Cragg Finishes 12th in Olympic 5,000 meters
BY ANDRES FOCIL
ATHENS, Greece – Late Saturday night former Razorback Alistair Cragg represented Ireland in the 5,000 meters at the Olympic Games and finished in 12th place. The seven-time NCAA champion was entering the event with a personal best time of 13:12.74, but an erratic pace forced Cragg out of his race plan and he crossed the line with a time of 13:43.06. In the prelims in recorded a time of 13:23.01.
The winner, Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, posted a time of 13:14.39. El Guerrouj had captured the 1,500-meter gold medal earlier in the week. The Olympic 10K gold medalist, Kenenisa Bekele (Ethyopia), was right behind and earned silver with a time of 13:14.59 and Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge was third (13:15.10).
“I just had dead legs,” Cragg said. “It was my biggest day, but not my best day. I felt like I had no control, because I had no idea how the race was going to be run. It was a guessing game. I’m proud to have been in the same race as all the great runners, but I wish it would have turned out better. I could never throw anything away I learned this week. I just had a bad race on the wrong day.”
The first two laps of the race were very slow as Cragg stayed in the middle of the pack, but then Bekele and Kipchoge took turns exchanging leads and increased the pace significantly for the next 1,200 meters. The splits slowed down again, before the front runners took off in a sprint for the last lap.
Even though he wasn’t completely satisfied with his Olympic debut Cragg had many friends and family members on hand to support his efforts. His parents, brother, sister-in-law and two nephews flew in from London. He also had childhood friends from South Africa in the stands.
“I’ve waited all my life for him to do this, ever since he was born,” Raymond Cragg said. “I wanted to go to the Olympics when I was young, but I never had the chance, because South Africa was banned from them. That was why we got the Irish passport. I would have done anything to get here. This year has been a learning experience. Getting to the finals was the ultimate goal, but I knew when they had those three fast laps in the middle of the race it was going to be trouble.”
“I was very emotional, because I am very proud of his achievements,” Jill Cragg said. “He’s come a long way from when he was in South Africa and the field had such a high caliber of athletes. People that know Alistair were all following the race and cheering him on, from the USA, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, England and Ireland. They were all rooting for him.”
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