Didn’t he do well? That last lap of Mo Farah’s in the 5,000 metres at the European Team Championships at Gateshead last Saturday was some sight to behold: a sizzling 50.89sec, positively Boltesque by distance-running standards.
Then came the clowning around with Bruce Forsyth at Wimbledon on Wednesday, and the flouting of royal box etiquette. Yes, it’s been quite a week for the double golden boy of London 2012, but tomorrow in Birmingham it’s time to get down to serious business.
“This is the big one,” Farah acknowledged yesterday, looking ahead to his 12-and-a-half lap confrontation in the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix with the two leading 5,000m men thus far in 2013, the Ethiopians Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yenew Alamirew. “This is where the business end of the season starts for me. It’s a very strong field. I’ve been looking forward to this race since my disappointment in Eugene at the start of the month. It’s important that I come out and win the race, first and foremost. It’s not about the time.”
Farah’s first venture on to the Diamond League circuit, in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, four weekends ago, ended in defeat. Suffering from the after-effects of a stomach virus, the 30-year-old Briton found he did not quite have enough left in the tank to hold off Kenya’s Edwin Soi when it came to the last lap burn-up in the 5,000m. His last lap at Gateshead a week ago hinted at a full recovery but a victory against two of his major rivals for the 5,000m title at the World Championships in Moscow in August would get the lingering disappointment out of his system. Asked whether he felt he had something to prove in Birmingham, Farah replied: “For sure. You never want to lose a race. I was disappointed to lose in Eugene, but Soi is a great athlete. It would be good for me to come out in Birmingham and win the race. Moscow is not too far away and even when you’re a world and Olympic champion, you’re only as good as your last race. You can’t look at what you did last year or the year before.”
Tomorrow’s race also affords Farah the opportunity to record another victory against the one man who has beaten him in an outdoor major championship final in the past two years. The stellar field includes Ibrahim Jeilan, the Ethiopian who caught the Londoner by surprise in the final 200m of the World Championship 10,000m final in Daegu in 2011. Jeilan was reduced to the role of also-ran by the 19-year-old Gebrhiwet in the Diamond League 5,000m race in New York last month. Gebrhiwet himself, though, was eclipsed by a 54sec last lap by Alamirew in Rome on 6 June.
Farah’s time for his final 400m in Gateshead was achieved off a near- funereal pace to the bell but still suggested that he has the basic speed to see off his rivals in a tactical race. “I’d be very surprised if it came down to the last 400m in Birmingham,” he said. “I think someone will go at some point before that.”
* Eight more Turkish athletes have reportedly been caught using banned substances, days after eight of the country’s weightlifters were pulled out of the Mediterranean Games after failing doping tests at a training camp Anadolu news agency said the latest group includes the 2004 Olympic hammer silver medallist, Esref Apak.