Mo Farah has been relaxed to the point that he had no idea of the whereabouts of his running spikes until a few hours before his 5,000 metres heat on Wednesday.
The Londoner, who located them at the last minute in the room of a team official, and those around him have oozed a confident aura that suggests he is indomitable but, for a heart-stopping moment, his hopes of a double gold at the World Championships nearly evaporated heading into the final straight.
Much like in the 10,000m final, when he stumbled on the last lap, he was tripped again – this time entering the final 100m – but regained his composure to qualify comfortably for Saturday’s final.
The 32-year-old will spend Thursday holed up in his Beijing hotel room, on PlayStation and watching athletics, and well he might. His dominance and the manner in which he has the Ethiopians and Kenyans mentally beaten before the start is such that it seems only a fall can halt yet another double gold.
Already three-quarters of London 2012 has been emulated by the British team with Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford all winning gold in their events. Should Farah win again, it will be a replica of three years ago.
Farah joked, “I’ve already done my job now,” before admitting the memories of his Olympic high had come flooding back by watching on television as his fellow participants once again triumphed. “It brings back Super Saturday with myself, Jess and Greg.”
Such is the confidence even amid the backdrop of a hugely difficult year, with drug allegations levelled against his coach Alberto Salazar and training partner Galen Rupp, which both have denied, that he insisted even had he fallen he still felt he would have qualified for the final.
Of the incident, he said: “I nearly went down again. I hope it doesn’t become third time bad luck [in the final]. Somebody caught my leg. I’ve got a long stride, it’s the way I run. I don’t blame anyone but even in training sometimes my training partners catch my leg, which is why I sometimes have to be on the front or the back, or stay on the outside.”
It was to be a night without gold – in fact a medal of any kind – for the British team spoilt early in these championships.
Rabah Yousif and Eilidh Child both finished sixth in the 400m and 400m hurdles respectively, with the former describing his first world final as “a hot pepper race”, such was the speed of it, while Child, a Commonwealth champion and European silver medallist a year ago, cut a disconsolate figure. “I should be among the medals or at least closer and I feel like I’m throwing these opportunities away,” she said.
In contrast, Dina Asher-Smith appears to have grabbed every opportunity that has come her way, breaking her personal best with a time of 22.22 seconds despite easing up in her 200 metres heat.
It edged her ever closer to Kathy Cook’s 31-year-old British record of 22.10, which would have been enough to win a medal at the past 10 World Championships and gold in four of them.
“I didn’t expect to go out there and run a PB in the heat,” Asher-Smith said. “I was just trying to qualify so I ran a good bend, saw where I was and tried to relax off and ease my way to the line.”
As for her hopes of a medal and a British record, she said: “Oh, I don’t know, I really don’t know.”
Holly Bradshaw made an impressive return to major competition with seventh place in the pole vault final, which was won by Yarisley Silva of Cuba. Bradshaw had just one failure en route to clearing a season’s best 4.70 metres.
She could not make it over the 4.80m barrier but that was no disgrace.
Bradshaw vaulted noticeably more smoothly after two years dogged by injury problems.
“To jump 4.70 out there – only one centimetre off the British outdoor record and an outdoor PB – I’m so, so happy,” she said.
“It’s been a really tough couple of years and this year hasn’t been a smooth ride at all. To be rewarded with a 4.70 clearance and top eight in the world, it’s a great stepping stone for Rio.”