With his arms outstretched on either side like a bird of prey as he crossed the line, Mo Farah yesterday buried the ghost of Beijing, scooping gold in a heart-pounding men's 10,000m final and cementing his place as one of Britain's greatest track athletes of all time. No other British man has ever succeeded like this over this distance at the Olympics.
The 29-year-old rolled to his knees and kissed the track twice, finishing first after leading the field throughout the final lap. It marked the pinnacle of a dream that was set as an eight-year-old when he came to London from the streets of Mogadishu with just three phrases of English.
It was high drama for his wife Tania, too. She is seven months pregnant, and the couple are expecting twins. Somehow still composed at the end, she walked across the track to greet Farah with a proud embrace after he had pulled himself from the ground, still shaking his head in disbelief. Their daughter Rihanna had already bounded on with a union flag for a picture to treasure and one that British long-distance running commentators could be forgiven for wondering if they'd ever see.
Farah had simply run away from the rest. Galen Rupp, his US training partner, who won silver, and the bronze medallist Tariku Bekele and his brother, Kenensisa, were unable to keep pace in a thrilling finish.
"The Olympics doesn't come around often," said Farah, "and to have it on your doorstep, right here: it's never going to get better than this. It's the best moment of my life..
"Long distance is a lonely event: what you put in is what you get out. I want to thank everybody who has supported me from my childhood. There are too many people to thank, but I want to thank everybody who is associated with me."
Born in war-torn Somalia in 1983, Farah grew up in neighbouring Djibouti. Contrary to popular belief, he is not a refugee: his grandfather worked in a bank and his British-born father was an IT consultant.
Alan Watkinson, the runner's former PE teacher, recalled his first days at Feltham Community College. "You could see his physical talent straightaway," he told The Independent on Sunday. "He was gangly, but I remember the sheer ease with which he glided; his strides were effortless and he always looked very comfortable keeping pace with the fastest in the school.
"Did I think he was capable of becoming a world-beater? It was hard to tell. He was fast but his talent was yet to be honed. He did get beaten in his first school cross-country race."
The seeds of athletic success, Watkinson says, were planted as a teenager when he accompanied Mark Lewis-Francis and Tim Benjamin to a future training camp in Florida. When he returned, his demeanour seemed more assured. I remember him telling me 'I definitely feel like an athlete now'."
Farah won a £10,000 National Lottery grant to take up running full time and moved into a house shared with leading Kenyan runners, including the 5,000m world champion Benjamin Limo.
Paula Radcliffe is said to be one of his mentors and someone who "helps him mentally". He broke down in tears after spotting her two years ago when he won the 5,000m crown at the European Championships in Barcelona. At the European Championships in 2006, Radcliffe apparently told Farah: "Be brave." He later won the silver medal.
Their relationship has been a fruitful one ever since. Radcliffe has been involved in some key decisions, not least advising him on his move to the United States 18 months ago, when he linked up with American coach Alberto Salazar. "There's no doubt that Oregon has put the finishing touches on him; it has certainly given him the confidence of a world beater," says Watkinson.
There have been disappointments along the way, too. Farah agonisingly missed out on 10,000m gold at the World Championships in Daegu last year, when an athlete he knew nothing about – Ethiopia's Ibrahim Jeilan – outsprinted him in the final few metres to win by 0.26 seconds. It was enough to reopen old wounds of 2008 when he failed to reach the final of the 5,000m at the Beijing Olympics, a failure he described as "the most disappointed I've ever been in my life".
But it has also spurred him to greater things. Since that defeat, Farah has left little to chance, crediting his new coach and training regime in America, which helped him seal a number of wins, including gold in the 5,000m at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea and a silver medal in the 10,000m.Reuse content