Flying Farah rises to the challenge as Judd enters elite ranks

 

The Alexander Stadium

Before the best of Britain's runners and jumpers got into action in Birmingham yesterday, it was fair to say they were in danger of getting stuck in Jagger mode in post-home-Olympic season.

Without a single athlete occupying a top-four place in the world rankings, and the World Championships in Moscow looming just five weeks' distant on the horizon, like the venerable Rolling Stones frontman they were somewhat struggling in the satisfaction stakes.

It was a different story by the end of the afternoon. The near sold-out 12,500 crowd were sent home happy after another stunning Mo show, and much else besides – not least the sight of the coltish 19-year-old Canvey Islander Jessica Judd smashing through the two-minute barrier for 800m with her second landmark victory in seven days.

Britain might not be in the best of track and field states 12 months on from London 2012 (with Jessica Ennis-Hill struggling to overcome injury, Greg Rutherford hampered by a niggle and Dai Greene bereft of the form that won him the world 400m hurdles title two years ago) but the nation still has world-class talent.

In Farah, Britain happens to possess the planet's pre-eminent distance runner and a major hope for gold in the Russian capital next month. The Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion (and world 5,000m title-holder) unleashed a fearsome kick in the final lap of the hitherto pedestrian 5,000m race at the European Team Championships in Gateshead last weekend, burning off the nominal opposition with a scorching 50.89sec final lap. Yesterday the 30-year-old Londoner saw off three of his leading global rivals at the shorter distance – Ethiopians Yenew Alamirew, Hagos Gebrhiwet and Ibrahim Jeilan – with another irresistible grandstand finish.

The 12-and-a-half-lap race did not begin in earnest until the last 900m and at the bell Farah, Gebrhiwet and Alamirew were all in close proximity at the sharp end for what proved to be a gripping last-lap thriller.

Farah made his move with 200m go, hitting the front with a vengeance and stepping on the gas. Alamirew challenged him around the final bend but the Briton moved into overdrive in the home straight and, happily, did not fade away, crossing the line 0.47sec clear of Alamirew in 13min 14.24sec. The modest winning time was irrelevant, the last-lap splits far from it. The Fly Mo covered the final 400m in 53.24sec, the last 200m in 25sec.

"I had to dig in deep but it's important that I came here today and won the race," Farah said. "The younger guys wanted to beat me today and they worked hard together. I am the man to beat.

"It's all about the World Championships now. I'm working hard. I'm off to high-altitude training tomorrow, which should be great."

 



As for the emerging Judd, she is off to Nando's at some point this week to celebrate with her schoolmates after missing her leavers' prom to make a winning senior international debut in the European Team Championships last week.

The leggy Essex girl has been a considerable talent for some time but, under the guidance of former Commonwealth 5,000m champion Rob Denmark, she is showing the assurance to match it. Yesterday she judged her tactics to sheer perfection, holding off the pace on the opening lap before hauling in the fading Marilyn Okoro down the home straight to finish a clear winner in 1min 59.85sec. In doing so, she crossed the accepted Rubicon into world-class 800m running, becoming the 19th British woman to finish in under two minutes at 800m.

"I just can't believe that I ran that fast," the jubilant Judd said. "I'm so happy to have broken two minutes. Rob and I have worked so hard. I owe him so much."

There were two other British winners, the burgeoning Perri Shakes-Drayton winning the 400m hurdles in a season's best 53.82sec (with Eilidh Child improving her Scottish record to 54.22sec as runner-up) and Christine Ohuruogu pipping Botswana's world champion Amantle Montsho on the line to take the flat 400m in 50.63sec.

James Dasaolu provided the home crowd with further reason to be cheerful, clocking a lifetime 100m best 10.03sec as runner-up to Jamaican Nesta Carter.

And Rutherford, despite his lingering knee problem, managed a respectable 8.11m leap for second place in the long jump.

Weir decides to miss world championships

David Weir will miss the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in Lyon this month. In the wake of his appearance in the IPC Grand Prix Final in Birmingham on Saturday – which resulted in a rare defeat for the four-time London 2012 gold medal winner – the 34-year-old wheelchair racer said: "I spent seven years building up to London 2012 and I need a year to spend time with the kids and decide where and when to race." The "Weirwolf's" lack of sharpness showed in the Alexander Stadium as he trailed home second in the T54 1500m to Swiss Marcel Hug.

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