The considerable assets of Kenenisa Bekele have been in deep freeze since 9 January last year. At a snowbound Holyrood Park that Saturday afternoon the all-conquering Ethiopian king of distance running was reduced to a mere also-ran, finishing a shivering fourth in the 9km feature race in the Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country meeting. It was only his second defeat in a cross-country race in eight years.
Bekele has since missed 19 months of racing because of a ruptured calf muscle but will emerge from cold storage in the heat and humidity of Daegu this morning. The big question is whether the great man of the 10,000m – twice an Olympic champion at the distance, four times a world champion and never beaten in the 25-lap event – can avoid being burned off by the hot new property at the top of the distance running game.
The answer will be delivered over the course of 28 or so intriguing minutes, starting at 11.30am British time. Mo Farah lines up as the strong favourite for the men's 10,000m final on day two of the World Championships. Top of the world rankings tree at both 5,000m and 10,000m, the 28-year-old Briton has built up a 10-race unbeaten streak, gathering the momentum of a man with an assured, winning look about him, since moving to the United States to join Alberto Salazar's training group in January.
Untouchable a year ago, with his 5,000m-10,000m double at the European Championships in Barcelona, Farah now appears to be a class apart at global level. The big question is whether he can handle the great expectation. "We will see," Charles van Commenee, the head coach of the British team, said. "The proof of the pudding is in the competition."
Quite. The crunch will come when one of Farah's rivals makes a mid-race move, as surely they must to have any hope of eclipsing the in-form man. Whether Bekele will be in sufficient shape to lay down the gauntlet has to be doubtful. Although he arrived in Daegu in bullish mood on Thursday the diminutive Ethiopian can hardly hope to match Farah's razor-like race sharpness.
The big threat to the Briton could possibly come from Zersenay Tadese, the Eritrean who took silver behind Bekele in the last World Championship final in Berlin two years ago, although he was no match for Farah over the final lap of the 10,000m at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon in June.
"I might be the favourite but I can't think like that," Farah said. "You've got to respect everybody else. Anything can happen on the day. It's just about getting it right."