohammed settled for fifth slot.

Lagat, started her season late and was erratic in Doha, Hengelo and Eugene. But the Olympic 1,500m women champion should be dismissed at own peril.

Head coach Peter Mathu, has only had three days with the trio and is not disappointed over their performance in training. “They are doing well. We are counselling them and also showing them the tactics of sustaining the pressure during the qualification process to the finals. Medals will just fall into place but we must work hard in the preliminary,” said Mathu.

The coach ruled out any pressure and having served as assistant to outgoing Julius Kirwa in Beijing, he has enough experience to counter the opposition.

Not a true reflection

“The times run at the grand prix with the help of the pace setters are usually not a true reflection of an athlete’s ability when it comes to a championship event. How one plans and calculates her moves is important,” he said.

But the coach insisted that the three still have a mountain to climb in terms of sustaining enough endurance that can resist whatever pace that will be thrown at them. He needs to polish up their finishing kicks which he singled out as the crucial element in winning.

“I am currently going through the speed worked and endurance. I have high hopes of making it in Berlin and many will be eying me to reaffirm my ability. I will not answer them now.”

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