Farah paves the way with gold

Briton wins 10,000m on first day of European Championships as team-mate Thompson celebrates a well-deserved silver
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The lawmakers of Catalonia have a meeting here in the region's capital this evening. The item on the agenda is the outlawing of bullfighting. After the manner in which Mo Farah toyed with the main home hope in the closing stages of the first track final of the European Championships in the Montjuic Stadium last night, before putting poor Ayad Lamdassem and the rest of the men's 10,000m field to the sword, they will be in the mood to bring an end to the bloodshed.

With three of the 25 laps remaining and Farah in front, the Briton stepped into lane two and ushered the Spaniard into the lead, putting an index finger to his lips in a shushing gesture that clearly was intended for the benefit of the partisan home crowd as well as for Lamdassem. Farah was far from finished. With two laps to go and Lamdassem straining every sinew to get away from him, the Somali-born, London-raised leading light of British distance running turned behind and stretched out an arm, gesturing Chris Thompson, his British team-mate and old age-group rival to come and join him.

With 300m to go, Farah finally put Lamdassem out of his misery and silenced the Spanish crowd, shooting decisively clear and savouring the golden moment in the home straight as he claimed a historic victory. The time, 28 minutes 27.33 seconds, was merely incidental. For all of Britain's rich tradition in men's 10,000m running, no male Briton had ever won the European title at the distance. Not Dave Bedford. Not Brendan Foster. Not Steve Jones. Not Mike McLeod.

That Farah should become the first, and wring every last drop of enjoyment out of it on Spanish soil, was entirely understandable. At the last European Championships, in Gothenburg four years ago, the 27-year-old was beaten to the 5,000m gold by a tantalising 0.09sec – and by a Spaniard, Jesus Espana.

Farah's joy was doubled when he turned around and saw Thompson finishing like a train. It was a one-two for Britain, and for the close mates who once entered the home straight holding hands together in a European cross-country trial race at Margate. Back in 2003, in the 5,000m final at the European Under-23 Championships at Bydgoszcz in Poland, it was Thompson one and Farah two.

Since then, Thompson has been held back by a succession of injuries but under the direction of his long-time coach, John Nuttall, and more recent guidance at the Oregon Track Club in the United States from Mark Rowland, the 1988 Olympic steeplechase bronze medallist and British record holder, he has started to fulfil his potential.

"That was amazing," Farah reflected, after competing a lap of honour draped in a Union Flag bearing the legend "Fly Mo". "One-two has never been done before and it just feels so great. It means a lot to me after what happened in Gothenburg four years ago. Hopefully we can go on now and do what Coe, Ovett and Foster did."

"It's so great to see this man back," he added, slapping Thompson on the back. The beaming Thompson returned the compliment, pointing to Farah and proclaiming: "This is the greatest British endurance runner ever. And I'm second best.

"This means so much more to me than the European Under-23s. I felt like I was in the Coliseum with the noise and cheering. Down the back straight were all the British flags. It felt like we were at home. It was a glimpse of 2012. It was the best half-hour of my life."

There could be a pretty good 13 minutes or so on Saturday too. The British duo are both entered for the 5,000m. "Me and Chris go way back," Farah reflected. "I remember us holding hands in Margate. But this is amazing... to come first and second best in Europe."

Thompson interjected. "In that race in Margate we were saying we'd get selected anyway," he recalled, "so let's cross the line together – we'll share the prize money. But then he ran off and took £100 and I got £75. I'm still waiting for my £12.50."

The golden and silver Montjuic moments last night were priceless. There had not even been a British medal in the men's 10,000m at the European Championships since Tony Simmons gleaned a silver in Rome in 1974.

There could be another from a member of the Thompson household in Barcelona, even if the Aldershot athlete – a native Cumbrian and Barrow AFC fanatic – happens to fall short of the rostrum in the 5,000m final on Saturday. On Friday night his long-time partner Jemma Simpson runs in the women's 800m final, having secured a place with an assured win in her heat 35 minutes before Thompson took to the track last night. Jenny Meadows qualified too, finishing runner-up in her heat, while Phillips Idowu and Nathan Douglas, in the triple jump, and Tom Parsons and Martyn Bernard, in the high jump, also advanced to the finals of their events.

Simpson and Thompson have been preparing for Barcelona by living inside an altitude simulation tent provided by UK Athletics in Loughborough. "A machine pumps nitrogen into the tent to simulate the altitude you want to be at," Thompson said. "The trouble is you have to stay in it for 12 hours a day to get the effect. And it's hot. It gets really steamy... no pun intended."

How a Somalian refugee struck gold

* Mo Farah was born in Mogadishu, Somalia before fleeing the civil war in 1993 to arrive in Britain as a refugee.

* Based in London he started out, with the persistent support of his PE teacher Alan Watkinson, by racing for Newham and Essex Beagles Athletics Club. His first major title came when he won the 5,000m at the European Junior Championships in 2001.

* Upon moving up to the seniors he lived with Australian and Kenyan runners, a decision he still credits with helping his development: "I thought if I ever want to be as good as these athletes I've got to work harder."

* His first senior medal was silver in the 5,000m in the 2006 European Championships hosted in Gothenburg, which was followed closely by a win in the European Cross-Country Championships in Italy in December.

* The 27-year-old had his first big disappointment in the Beijing Olympics when he failed to reach the 5,000m final after going out in the early heats.

* With the help of some intensive altitude training in Ethiopia and Kenya, Farah came back to claim gold in the 3,000m at the European Indoor Championships in Turin last year.

* He now holds British records for 10km and 3,000m, the latter being described as "the best performance by a British distance runner for a generation", by commentator Steve Cram.

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