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Lagat Captures Gold in 1,500

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 29, 2007; 12:06 PM

OSAKA, Japan, Aug. 29 -- Reston middle distance runner Alan Webb made an attempt to congratulate Bernard Lagat for his gold medal in the 1,500 meters at the 11th IAAF world track and field championships Wednesday, but the Kenyan-born American was so engrossed in celebrating his night's work that he didn't notice Webb behind him.

As Lagat held up the U.S. flag to an appreciative crowd at Nagai Stadium, joyous and oblivious, Webb gave him an unacknowledged pat on his back with both hands, then spun around and took off. He didn't look much in the mood for celebrating, anyway.

Three years after becoming a U.S. citizen, Lagat had claimed the first U.S. 1,500 gold in in an Olympics or world championships in 99 years with his finish in 3 minutes, 34.77 seconds.

Webb, long figured to be the savior of American middle distance running, finished almost a full second later in eighth place.

As Lagat embarked on a victory lap and tugged on his jersey to emphasize the "USA" on the front, Webb, who had the fastest time in the world in the event, strode hastily off the track. As he walked, he shredded the lane number that was on his shorts with abrupt jerks of his hand and ceremoniously pitched the pieces behind him.

Eighth.

Webb, 24, entered these championships in the midst of one of the most phenomenal seasons in U.S. middle distance running history. He had broken the 25-year-old U.S. record in the mile. He had beaten the world's best in several races. No miler in the world had performed better this summer.

He led the race for two laps, controlling the pace before letting Kenyan Asbel Kiprop take over. Webb stayed on his shoulder with Lagat sitting comfortably in fourth. Around the final curve, Lagat made a huge, easy push, using a burst of speed to cruise to victory. Bahrain's Rashid Ramzi worked his way up to second in 3:35.00 and Kenyan Shedrack Kibet Korir got the bronze in 3:35.26.

Webb was unable to keep up with the surging mass of runners in the 14-man final. He looked out of gas as he crossed the line in 3:35.69.

Summoned by a group of reporters about 20 minutes after the race, Webb spoke with piercing intensity, making no attempt to mask his disgust. A vein bulged in the middle of his forehead. His face flushed. He blinked water out of his eyes, seemingly refusing to succumb to tears.

"I just got beat," he said, "by everybody . . . I don't even know what I'm supposed to think right now. I don't . . . I was doing so awesome until this week. It was just a colossal breakdown."

Asked, after about a minute of questions, whether he had learned a lesson in a race considered almost as tactical as athletic, Webb words suddenly came with intensifying fury. He emphasized every mention of "seventh" -- where he at first thought he had finished -- as if he despised saying it.


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