Lagat hopes to build on Wanamaker triumph

Jan 31, 2009 - 7:06 AM By Simon Lewis PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (Ticker) - Bernard Lagat declared himself ready to repeat his double world championship success of 2007 after opening his 2009 campaign with victory in the Wanamaker Mile.

Lagat defeated Olympic 1,500-meter bronze medalist Nick Willis of New Zealand at Madison Square Garden on Friday night to claim his seventh Wanamaker Mile win at the Millrose Games and tie Ireland's Eamonn Coghlan for the most wins in the legendary race.

After a disappointing Olympics in Beijing last August, when he struggled with an Achilles tendon injury, the Kenyan-born American believes he can get back to the form that landed him both the 1500m and 5000m world outdoor titles in Osaka at the 2007 World Championships and defend those titles this summer in Berlin.

"Yes, I hope so," Lagat said when asked if he would attempt to repeat his double victory at the Worlds this year. "Last year, I was in good shape and trained so well through the (Olympic) Trials. After the Trials, I got an Achilles tendon problem. It became a big problem three weeks before the Olympics.

"If I train like this, no problems, I could see myself running well like I did since 2007."

Equally successful at the Millrose Games, yet not quite so bullish, was men's pole vault winner Steve Hooker.

The Olympic gold medalist in Beijing, Hooker nearly topped Sergey Bubka's 16-year world indoor record of 20 feet, 2 inches (6.15m). He set meet, U.S. allcomers and personal records as he registered the highest clearance in the world this year, 19-8 1/2 (6.01m), to win the event.

"(Bubka) is the benchmark in pole vault," the Australian Hooker said. "That's the first time I ever put the bar up to his world record. I think that's a good experience, particularly in the first meet of the year. Hopefully, I'll get a couple more shots in coming weeks. I'd like to think that I've got more in me.

"The more jumps I do, hopefully my technique will become more solid. I'm not going to get too ahead of myself, but it's definitely a good way to start the season."

Kara Goucher will be equally as pleased with the defense of her Millrose women's mile title. Returning to New York after having made an impressive marathon debut in the city last November by finishing third behind race winner Paula Radcliffe, Goucher interrupted her Boston Marathon preparations to run an indoor mile.

Despite her heavy-mileage marathon training with coach Alberto Salazar, Goucher clocked 4:33.19, a clear winner over Serbia's Marina Muncan (4:37.77). Ethiopia's Mestawot Tadesse finished third in 4:38.30 and Britain's Barbara Parker was a strong fourth (4:38.64).

"I was ready to do something a little different today," Goucher said. "My coach talked to me about taking the lead at the half mile and slowing it down, which is something I never do. So I took the lead and was waiting for someone to come up on me, but they didn't."

Goucher will return immediately to training for the Boston Marathon on April 20 buoyed by her mile efforts.

"The mile tells me I'm not doing too much," she said. "Alberto says doing the shorter races is a good indicator. When you're training for a marathon, you may feel a little burnt. In an 80-mile week, which is what I'll end up at this week, I can still run a 4:33 mile.

"Apparently, he's not pushing me hard enough. I'm running 18 miles on Sunday."

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