EUGENE, Ore. - In the world of track and field, Kenyan-born Bernard Lagat has one of the most accomplished careers in history. He was an 11-time All-American at Washington State University and went on to become a nine-time world indoor and outdoor medalist, among many other accomplishments.
Lagat headed into the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games as a Team USA favorite for the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, having won gold medals in both events at the Osaka World Championships a year earlier.
Beijing, however, turned out to be a disappointment. He suffered an Achilles tendon injury just weeks before the Games that hampered his final preparations and a viral infection prior to the beginning of competition.
Four years later, during the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, Lagat set his sights on the one medal he doesn't have: Olympic Gold.
"I just want to run for the gold; There's nothing else. I am not going to run for a second spot, " Lagat told a crowd of reporters. "That is what I want. That would define me."
For runners, time is everything. Wins are measured in seconds. So at 37 years old, Lagat is well aware that his time is of the essence since the window to fulfill his dream is steadily closing.
"This is my last chance and I've always said, I'm going to run, this is my last chance," he continued. "I'm not going to think anything past 2012."
In fact, some question if the veteran track star is still capable of beating out younger competitors. But at this remark, Lagat grinned. Heading into the Olympic Trials, he is more confident than ever.
"At this age, everybody is running fast but I always try to tell myself that age is something that is just a number. I believe that. I'm running strong," Lagat said. " I still have the speed so why not go in there and do the best I can without limiting myself to, "Whoa! I'm running against the guys who are younger and faster?'
No! I don't want to put myself through that."
Lagat said he is in top shape both physically and mentally. He explained that he began his rigorous, high-altitude training by focusing on long-distance running and then switched gears to shorter spurts that concentrated on speed. It's this training and persistence that Lagat believes will be his ticket to London and a shot at earning that elusive Olympic gold medal.
"If you are prepared like I am, let's go and meet at the finals and may the best man win."