World Championships: Mo Farah cuts apart Africa's finest to top the pantheon
Farah digs deep on final lap to clinch gold and underline his status as Britain's greatest distance runner
Sunday 11 August 2013
The double double for Mo Farah remains on. Part one of repeating his feat from London is now complete, the 10,000m world title that had previously eluded him achieved with a compelling victory almost exactly a year to the day after he won the second of his two Olympic golds.
On Friday he will have the chance to repeat that London feat. Only one man has followed an Olympic double in the 5,000m and 10,000m with the same at the subsequent World Championships, Kenenisa Bekele. On last night's evidence, few would bet against Farah matching the Ethiopian.
There were signs in the home straight that the record may remain intact as the Londoner came under threat from the potent finishing of Bekele's countryman Ibrahim Jeilan. It was so nearly the same script as the last World Championships where Farah had been tipped to win gold in the 10,000m only for Jeilan to just edge him out.
Two years on, there was that same wide-eyed panic on Farah's face but it proved short-lived as his improved pace held off a similarly fast-finishing Jeilan with just enough room to breathe in a 54-second last lap. It turned out to be a script with a different kind of ending.
The familiar sights from London – the big outstretched arms and wide smile – were on show again as he crossed the line, the big difference being the lack of numbers in the stands, the stadium barely a third full. But those in attendance were well aware of the stellar athlete on the track.
This victory comfortably cemented him as Britain's greatest-ever distance runner. With two Olympic and now two world titles to his name, unprecedented for a British athlete, he is unquestionably in the pantheon of British athletics greats and you could comfortably argue for his status as No 1. "I remember two years ago almost exactly the same thing happened," said Farah, running the rule over the race. "This time I knew Jeilan and what he was capable of. I thought to myself: 'You've got to make this last lap to tackle but have something left at the end.' At 200m, I could see him clicking through. He was right there. I was thinking 'not again, not again, not again'."
It was the perfect start to the World Championships for the British team. Neil Black, UK Athletics' performance director, had talked about this being a banker. In fact, Farah boasts Britain's two best bets for gold. The requirement was for him to win, and in so doing, it was hoped, to act as a springboard for the rest of the team.
Mo Farah collapses after his winning run (AP)
On a personal level, Farah has made sacrifices by being away from home training but believes it has all been worth it. At last month's Anniversary Games in London, he admitted one of his twin daughters did not even recognise him although there was no danger of that yesterday as all his family cheered from the stands.
Farah is certainly not one of those athletes plagued by an Olympic hangover. This was an evening about revenge and redemption, a quest for the medal that had got away.
It was befitting that an Ethiopian was the one to push Farah so close once more. The most famous of all, Haile Gebrselassie, had inspired Farah to relocate to the United States to work with Alberto Salazar's Project Oregon, Gebrselassie suggesting Farah lacked the wherewithal to beat the Ethiopian or Kenyan contingent.
Ironically, two-and-a-half years after teaming up with Salazar, it was the Ethiopians looking nervously at Farah's every move as he ran his race with aplomb, with a clearly preordained strategy from Salazar.
He barely walked off the line to take his place at the back of the field, a wise choice with 35 runners jostling for position in the early stages. But Farah made his mark on the race for the first time on lap six, going from last to the very front in a clear bid to slow the pace.
It was a yo-yoing tactic he continued to use, almost toying with Africa's finest before slotting back barely a stride or two away from training partner Galen Rupp.
Much like a lion stalking its prey, Farah was inevitably going to pounce on his victims and, with seven laps left, he upped his long, languid stride as Bedan Muchiri of Kenya raised the tempo. With four-and-a-half laps remaining, Farah finally moved in front, taking his second minor stumble of the race in the process — the last wrong foot he laid on the blue track.
Mo Farah in the mix (Getty)
By the bell the lead group was down to five and Farah's kick came. That would normally have been sufficient, with a gap emerging and a solo sprint to the line ensuing. Yesterday was different as Jeilan showed his class. But Farah had a little more left in the tank to take the victory with Kenya's Paul Tanui third. Out came the Union flag with the words 'Fly Mo'. It looks likely to be unfurled again on Friday.
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