While on a training trip to Addis Ababa in November Mo Farah was invited to the home of Haile Gebrselassie and found himself doing a traditional national dance in the company of the great Ethiopian distance runner.
There was a time when the man known as “the Little Emperor” kept to a record beat in the National Indoor Arena here in England’s Second City. With the high-tempo of Skatman blasting over the public address system, Gebrselassie set world indoor records in Birmingham for 2,000m in 1998, for 5,000m in 1999 and for two miles in 2003. Yesterday, Farah had the place dancing to his record-beating tune.
It may have “only” been a British record but it was a hugely impressive one nevertheless by the slender one-time refugee from Somalia who has been an adopted Londoner since the age of nine. For 13 laps of the 3,000m in the Aviva Grand Prix meeting, Farah stuck doggedly on the tail of Shadrack Korir. Then, with two laps to go, the 25-year-old Twickenham resident showed a clean pair of heels to a Kenyan who boasts the pedigree of a World Championship 1500m bronze medallist.
Slipping into overdrive, the smooth-striding Farah put 4.14sec between himself and Korir over the final 400m, crossing the line in 7min 34.47sec. In doing so, he took a whopping 6.52sec off the British record figures he had established in Glasgow just three weeks ago, earning his second $5,000 bonus of the indoor season. He also moved to fourth place in the world rankings for 2009 and, more significantly, to second in the European all-time ranking list, ahead of Spain’s Fermin Cacho and Dieter Baumann of Germany – Olympic champions both – and within striking range of the 7:32.98 recorded by Alberto Garcia of Spain in Seville in 2003.
“I knew I was in great shape,” Farah reflected. “I’ve just got to hold it together for the European Indoor Championships in Turin. I’ll go out there and give it 110 per cent.” Just 100 per cent of what the pride of the Newham and Essex Beagles club gave yesterday is likely to be too much for his rivals to handle when continental gold is on the line in northern Italy in a fortnight’s time, such is the rich seam of form he has struck since returning from training trips not just to Ethiopia but also to Kenya this winter.
Clearly, the disappointment of failing to make the Olympic 5,000m final in Beijing last summer is proving to be potent motivational fuel for Farah. Second in the European Championship 5,000m final in 2006 and sixth in the World Championships in 2007, he is rapidly realising his world class potential under the astute guidance of Alan Storey, the distance running guru who guided the Geordie distance running icon Mick “the kick” McLeod to Olympic 10,000m silver in Los Angeles in 1984 and Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan to Olympic 5,000m silver in Sydney in 2000.
It just so happened that McLeod’s younger son, Ryan, a Great Britain Under-23 international, was one of a clutch of home runners who clocked personal bests in Farah’s high speed wake – in his case 8:00.14 in seventh place, with Nick McCormick third in 7:50.50, Mark Draper fifth in 7:56.44 and Jonathan Taylor sixth in 7:58.60.
There was also a British record in the women’s pole vault, Sale Harrier Kate Dennison clearing 4.46m in a competition won by Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva with 4.82m. There was very nearly another in the women’s 800m, Marilyn Okoro missing Kelly Holmes’ national figures by a tantalising 0.06sec as she held off Jenny Meadows to claim victory in 1:59.27. “I’m pleased with that, going into Turin,” the Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier said.
Simeon Williamson was similarly satisfied with his showing yesterday, after winning the men’s 60m in 6.53sec – a time bettered by only one European this year, Dwain Chambers. The Highgate Harrier has patently benefited from spending Christmas training with Asafa Powell in Jamaica.