Farah forges unforgettable triumph
ATHLETICS MEN'S 10,000m FINAL:SHAKESPEARE MIGHT have lost the plot with two laps to go. Dickens might have thrown down his pencil at the bell. But rarely has an Olympic 10,000 metres run so perfectly to script.
Indeed here was pure distance running poetry, Heaney’s men of fleetness, furtherance and untiredness.
Rarely has an Olympic 10,000 metres written so many new chapters either – Mo Farah going where no British runner has gone before, taking an American with him, for the first time in 48 years, and ending an African dominance that stretched back 24 years.
That’s just for starters.
Farah celebrated his victory on Saturday with an ice bath and a protein drink, was back in the Olympic Stadium last night to collect his gold medal, and now shifts his attention to winning the 5,000 metres next Saturday.
If that comes down to another sprint finish then Farah is the only man who can win.
Why not, when the best that Ethiopia and Kenya have to offer couldn’t get near him?
Who can beat him, when Kenenisa Bekele, the greatest distance runner of the generation, and reigning 5,000m champion too, was reduced to chasing Farah’s shadow, and ended up fourth – with that ending his quest to win a historic third straight 10,000m title.
“I knew they were dangerous,” said Bekele, of Farah and Rupp, “but I couldn’t stop them. I was surprised they were so strong.”
That Farah achieved this on surely the greatest single night for British athletics – all 80,000 spectators still engaged in cacophonous roars after witnessing Jessica Ennis win the heptathlon, and Greg Rutherford win the long jump – underlined both the pressure and expectation. Sydney had its Cathy Freeman moment in 2000, this was London’s moment multiplied by three.
“If it wasn’t for the crowd it wouldn’t have happened,” admitted Farah, completing a lap of the mixed zone long after the Olympic Stadium had emptied for the night.
“They give you that lift, that boost, and it was just incredible. A lot of people said having an Olympics in London would bring a lot of pressure. Sure, my legs were getting tired, and obviously there is pressure, but sometimes you can’t think about that and you just have to use the crowd, and I certainly did.”
No wonder it’s being hailed as the new British Revolution in distance running, and yet it must qualify as an American Revolution too: in the end the man closest to Farah was his training partner Galen Rupp, the first American man to win an Olympic 10,000m medal since Billy Mills, the Native American who won gold in Tokyo in 1964.
Both Farah and Rupp are also the product of the Cuba-born American immigrant Alberto Salazar, who had been predicting medals for both Farah and Rupp all week, at least to anyone who would listen.
In goes beyond that too, a revolution at least partly born with Farah in Mogadishu, nurtured on the streets of west London, where he grew up, then plotted on the countless miles of high altitude running in Kenya and also America, and finally at the British training camp in the French Pyrenees, where Farah and Rupp remained until three days before their race.
And, finally, a revolution executed with the sort of utter faith and determination that would rise above every challenge: repeated surges couldn’t upset the 29-year-old Farah, who merely waited until the last 400 metres, finished with a 53-second last lap, for a 27:30.42 victory.
Ethiopia had won the last four editions of this race, two for Bekele, and the two before that to the great Haile Gebrselassie, and the best they could manage here was bronze, for Tariku Bekele, Kenenisa’s younger brother, took that honour with his brother next, one second adrift.
The last 800 metres had taken 1:55, and although 27:30 isn’t particularly quick, no one was finishing quicker that Farah – even if it took a while for to register.
“I had to hold my head and think, ‘Am I really the Olympic champion now?’ It’s something I’ve been working so hard far, so many miles. Long-distance running is a lonely event and if you don’t put in the work, you don’t get anything out of it. It hasn’t been an easy event. It’s not just a case of training and becoming an Olympic champion. It’s taken years and years of hard work.”
But from the moment he walked into the stadium, buzzing as if he’d just drank “10 cups of coffee”, there was a feeling it would be Farah’s night. The only pity was that it had to end.