For Mo Farah, as well as for Usain Bolt, there had been the bitter disappointment of a false start to the 2011 World Athletics Championships on the opening weekend but as the nine-day show came to a close yesterday there was the deep satisfaction of a flying finish for the new British king of global distance running and for the fastest man the planet has ever seen.
A week on from his disqualification for jumping the gun in the 100 metres final, Bolt anchored the Jamaican 4x100m relay team to victory in 37.04sec, setting the only world record of the championships in the very last event. He had already completed a golden redemption run, having retained his 200m crown in a scorching 19.40sec on Saturday. Farah was not quite as quick as the Lightning Bolt down the home straight in the 5,000m final yesterday, although in gritting his teeth, digging deep and coming up with a distance runner's sprint, the 28-year-old Londoner succeeded in achieving what he had failed to accomplish in the 10,000m the previous Sunday.
On that occasion, after lining up as the red-hot favourite, the gold was snatched from Farah's grasp by the fast-finishing Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan. This time the Briton resisted the late challenges of his rivals, crossing the line 0.28sec clear of America's Bernard Lagat in 13min 23.36sec.
The time was an irrelevance, the victory anything but. As Farah sank to his knees and kissed the track, he entered the history books as the first male British distance runner – at 5,000m, 10,000m or the marathon – to claim a global title.
Just as the Somali-born, British-raised and now American-based Farah was setting off on a victory lap, his GB team-mate Phillips Idowu was going for gold in the triple jump – and for his own place in the record books. The hop, step and jump winner in Berlin in 2009, Idowu stood to become the first British athlete to win back-to-back World Championship titles. Sadly for him, and for the British team, it was not to be. The 32-year-old Londoner was in the gold medal position after three of the six rounds, courtesy of a season's best effort of 17.70m. But then Christian Taylor, the young American who had beaten him so impressively at Crystal Palace last month, uncorked a monster third round jump of 17.96m. Idowu responded with 17.77m but had to settle for silver.
All of which left the Great Britain team standing sixth in the overall scheme of things with a haul of seven medals, bang on the target set by head coach Charles van Commenee. Farah claimed two of them, though the 5,000m meant an awful lot more to him than the silver lining he was obliged to take from the 10,000m.
"I'm very proud," Farah said. "I came so close in the 10,000m and I just wanted to do it in the 5,000m. When it came to the home straight, I just thought of what my coach had told me: 'Don't let anyone past you'."
For Van Commenee, with the seven British medals (two of them gold, thanks to Dai Greene in the 400m hurdles and Farah in the 5,000m) it was "mission accomplished" from the major event of the year, 11 months out from the home Olympics. "This sets us up with a nice platform for next year," the Dutchman reflected. "Our target in 2012 is eight, so it's my job to find another medal.
"A good number of athletes who should be close to the medals have underperformed. That's disappointing. At the same time, I've always said that at the end of these championships we would not have the finished product. We had a few athletes here who were not tough enough."
That category does not include Idowu, who has been at odds with Van Commenee this summer about the disputed circumstances of his withdrawal from the European Team Championships in June. "Phillips is an awesome competitor," van Commenee said yesterday. "He produced a distance here that in any other World Championships would be good enough to win. There was a better athlete today but it was an awesome performance from Phillips."
In fact, Taylor's 17.96m would not have won the gold at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg. It was there that Jonathan Edwards achieved the world record mark, 18.29m, that still stands today. None the less, the sudden emergence of the Floridian means Idowu will have two 21-year-olds pushing the 18m mark to contend with in London next year, presuming the Frenchman Teddy Tamgho recovers from his broken ankle.
Asked what he needed to do to win home gold in 2012, Idowu replied: "Jump farther. That's it, plain and simple."Reuse content