Golden memories put pressure on Mo Farah to start season with win

Kenya training and weak field should help GB's Olympic star serve up victory to sell-out crowd

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mo Farah has one objective for the British Athletics Grand Prix at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham this afternoon. "It's about trying to win a race," the double golden boy of British athletics said yesterday. "It's my first race of 2013. I must win it, right?"

Certainly, that will be the expectation when Farah lines up in front of a sell-out crowd for the 3,000m.

Having brought his Midas touch memorably to bear twice over in the 80,000-seater Olympic Stadium at Stratford last summer, beating the world's best in the 10,000m and then the 5,000m, the 29-year-old Londoner has a world-beating reputation to uphold.

With six weeks of high-altitude training behind him, and an absence of high-quality rivals, the 15-lap race should prove to be little more than a victory parade for Farah, although there is nothing as clear cut as a foregone conclusion when it comes to the cut and thrust of racing on a tight, banked 200m indoor track. The double Olympic champion knows that well enough, having taken a mid-race tumble and started running in the wrong direction when he got back to his feet in the 3,000m heats at the European Indoor Championships at the NIA in 2007.

For Jenny Meadows, there will be a belated golden moment to savour. An Achilles tendon injury kept the Wigan Harrier out of action for the whole of 2012, but on the day last July that her failure to make the Olympic team was confirmed, it was simultaneously announced that she had been retrospectively upgraded from runner-up to winner of the 800m at the 2011 European Indoor Championships in Paris. Yevgenia Zinurova, the Russian who beat her to the gold in the French capital, had been suspended for a doping violation.

Having missed out on the home Olympic experience, and undergone surgery in Stockholm, Meadows will be back in action today. The 800m – also featuring Lynsey Sharp, controversially the only British woman selected for London 2012 in the event – will be her first race since the mile at the Great City Games in Newcastle in September 2011.

Win or lose, the 31-year-old will return to the North West with a golden glow, for UK Athletics has arranged for the European Indoor gold to be presented to the 5ft 1in pocket rocket. "I just can't wait to finally get that gold medal," Meadows said yesterday. "I am dying to put it in my medal cabinet at home."

It will not quite be the same, though. Meadows has asked for her belated reward to be handed to her by Phil Jones, the BBC television trackside interviewer, rather than replicate a championship podium scenario. She has also asked for no national anthem or raising of the Union Flag.

But won't she feel mixed emotions at the lack of fuss, having been denied her glory moment on the day?

"As a youngster you dream that one day you'll be on top of that podium," Meadows said. "I did actually think two years ago that the European Indoors was my best chance of taking a title.

"That was definitely my chance to have that moment and unfortunately I didn't manage to do that. I am a little bit bitter about that, but at the end of the day I am just grateful that I have won a title at some point in my career – and hopefully it won't be my last."

Meadows has won two "minor" medals at global level – bronze at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin and silver at the 2010 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul. Her aim on the comeback trail lies beyond the 2013 indoor season – the outdoor World Championships in Moscow in August.

Farah also has his sights set on the Russian capital, still charged with motivation despite his two Olympic gold medals. "I want to defend the 5,000m title that I won two years ago," he said, "and try to win the 10,000m too this time."

At the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, Farah was outsprinted for the 10,000m crown by Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia. "That race nags away," the British star said. "But you learn from your mistakes and I have learned a lot from that race. It's important that I come back."

Farah's importance in the distance- running world has been reinforced on his training trip to Kenya. "The reaction was crazy," he said. "People were coming up to me saying, 'You come here! You beat us!'

"Even at the airport, when I arrived, there was one guy who said to me, 'Oh Mo, you beat us! We shouldn't let you in!' He was smiling. They're wonderful people, the Kenyans."