Some are born great; some achieve greatness; and some have greatness thrust upon them. And then there is Mo Farah, who stands around 13 minutes away from joining the all-time greats of distance running.
Seven days after he brought Super Saturday to a glorious crescendo with his momentous victory in the men's 10,000m final, the 29-year-old stick insect of a Londoner goes for Olympic gold again in the 5,000m final tonight. It will be the last night of the Poms –and all the other nations – on the magic red carpet of the Olympic Stadium track, and if Farah can make it another "Land of Hope and Glory" occasion, he will enter the record books alongside some illustrious names.
Only six men have ever completed an Olympic 5,000m-10,000m double. Hannes Kolehmainenen, the original Flying Finn, was the first to achieve the feat, in Stockholm in 1912, precisely a century ago. Then came Emil Zatopek, the Czechoslovakian soldier, in Helsinki in 1952 and Vladimir Kuts of the Soviet Union in Melbourne four years later.
Lasse Viren, the Finnish policeman, did it twice over – in Munich in 1972 and in Montreal four years later, fuelled by reindeer milk, he told the world. Then there was Miruts Yifter – "Yifter the Shifter" as David Coleman christened him. The balding Ethiopian shifted to gold at both distances in Moscow in 1980. Then, in Beijing four years ago, there was another Ethiopian, the phenomenal Kenenisa Bekele, at the peak of his powers.
Now, having relegated Bekele to fourth place in the 10,000m here (one position behind his little brother, Tariku), it is Farah who stands on the threshold of an achievement that Lord Coe reckons would elevate him to the status of the greatest British track-and-field Olympian of all time.
"He can do the 5,000m," the chairman of the 2012 organising committee and dual Olympic 1500m champion said yesterday. "A lot will depend on how much he really wants it. The double is tough enough.
"It's not the physicality of winning both distances or running both distances; it's what goes on in your head for the three or four days between events. Some feed on that and others think they've done what they came here for and the rest is a bit of a bonus. If he thinks the rest is a bit of a bonus, he won't win.
"But if he thinks he can go down indelibly in British track and field as probably the greatest athlete we've produced, then yes. Is he hungry?
"It would be hard to argue against a guy winning the 5,000m and 10,000m at an Olympic level. It would be very difficult to take him out of the top four or five British performances of all times at a Games in a truly global sport. It's as complicated as it gets out there, and without the advantage of a team. He doesn't have Tour de France back-up. He got it right in the 10,000m. He was better when it mattered."
He was that. Nobody could catch Farah as he went into Fly Mo mode, hitting the front before the bell and cranking up the pace by degrees, like one of the Inquisition's thumbscrew operators. It destroyed the opposition, brought the 80,000 crowd to fever pitch, and secured his country's first Olympic gold in the 25-lap event.
For all of Britain's rich history of distance running, none of the greats had ever managed to win a 10,000m or 5,000m Olympic title. Brendan Foster attempted that double in Montreal in 1976 and finished third in the 10,000m and fifth in the 5,000m.
The man who launched the North-east running boom, and who will be in the BBC television commentary box tonight, knows the scale of the double task. He suspects that Farah will prove equal to it, though.
"I think 'Mo Farah, double Olympic champion' is a real possibility," Foster said yesterday. "I think Mo has got as equal a chance in the 5,000m as he had in the 10,000m.
"He had one of the greatest distance runners of all time to beat in the 10,000m, Kenenisa Bekele. He hasn't got one of the world's best distance runners to beat in the 5,000m.
"The recovery process is the key. That's the difference with what they do now and what we didn't do in the old days. As soon as they could after the 10,000m, they handed Mo a replenishment drink, with all the right carbohydrates and proteins in it. Then he had a massage. And then he went in a cryogenic chamber for 90 seconds at minus 70-odd degrees.
"What that does is cool your muscles down very quickly. It stops all the little tears that occur when you're exercising from bleeding and helps the recovery of the muscles."
It is all part of the appliance of science to which Farah has become accustomed since he joined Alberto Salazar's elite group of distance runners on the west coast of the United States early in 2011. The space age Cryosauna blasts liquid nitrogen at up to minus 300F to speed the recovery process. "It's like in war," Salazar told The Independent. "The soldier has to learn how to fight and be a one-man army. But then you try and equip him with every bit of top science, everything you can to keep him alive."
Salazar's foot soldier has already won one Olympic battle. We'll see tonight if mighty Mo can make it two.
Doubling up: Farah's distance challenge
Men to have won both 5,000m & 10,000m in the same Olympics:
2008 Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia)
1980 Miruts Yifter (Ethiopia)
1972 & 1976 Lasse Viren (Finland)
1956 Vladimir Kuts (Soviet Union)
1952 Emil Zatopek (Czechoslovakia)
1912 Hannes Kolehmainen (Finland)
While Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Laura Trott and Charlotte Dujardin have won two gold medals for Great Britain at this Olympics, Mo Farah can become the first to win two individual golds for Britain tonight.
Men to have won both 100m and 200m in the same Olympics:
2008 & 2012 Usain Bolt (Jamaica)
1984 Carl Lewis (US)
1972 Valeriy Borzov (Soviet Union)
1956 Bobby Morrow (US)
1936 Jesse Owens (US)
1932 Eddie Tolan (US)
1928 Percy Williams (Canada)
1912 Ralph Craig (US)
1904 Archie Hahn (US)Reuse content