CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. -- Paul Ereng is eyeing more world records and gold medals, and his coach says the indoor world-record holder in the 800 meters stands every chance of achieving his goals.
"I think his chances are as good as or better than anyone else's," said Fred Hardy, the coach with whom Ereng was recently reunited. "I'm not saying it's a certainty, but it's within the realm of probability."
Ereng, the 1988 Olympic gold medal winner and former NCAA champion in the 800, and Hardy are working this fall to get the 23-year-old Kenyan poised for an attempt on his indoor mark of 1 minute 44.84 seconds.
"What I'm looking forward to now is breaking my world indoor record. I want to try it in February," said Ereng, a junior at the University of Virginia. "I believe I am capable of doing it, especially now that I have Coach Hardy working with me."
Hardy was an assistant track coach at Virginia three years ago when he helped recruit Ereng. But it took Ereng to bring the coach back after Hardy left Charlottesville a year ago for an assistant coaching job at North Carolina.
"Paul asked and I was reluctant because there comes a time when a coach has done everything he can," said Hardy. "But Paul insisted, and I agreed to take him at least through Barcelona," site of the 1992 Olympics.
Beyond the indoor record, Ereng said he also has his sights set on the world outdoor record and the gold medal in the world championships in Tokyo in 1991.
Since mid-September, Hardy has been commuting 45 minutes from his James River farm four times a week to supervise Ereng's workouts on the Virginia track.
"The running I am doing now, my times are going really good and Coach Hardy is excited," Ereng said. "I've never seen him excited before and that excites me too.
"I feel I'm already ready this time of year -- it's November. I know that nobody gets ready this time of year."
The season's first competition is still a month away. Meanwhile, Ereng said his work as a religious studies major is sometimes a welcome distraction.
Last year, in his first season as a professional, Ereng ran a 1:43.78 -- fourth fastest time in the world. Still, he also was slowed by a flu virus and eventually missed most of the second half of the season with a pulled hamstring.
"I think last season was a kind of strengthening thing for me," Ereng said. "It makes you appreciate what you are really: a human being. These things are not a guarantee; they are not a right that you should have them."
Ereng's setbacks last year, which Hardy calls "a very modest stumble" were his first since his unexpected victory in the '88 Olympic final.
A 400-meter runner in Kenya, Ereng had competed in the 800 only about a dozen times before winning the gold medal, Hardy said. Five months later, he showed he wasn't a fluke by setting his world record.