And now for something completely different. Perhaps nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition of Monty Python fame, with their "diverse elements of fear, surprise and ruthless efficiency," but when it comes to the men's 10,000 metres final in the Olympic Stadium tonight Mo Farah will be expecting the unexpected.
Above all else, he will be hoping for something completely different than the 10,000m final at the World Championships in Daegu a year ago. On that occasion, the pride of Britain's distance runners got caught utterly by surprise when his kick for home failed to drop an unheralded rival and he found himself being outkicked in the home straight by Ibrahim Jeilan. Farah and his coach, Alberto Salazar, had been unaware of Jeilan's finishing speed.
For the past 12 months, the experience has rankled, even though the 29-year-old Londoner recovered from the setback to win the 5,000m before he left Daegu. His tactics that time were spot on and they will need to be again tonight if Farah is to end 116 years of hurt and become the first British athlete, male or female, to win an Olympic 10,000m title.
"I'm not going to be taken by surprise," Farah pledged. "Last year I was because I had never heard of Jeilan, I was thinking about Imane Merga [another Ethiopian] and the rest of the guys. You work hard in training so that when someone is on your shoulder you can kick again and come home strong. In that race I was beaten by the better man on the day. He did everything right. I did 99 per cent right but it was that 1 per cent where you didn't think about that guy – that was the difference."
Since the hijacking in the home straight in Daegu, Farah has been striving to develop an extra gear. "I've been working on a second kick," he said. "On the last lap in Daegu my first 200m was 26sec and the second 200m was 27sec. It should be the other way around. The second 200m should be faster.
"I was thinking if I could break Merga he couldn't close the gap and I could just hold it. That's what I expected, but it didn't happen. Jeilan came along."
If it came down to the last of the 25 laps tonight, Farah could bank on a little turbo-charging from the home crowd. This time, however, he will be looking out for an early strike by one of his rivals.
"I don't think it will come down to the last lap," Farah said. "There are athletes who can't wait for Mo Farah. It's like Hicham El Guerrouj in the 5,000m in Athens. They all waited and waited and, of course, Hicham [being the world record holder at 1500m and the mile] had a better kick than everyone else and he won the race.
"In my opinion, there are a lot of guys who want to do well and win a medal and they are not going to leave it until one lap to go. I think it might be mid-race.
"I know my opposition will watch me and use the strongest tactics they can to beat me. That probably means them going out hard in the middle of the race or doing something that can throw me off my game."
The 31-strong field includes Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele, who will be aiming for an unprecedented third successive Olympic 10,000m crown. Jeilan, however, will be a notable absentee. He might be the reigning world champion but he failed to qualify for the Ethiopian team.
That was one particular surprise Farah did not see coming.Reuse content