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Rediff.com  » Sports » Lagat ends US drought

Lagat ends US drought

August 29, 2007 20:41 IST

A 99-year-old ghost was laid to rest by Bernard Lagat on Wednesday when he achieved what no American man has managed in almost a century by winning a global 1,500 metres title at the world championships in Osaka.

Never mind that Lagat was Kenyan-born, he dabbed his eyes and placed his right hand over his heart as the Star-Spangled Banner blared over the Nagai stadium sound system to herald his feat at the 11th world championships.

The US had not boasted a men's 1,500m champion in a global event since Melvin Sheppard won the 1908 Olympics in London.

"I've never been happier than this," Lagat said, draped in a US flag "I've been wearing this since I crossed the line.

"It means a lot to win today for the United States of America. I got it. But I didn't know how to celebrate because I had never been number one."

Lagat's was a second gold of the evening for the United States after Michelle Perry retained her 100 metres hurdles title.

BRITISH ONE-TWO

Red, white and blue flags fluttered elsewhere when Britain scored a rare one-two on the podium as Christine Ohuruogu was followed over the line by compatriot Nicola Sanders and Jamaica's Novlene Williams in the 400 metres.

Ohuruogu's victory completed a remarkable comeback for the Commonwealth Games champion, who has just returned from a year's suspension for missing out-of-competition doping tests.

"On the finish line I said 'was it me?'... it's unbelievable," she said. "Oh, I had butterflies I can tell you.

"Never in my wildest dreams could I have thought of coming back after my ban as world champion," she added, her voice breaking and tears rolling down her cheeks.

Franka Dietzsch proved youth is not everything when she took a third world discus gold medal five months shy of her 40th birthday.

The German retained her title competing in her record-equalling ninth championships.

"This is crazy," she grinned, "I beat all the young girls -- I don't feel like I'm 39."

As in her 1999 and 2005 triumphs, the bank clerk's first attempt was good enough to take the title with 66.61 metres.

LAGAT'S WAIT

Lagat, 32, only became eligible to compete for the US in international competition this year, but few Americans will worry about that after his victory in three minutes 34.77 seconds.

Defending champion Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain, who became the first man to do the world 800m and 1500m double in Helsinki two years ago, claimed silver in 3.35.00 with Kenyan Shadrack Korir winning bronze in 3.35.04.

Former heptathlete Perry retained her 100m world title with a powerful late surge to win in 12.46 seconds.

"It was amazing from the first six hurdles and a fight for the finish," she said.

Canada's Perdita Felicien, the 2003 world champion, took silver in 12.49 with Jamaican Delloreen Ennis-London sneaking the bronze medal in 12.50.

Bahamian Donald Thomas completed his rapid rise to the top of international athletics when he clinched the high jump title. A former basketball player, Thomas made a phenomenal start to his high jump career 18 months ago when he jumped 2.20m indoors without having had any training in five years.

"When you show up, then you show up in great shape so I'm not surprised I won," the 23-year-old said. "I always want to be on top."

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