If Mo Farah had not already shelled out thousands for a PR firm, yesterday he’d have done well to hire one.
Because for someone wanting to quell the heat of the spotlight that is beaming down on him, he wasn’t much of a shrinking violet on Thursday night.
Andy Vernon, the British distance runner who had a very public falling-out with Farah earlier this year, claimed that the double Olympic champion had told him to “f*** off” when he attempted to shake hands following Farah’s 5,000-metre win in Lausanne.
The evening had started so well for Farah, in his first outing since lurid doping allegations concerning his coach Alberto Salazar, which Salazar vigorously denies, came to light. He saw off a final-lap kick from the 17-year-old Ethiopean Yomif Kejelcha to sprint home – starting a fist-pumping celebration halfway down the last straight – and let out what was clearly six weeks of pent-up emotion once he’d crossed the finish line, with a wide-eyed yell and a few slaps of his chest.
It was an impressive run, especially given that it was Farah’s first in over six weeks. Vernon, who finished 15th, said he wanted to let Farah know his appreciation, as well as offer an olive branch, as the pair are due to be training at the same facility in the French Pyrenees next week.
But Farah – who denied there was animosity in the pair’s exchange – greeted the offer of a hand with a terse Foxtrot Oscar.
It is quite within Farah’s rights to dislike Vernon. As in any walk of life, you don’t have to like everyone who runs under the same flag as you. You are perfectly welcome to hate their guts, as long as you respect them as athletes. And that is what Vernon says he was doing – trying to say “well done on the run” to Farah.
Vernon is highly unlikely to send Farah a Christmas card after their social media spat but that doesn’t stop him acknowledging his performance in Lausanne, which came after weeks of scrutiny and pressure.
As Vernon put it: “Like in the armed forces, you salute the rank not the person sometimes. I wanted to congratulate the performance. Whether we’re friends or not, I can appreciate a good performance but I get that reaction.”
“That reaction” was bone-headed. The majority of British fans have thrown their support behind Farah after first the BBC Panorama documentary had broadcast allegations about Salazar – none of which involve the Briton – and the following storm in a teacup over his missed tests before the 2012 Olympics, which led to commentators say it was becoming a “witch-hunt”.
But Thursday’s altercation with Vernon makes him seem bad-tempered and haughty. And as any PR company will no doubt tell him, if you want to endear yourself to people, don’t come across as a bad winner.
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