With due respect to Andy Vernon of Aldershot Farnham and District Athletics Club and the rest of the 5,000m field at the Aviva UK Trials and Championships yesterday, there will be tougher opposition for Mo Farah to tackle before the summer is out. Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, for one.
The reigning world and Olympic champion and world record holder at 5,000m and 10,000m, Bekele has not raced since January last year but is planning a comeback to defend his 10,000m title at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, at the end of the month. He has never been beaten at the 25-lap distance.
Farah has been unbeaten in his last nine races now, having shot past Vernon with 300m remaining yesterday to claim a formality of a national title in Birmingham in 14min 00.72sec – more than a minute outside the British record time he set in Monaco 10 days ago. On the strength of the razor-sharp form he has been showing since hitting the Oregon trail and teaming up with Alberto Salazar, the 28-year-old Londoner – not Bekele or any other of the Ethiopians or Kenyans – will line up as the man to beat when the world 10,000m title will be on the line on Sunday 28 August.
Asked whether he believed he could win gold in Daegu, Farah replied: "I think there's definitely a good chance. It's nice to have that confidence but running in championships and running fast times are very different.
"Bekele is a different class. He's run 12:37, so he's a completely different level. But at the same time it would be nice to race someone who is so good. I can't say I feel invincible, but I do feel I'm ready. I've definitely got confidence. I'm going out there believing I can win a medal."
That belief is likely to be strengthened by a third British record of the summer for Farah at the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace on Friday night. He runs in the 3,000m, with Dave Moorcroft's 29-year-old figures of 7:32.79 at his mercy.
Sadly, the other British athlete occupying a top place in the world rankings, Jessica Ennis, the queen of the heptathlon world, will not be in action at the Palace. The 100m hurdles in the low-key LEAP Meeting at Loughborough on 11 August will be her final outing before she defends her world crown in South Korea.
It will also be the Sheffield woman's last competitive appearance in Britain before the home Olympic year of 2012 comes round. Still, the crowd at the Alexander Stadium saw plenty of Ennis in hurdling, jumping and throwing action on Saturday and Sunday.
The great British all-rounder started off on Saturday by equalling her outdoor personal best in the shot, 14.25m, then cleared 1.89m for victory in the high jump and clocked 12.96sec for second place behind British record holder Tiffany Porter in the 100m hurdles. Yesterday she took third place in the long jump with 6.44m, a season's best, and finished 10th in the javelin with 42.93m.
"I was disappointed with the javelin but pleased overall," Ennis said. "I've been working on some things in the long jump and I feel that it's improving. Hopefully I can gain a little bit more come Daegu. It's been a really good weekend."
It was also a good weekend for Perri Shakes-Drayton. The East Ender with the double-barrelled name became the first woman to complete a national championship double in the 400m hurdles and the 400m flat. Yesterday she won her specialist event, the one-lap hurdles, in 55.52sec. On Saturday she won the barrier-free quarter-mile in 51.52sec, taking the scalp of Christine Ohuruogu, the reigning Olympic 400m champion. "All of the hard work is paying off," said the daughter of Patrick Drayton, one of Lennox Lewis' old fitness trainers.
The hard graft is also paying off for James Shane, the steadily emerging bright new thing of British middle distance running. With his long legs, his blond hair and his yellow-and-black vest, the 21-year-old from Basildon had more than a look of Steve Cram about him as he strode clear of the 1500m field, reducing his personal best to 3min 36.22sec. "I'm just overwhelmed to have won the national 1500m title," he said
Sadly, it was an underwhelming day in the discus for Lawrence Okoye. Last month the 19-year-old Croydon Harrier broke the British record with a monster 67.63m throw but he has been bedevilled by consistency all summer. He might stand fourth in the world rankings but when it came to the domestic championships yesterday he finished down in fifth with 58.67m.
Okoye now faces a battle with Brett Morse for the third selection spot on the British team for Daegu. "I need to go back to the drawing board and work on being more consistent," he said
Best and worst of British
Jeanette Kwakye Storming 100m win in 11.23sec for 2008 Olympic finalist.
Perri Shakes-Drayton The hurdler beat Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu to win 400m.
James Shane Brilliant 1500m victory for the emerging young Basildon man.
Michael Bingham The European 400m silver medallist bombed out in the heats.
Mark Lewis-Francis The European 100m silver medallist knocked out by false start.
Lawrence Okoye He is fourth in the world in discus but finished fifth in national championships.Reuse content