Bernard Lagat is sure to be a fan favorite on the track at the 2016 Olympic Games. At 41-years-old, the middle distance runner is the oldest and most experienced member of the Olympic track and field team. His emotive personality has long made him a favorite of other athletes on the track, and come Rio, he’ll likely be a favorite of fans, as well.
Find out more about five-time Olympian Bernard Lagat with the five fast facts below.
1. The 2016 Olympics will mark the fifth for Lagat, but he hasn’t always been a U.S. citizen.
Lagat first competed at the Olympic Games in 2000, where he won the bronze medal in the men’s 5,000-meter event. There, he ran for his native Kenya. Lagat represented Kenya once again at the 2004 Olympics, where he won a silver medal in the 1,500-meter event.
Olympians with Tucson ties: Bernard Lagat https://t.co/butoDbOlFE
— Bernard Lagat (@LagatUpdate) July 24, 2016
In 2005, Lagat announced that he had become a naturalized citizen of the United States, and in 2007, he won his first world championship medals representing his new country. He went on to run the 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter for the United States at the 2008 Olympics, though he failed to earn a medal. At the 2012 Olympics, he finished fourth in the 5,000-meter event.
At the 2016 U.S. track and field Olympic trials, Lagat surged to win the 5,000-meter, giving him the opportunity to run in his fifth Olympics.
2. Lagat was encouraged by his daughter to train for his fifth Olympics.
Lagat’s daughter, Gianni, encouraged him to continue training for the 2016 Olympic Games. She wanted to watch the events, she said, but it might not be quite what one would expect, he told Yahoo Sports.
“My daughter tells me, ‘Daddy, I want you to make it to the Olympics so I can go watch gymnastics.'”
Lagat’s daughter was born in 2008, so at the London Olympics, she wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate the Olympics, but this time will be different, Lagat said. Gianni will have the opportunity to see Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian, and Laurie Hernandez.
3. As a child, Lagat ran to school each day.
When he was a child living in Kapsabet, Kenya, Lagat had to run 1.5 miles to and from school each day, he has famously said. Despite the fact that he did a lot of running as a child, he didn’t become a serious athlete until he began attending Jomo Kenyatta University College of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya.
In 1996, he moved to the United States on a track scholarship from Washington State University, and his career really began to take off. While at WSU, Lagat earned a degree in management information systems.
— G8 Performance (@g8performance) July 14, 2016
4. To Lagat, age is just a number.
Despite the fact that he’s older than anyone else on the track and field team, Lagat says he doesn’t feel his age. In fact, the 41-year-old father said in a post-race press conference that he feels much younger.
“I don’t believe I’m old. Because if I believe I’m old, I’m gonna run like an old man.”
5. Lagat has worked with the same coach for 20 years.
When Lagat came to the United States as a 21-year-old, his coach, James Li, wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of Lagat, he said. At the time, Li believed others thought highly of Lagat and his talents.
Now, 20 years later, Li admits he was wrong.
“We definitely knew he was really good,” Li told the Washington Post. “But no, you don’t expect someone to be that good.”
In the years since, Lagat has surprised Li and proven him wrong, his coach said, and he continues to do so.
And at the 2016 Olympic Games, Bernard Lagat has the opportunity to do it at least one more time.
Will you tune in to watch Bernard Lagat run during the 2016 Olympic Games?
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]