April 13, 2005
PULLMAN, Wash. -- Bernard Lagat, a former Washington State standout and the second-fastest 1500m runner of all time, became an American citizen and plans to compete for the United States.
"I though long and hard before changing my nationality but, at the age of 30, I have to look to my future, after my running career has come to an end," Lagat said in a statement according to an Associated Press story.
Lagat, originally from Kapsabet, Kenya, was a silver medalist in the 1500m at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the bronze medalist in the same event at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. While at WSU, Lagat was the NCAA Indoor Champion in both the mile and 3000m (1999) and ran on WSU's champion distance medley relay (1998). He went on to win the NCAA Outdoor 5000m in addition to being a four-time Pacific-10 Conference champion. In 1999, Lagat was honored as the NCAA Indoor Male Athlete of the Year and the Pac-10 Male Athlete of the Year.
Now living and training in Tucson, Arizona, Lagat became a U.S. citizen March 29, 2005. In order to compete at any International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) events, Lagat may have to wait up to three years from his last competition date representing Kenya, Aug. 25, 2004, unless Kenyan officials agree to the change of citizenship and then the waiting period would be reduced to one year. A decision is expected later this year. He joins many Kenyans who have changed nationalities in recent years.
Lagat is able to represent the United States in Golden League meets and invitationals and will run the 5000m at the Mt. SAC Relays Sunday at Walnut, Calif. His plan is to continue running competitively until at least the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
"Most of my family still lives in Kenya and I will continue to maintain strong links with the country," Lagat was quoted as saying in the AP story.