Mo Farah's hero is Muhammad Ali – his bedroom wall used to be covered with posters of the peerless pugilist. Now, having delivered a knockout blow to his rivals in the last 100 metres of the 10,000m final last Saturday night, Farah has already followed his lifelong idol into the history books as an Olympic champion.
There might be a second title for the Londoner in the 5,000m final this Saturday, but in yesterday morning's heats he had no chance of floating like a butterfly. Farah found himself being bumped and barged in a roughhouse affair and at one point, with three laps to go, he stumbled and almost fell.
It was only in the closing stages that he could get a clear run, sprinting into the third of five automatic qualifying spots in 13min 26sec, behind Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan and Isiah Koech of Kenya.
"It was really rough," Farah said. "It was like being in the ring with Anthony Ogogo. As soon as they saw me, there was a lot of barging and pushing. It was rough but I managed to get through." Did he feel he was singled out for rough treatment? "There is definitely a target on my back. I am the Olympic champion over 10,000m. You just have to accept it. Hopefully, the final won't be as rough because we won't have so many guys." Indeed, after all the effort and emotion of his epic 10,000m win on Super Saturday, Farah confessed he did not feel on top of his game yesterday. "I am definitely tired and I think it showed out there," he said. "The legs didn't feel great but that is what happens. Hopefully, I will recover well and rest up.
"I'm looking forward to the final. There is zero pressure. I am not putting any pressure on myself.
"It is amazing to have the crowd," Farah added. "I want to do well for the crowd because the support drives you further. I am full of confidence and having the home crowd will definitely drive me more. Whatever happens, I will give 100 per cent"
The second heat of the 5,000m was faster than the first, and was won by the Ethiopian Dejen Gebremeskel in 13min 15.15sec. Farah's American training partner Galen Rupp, the silver medal-winner in the 10,000m, came sixth in 13min 17.56sec, qualifying for the final as a fastest loser.
The Morpeth Harrier Nick McCormick, who is Farah's lone British team-mate in the event, finished 12th in 13min 25.70sec and failed to make the cut. "I gave it absolutely everything," McCormick said. "I have no regrets. I've learnt a lot today. It's the Olympics and I'm proud to be here. The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic."