3 August 2012

Uganda's Kiplagat Plots for Sunday's Gold

Photo: New Vision
Benjamin Kiplaga, left.

With Uganda's chances of winning Olympic events this year in London passing for another day's debate, what Benjamin Kiplagat can think of is to try and resurrect the country's hopes for a first (medal) come Sunday.

The 3000m Steeplechase athlete will have gold in his sights following his Friday's narrow qualification for the men's final.

He clocked 8:18.44 for a sixth place finish in Heat 1 at the Olympic Stadium. His time beat that of seven other athletes to help him scramble for a place in the Sunday final.

Now Uganda's chances of securing a first medal in London, for now, lies in the mind and body of man who is determined to build on his Africa Championships bronze medal. And that's exactly what he has been training for.

Kiplagat's qualification did not come easy though. It never is anyways for any athlete who is competing among the best of the best on such a global stage as the Olympics has to offer.

A trip in midair as he sprang over the steeple in the second-last lap should have inspired a skip of the heart pulse, but for the experienced Kiplagat, this was just another of those expected moments.

He did well to regain his footing after landing hard in the water, almost a fall - sprinted on. He knew he had to tagalong the rest of the front pack lest it was over for him.

The 23-year old long-distance runner did not let his ego down as he bundled up his spirit and raced for the finish line.

"I tried to push hard to qualify and it's good that I have managed to do it. I will now plan for Sunday," his determination was as clear as his energy.

Despite the brief mishap that could have led to his end if he had not handled it smartly, the young runner had started off the seven-and-a-half lap race well in the lead for the first five. He knew he was running alongside the best in the game.

France's Mekhissi-Benabbad Mahiedine who crossed the finish line ahead of the whole pack with 8:16.23 won silver in Beijing four years ago.

And the likes of US's Jager Evan, Kenya's Mutai Abel Kiprop, Turkey's Akdag Tarik Langat and Ethiopia's Mesfin Nahom couldn't spare any other better position but the sixth for Kiplagat.

If Kiplagat wins a medal in Sunday's 3000m steeplechase men's final, it will be Uganda's first since Davis Kamoga stunned the world by snatching 400m bronze in Atlanta, USA in 1996.

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