It is apt that Mo Farah should have touched down here on Monday on the two-year anniversary of his double gold success at London 2012 as he sets out for twin titles at the European Championships.
But the journey to get here has been tumultuous, from the failed London Marathon experiment to having to be rescued by his training partner and being airlifted to hospital after a heart scare in the wake of him collapsing unconscious on his bathroom floor.
Details had previously been sketchy about Farah’s absence from the Commonwealth Games, bar the fact that he had been hospitalised after suffering abdominal pains and not recovered in time to regain full fitness to compete in Glasgow.
But on the eve of the competition starting – the Europeans begin today with Farah in action in the 10,000 metres tomorrow and the 5,000m four days later – he finally lifted the lid on his hospital drama.
“I basically had a tooth taken out because it was chipped and it got infected,” he said. “I was in a bit of pain but went for a run and, when I came back from the run, I literally collapsed on the bathroom floor, completely knocked out.
“I had my phone in my pocket so, when I woke up and became conscious, I called Cam [Levins] my training partner, the guy who came third at the Commonwealth Games [in the 10,000m for Canada], and he came round and got me on to my bed.
“I was in so much pain from my stomach and so he called an ambulance and it took me to hospital. I then had to be airlifted to the main hospital as they thought something was going on with my heart – it was just crazy. I was in hospital for four days and it was scary.”
Despite his hospital dash, Farah had still been hopeful of taking his place on the start line for the Commonwealths, the one major championship where he has yet to celebrate gold, but an inability to get fit in time meant he opted against racing.
It led to a raft of criticism, the most surprising of which he said came from his friend Paula Radcliffe, who had been with him in Font Romeu as he initially battled to get fit with the clock ticking.
“I did one track session and Paula was timing me and she told me I should stop,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “Someone like Paula telling you to stop, you know there is something wrong and I just wasn’t right – she could see me. It took a lot out of me.
“Later on, Paula said I’d taken the easy option, which is not fair as she’d seen me struggle. I was quite disappointed but if I’m going to turn up I have to be 100 per cent.”
There is no denying that attempting to win double gold at European level in long-distance running is infinitely easier than at the Commonwealths, where Farah would have faced Caleb Ndiku, the Kenyan who won gold in the 5,000m in Glasgow, and Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro, who won the 10,000m final.
However, Farah warned of the threat in Switzerland of France’s Bouabdellah Tahri as well as a Kenyan contingent set to run in Turkish colours. Despite rivals who would have untroubled the Farah of the past two seasons, the Briton is something of an unknown going into these championships having spent the winter focusing on the London Marathon and with a solitary competitive track outing this season – a 5,000m race in Portland.
The marathon, where he finished eighth, was a disappointment – “I thought I’d have done better” – and the Londoner admitted “it definitely took more out of me than anything else”.
He struggled even to watch the Commonwealths, describing it as too painful, but he is now confident of a return to winning ways at the Europeans, an event where the double-gold rush began for him, in Barcelona in 2010.
“The Europeans will always be in my heart and you always have to remember where it all started,” he said. “It would be nice to do that [replicate what he did in Barcelona].
“Now I’m here at the Europeans and I want to come away with two wins.”Reuse content