Mo Farah masters another gear in battle for gold
Olympic medal hope passes his speed test in a British show of strength
Sunday 29 January 2012
"It's like a war," Alberto Salazar said in these pages in March last year, outlining the coaching philosophy with which he was going to prepare Mo Farah for global conflict. "The soldier has to learn how to fight and do everything – be physically fit, be a one-man army."
Six months out from the home Olympics, with a World Champion-ship gold and silver in the bag, Salazar's charge opened his competitive build-up to the London Games by testing a piece of weaponry that is likely to prove vital when it comes to the home-straight battles in the 5,000m and 10,000m down Stratford way. Wearing a Great Britain vest for the first time in 2012, and just about raising the roof in the final top-class event to be held in this compact Glasgow arena, the great British Olympic hope emerged victorious, happy and glorious – a sign of things to come when it matters most this year, we can only hope.
Certainly, stepping down to 1500m and seeing off an athlete of Augustine Choge's calibre can only bode well. The Kenyan was an Olympic finalist at 1500m in Beijing four years ago, is a former winner of the Emsley Carr Mile and boasts a personal best three seconds quicker than Farah's at 1500m. But when it came to the crunch, it was Farah who had the winning ammunition.
He shot into the lead with three circuits of the banked 200m indoor track remaining. With two laps to go, Choge regained pole position. Then, at the sound of the bell, Farah hit the front again, using his elbows to resist a counter-challenge. The British golden boy had to dig deep but, with the sell-out 3,500 crowd making a deafening racket, he held on to win by 0.09sec, clocking 3min 39.03sec, a stadium record.
It was precisely the shorter-distance test of speed Salazar wanted, and his star pupil passed it with flying colours. "It was a good test, a good battle," Farah reflected. "I had to push him a little bit and dig in. It was hard work but it's all good practice for what's to come this year. It was also good to start 2012 with a win.
"The crowd were unbelievable. I just couldn't believe how much noise they were making. It was making me work harder and harder. I can't imagine what it might be like in London." The Somali-born, London-raised Farah might have to get used to the idea. If he can find such sharpness on the back of five weeks of hard mileage at high altitude in Kenya, then any rival hoping to outkick him in the home straight in London – as the Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan managed to do, unexpectedly, in the 10,000m final at the World Championships in Daegu last August – may well have to think again.
It was Farah's first 1500m race since the Monaco Diamond League three years ago, when he finished 10th in a field of middle-distance specialists, and next Saturday he has a mile race in Boston. It is all part of Salazar's grand plan to equip the 28-year-old with all he will need to win Olympic gold – or golds.
Farah was one of seven individual British winners in a five-way international contest from which the home team emerged victorious ahead of Russia, Germany, a Commonwealth Select squad and the USA. In the women's 60m, the injury-plagued Jeanette Kwakye (below) showed her 2008 world indoor silver medal form, blasting to victory by 0.20sec in 7.26sec, while in the men's sprint Mark Lewis-Francis edged out the World Championship bronze medallist Kim Collins, clocking 6.65sec. The other British successes came from Yamile Aldama in the triple jump, Danny Talbot and Margaret Adeoye in the two 200m races and Joe Thomas in the 800m.
The World Championship silver medallist Hannah England was pipped at the line by the fast-finishing German Denise Krebs in a tactical 1500m while team captain Helen Clitheroe was happy with the brisk 8:45.59sec she recorded as runner-up to Kenyan Helen Obiri in the 3,000m. Sadly, Robbie Grabarz could not rise to the 2.34m height that took him to the top of the world high jump rankings last week, finishing third with 2.26m.
The major British disappointment was Andy Turner struggling home fifth and last in the 60m hurdles. The World Championship bronze medallist has returned from a training camp in Florida nursing an Achilles tendon problem.
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