Work in Sports
Tergat one of the greatest Kenyan distance runners
NAIROBI, Aug 11 (AFP) - Few people can dispute the fact that Paul Tergat is one of Kenya's greatest distance runners.
Either in the 5,000 metres or the 10,000 metres or the cross-country, he is very much at home.
But while he has dominated the cross-country, winning five successive world titles and the World half-marathon, of which he holds the world record, Tergat has failed to translate those successes to the track.
During the Kenyan trials, he run the 5,000 metres, the event he launched his track career in 1994, but having finished third, Tergat has asked the Kenyan team selectors to allow him run the 10,000 metres in Sydney.
And as he goes into probably his last 10,000 metres in Sydney, before switching to the marathon, the Kenya Air Force sergeant knows very well that he will be up against his long-standing rival and world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia.
Tergat took silver behind the Ethiopian at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and has subsequently had to settle for 10,000 metres silver medals to Gebrselassie at both the 1997 and 1999 world championships.
In 1996, he managed to stamp his name into the record books when he became the fourth Kenyan in four years to break the 10,000 metres world record after William Sigei, Richard Chelimo and Yobes Ondieki.
The 31-year-old Tergat matured late into athletics. At 21 he turned his back on the less glamourous sport of basketball which is only played in Kenyan secondary schools.
In 1992, two years after joining the Kenyan Army, he beat a strong field that included John Ngugi to win the Kenya national cross-country championships and the following year made his international debut at the World cross-country championships in Spain where he finished 10th.
He went better at Budapest, Hungary, in 1994, finishing fourth before starting his magnicent sequence of five successive victories in 1995 in Durham, England.
Tergat appeared set to eclipse Ngugi's record in Vilamoura, Portugal, this year but poor team tactics put paid his hopes.
However, Tergat bounced back when seven days later, he silenced his critics by lowering his World half-marathon record in Lisbon, Portugal, and earned himself 100,000 dollars.
Between training sessions, Tergat, a devout christian, spends his time with his young family. His wife, Monica, gave birth to their third child early this year.
Apart from running his import-export business, he has also ventured into real estate.
He has build a tourist-standard hotel in his home town of Kabarnet, which is being run by his father, whom he considers as the pillar of his rise to the top of the athletic tree.