Track and field legend Bernard Lagat has backed Scotland’s Chris O’Hare to flourish on the world stage now his American university studies are complete
Hampden looms on the horizon for the 1500m specialist from Edinburgh AC who went to the World Champs in Moscow and the World Indoors with Team GB and NI.
And Lagat, the Kenyan-born American who has a remarkable dozen global medals to his name, believes O’Hare has had the perfect grounding for future stardom after his spell at Tulsa University on the NCAA circuit.
Lagat was speaking to PB, the quarterly magazine issued to 9000 scottishathletics members, as excitement rises within the sport and beyond ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
‘I did some 200m reps with Chris on the Thursday night before the Glasgow International event in Scotland in January,’ smiled 39-year-old Bernard, a real legend of the sport who won a World Indoors 3000m silver in Sopot last weekend.
‘It was a lot of fun and he was pretty quick. I always think you can see right away if someone is a top class runner by the speed they turn their legs over . . . and he is a top class runner.
‘Of course I knew Chris from the collegiate scene in the United States.
‘I ran in the same meet as him at the Millrose Games in February 2013 – it was the night he took the NCAA mile record. I believe Chris ran 3.52.98 that night and I ran a two-mile race on the same track.
‘When I was a collegiate athlete I never held that mile record, no. I think I did 3.55 back in 1998. That was second fastest in terms of the NCAA mile for quite a number of years in fact.
‘O’Hare has clearly had a good education in terms of his athletics in America. He has come through that NCAA system and I always say, having done it myself, that it prepares you very well if you have ambitions to compete at the very highest level.
‘I came out of that and straight into finals at the Worlds and the Olympics. I would always recommend college in America to anyone because it makes you race better.
‘You race all the time – sometimes once every week sometimes once every fortnight and sometimes even twice a week. You do that on a regular basis and you find out if you are ready.
‘Chris has done that and he came out of it and went into the World final in Moscow. Now he’s going to be a full-time athlete, without college education to think about, and that will benefit him in a big way as well.’
O’Hare just missed out on a final place in Poland last week and is expected to sign a professional deal between now and his final preparations for the Games.
Lagat, for his part, enjoyed that January flying visit to Scotland even if he was taken aback by a media conference PR stunt which featured a haggis, a piper and a large knife in Glasgow prior to the International – which just happened to take place on Burns Night.
He tried the haggis – ‘it was quite tasty, but I’m not sure if it is good for an athlete? – but couldn’t persuade NIKE to give him tartan shorts. Running will remain his daily diet.
He smiled: ‘I don’t know about Rio in 2016 yet but I will definitely be running in my 40s. And my 50s.
‘I will not stop running. If I did that, I would have a problem and I think I am gonna get FAT ….’
Laura Muir is the front cover star on PB magazine following two Scottish indoor records at 800m and 1500m over the winter.
And the magazine also includes Olympian Katherine Grainger speaking on the issue of keeping teenage girls in the sport as well as features on Helensburgh AAC, Shetland AAC and the Gould Trust, a Legacy-type project in Glasgow.
*More than 500 young athletes are entered for the scottishathletics Junior Road Races at Heriot Watt on Sunday with places up for grabs for the London Mini Marathon in April at U15 and U17 level.