She basks in the glory of having won an Olympic gold medal.
Although she has failed twice to reach final at the World Championships in Athletics, Beijing Olympics 1,500m champion Nancy Jebet Lagat, has her gloves off ahead of the 13th IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, from August 27.
Lagat, who started running while a Standard Seven pupil at Kapletingi Primary School, Keiyo South, returns to Asia keen to accomplish a double task.
The 29-year-old stern-faced soldier wants to rectify the false runs she made at the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005 and at the 2009 Berlin Worlds to prove that her Olympic crown was no flash in the pan.
Not that she hasn’t fired warning shots yet. Lagat completed a rare 800m and 1,500m at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
She failed to reach the 1,500m final in Hesinki and then lost in the first rounds in Berlin, but picked up at the end of season, finishing 2009 with a win at the World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Lagat works at the Kenya Air Force and earned an Athletics Kenya wild card after finishing third (4:08.90) at the Nyayo National Stadium during last month’s national trials.
“The preparations are fine... My strategy in Daegu is to make it to the final first, since it is simply very challenging. I harbour ambitions for gold but I know it is no easy task,” Lagat said after her training at the Moi International Sports Centre on Tuesday.
She produced a dismal showing after winning the Olympics but bounced back with impressive wins last year and bagged the Africa and Commonwealth Games 1,500m crowns.
Victory was to follow in the lucrative IAAF Diamond League where she swept all her races against the world’s best.
Faces uphill task
But the alumna of Kapkenda Girls’ High School in Keiyo South faces an uphill task in Daegu.
“I always do not look at other runners, but plan my own race and I believe the wide experience I have had in the race will be quite helpful.
“It motivates and means a lot to me because I know very well that many wanted to make the team but could not,” said Lagat, who is married to marathoner Kenneth Cheruiyot.
She will face stiff challenge from fellow Kenyans Hellen Obiri — winner at the nationals — and two-time World Cross-Country junior winner Viola Kibiwott.
Kibiwott competed against Lagat while a student in Sing’ore Girls, and could be heading to Daegu to change the pecking order after finishing outside medal bracket several times in major championships.
Perennial rivals Ethiopia are also expected to offer a mouth-watering clash, with Kalkidan Gezahegne, Meskerem Assefa, and Gelete Burka lining up.
USA will field its champion Morgan Uceny (4:03.91), runner-up Jenny Simpson (4:05.66) and Shannon Rowbury (4:08.90), the 2009 World Championships bronze medallist.
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 Amsterdam Marathon winner Alice Timbilil and both attended Kapkenda Girls High School and shone in the junior level.
“At home, I could meet runners training by the roadside and I felt I admired athletics. My brother David Lagat is an upcoming 1,500m runner,” Lagat added.