It was not quite the golden Mo-ment, the scenario of which the British distance running fraternity had long dreamed. Mo Farah might have entered the home straight in Daegu Stadium in pole position in the World Championships 10,000m final yesterday, but he was already looking over his shoulder at the giant screen with anguish writ large across his face.
For the British runner, who had been invincible all summer, the sight of a rival in a green vest closing fast was the nightmare that had always been tucked away in a corner of his mind.
It was not Kenenisa Bekele; on his sudden return after 19 months of injury, the four-time 10,000m world champion, Olympic champion and world-record holder had already succumbed to his first defeat at the distance, stepping off the track with ten of the 25 laps remaining. Instead of Bekele, struck by a groin problem and a patent lack of race fitness, it was little-known Ibrahim Jeilan rising to the challenge and the big occasion.
Farah, having hit the front with 650m to go and started his kick for home 500m out, had been 5m clear with 300m left. It seemed the holy grail of British distance running, a first global men's title at 5,000m or 10,000m, was within the grasp of the 28-year-old Londoner. He certainly thought so. "At 300m to go, I thought I had the race," Farah reflected afterward.
Halfway down the home straight, Jeilan was at Farah's shoulder. Some 25m from the line, he swept past. The 22-year-old Ethiopian, a former world junior cross country and 10,000m champion, crossed the line the surprise winner in 27 min 13.81sec. Farah finished a forlorn second in 27:14.07, clasping his hands to his shaven head in despair. He had scorched round the final lap in 53.36sec and still finished with the runner-up prize.
It was itself confirmation of the quantum leap taken by Farah under the direction of the former marathon great Alberto Salazar: a British athlete distraught with a global 10,000m silver medal – the first medal by a Briton in the men's 10,000m in the history of the World Championships.
On refection, Farah might have found his Midas touch yesterday had he kept his powder dry for a little longer and the aching disappointment might not prove a bad thing in the long run. It can only fuel the hunger for the Olympics next summer – and for the 5,000m in Daegu later this week.
"I've always said that major championships are one thing and running fast times another," Farah said. "I knew all along it was going to be tougher in the championships. It's not always going to be the favourite or the person with the fastest time who wins it.
"To be honest, I didn't have a clue who the guy was. I haven't seen him all year, so I didn't know what I was capable of. With 100m to go I saw him coming and just thought, 'Wow.' I told myself not to panic and just relax but my legs just didn't have it. There was nothing there.
"When I crossed the line I couldn't believe I'd finished second. I am disappointed but fair credit to him. The better man won on the day."
Still, it was a first medal on the board for Great Britain – consolation from an opening weekend that was not the best for Charles van Commenee's team. Following Christine Ohuruogu's false-start disqualification in the first round of the 400m on Saturday, Dwain Chambers suffered the same fate in the 100m semi-finals yesterday.
Pick of today's action
Defending champion Jessica Ennis is expected to dominate the event again. The Sheffield star's campaign begins today with the 100m hurdles, the high jump, shot put and 200m.
3.30am: Men's 400m hurdles heats
Britain's Dai Greene, the European and Commonwealth champion, faces stern competition from South Africa's L J Van Zyl as the heats get under way.
1.25pm: Men's 110m hurdles final
The world record holder Dayron Robles, of Cuba, is favourite, while China's Xiang Liu and American David Oliver are also in the mix.
1.45pm: Women's 100m final
Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown and Carmelita Jeter, of the US, are both in form.Reuse content