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Mo's golden glow

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Tom Fordyce | 16:01 UK time, Sunday, 4 September 2011

Daegu, Korea

Blisters, what blisters?

Almost exactly a week - to the last few minutes - after being agonisingly pipped to the World 10,000m title in the final few strides, Mo Farah did as Usain Bolt had the night before and turned first weekend heartbreak into a golden finale.

Last Sunday the head-on cameras showed Farah frozen on the finish line, eyeballs out on stalks, mouth grimacing, turning to his right in horror as Ibrahim Jeilan fought past him for gold.

Seven days later the image had been flipped on its axis. This time it was his great friend and rival Bernard Lagat in slow-motion agony, teeth bared and eyes popping, twisting his head to his left as Farah dipped through the line to take a glorious 5,000m gold.

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It was a momentous victory for both man and nation. For Farah it marked a triumph over sore legs, blistered feet and still raw disappointment, the culmination of a journey that began when a PE teacher named Alan Watkinson spotted a skinny young kid hanging from the crossbar of the football posts at Feltham Community College in west London and called him down for a chat.

For Britain it was a medal that has been a long time coming, not only the biggest distance win by a European male since Ireland's Eamonn Coghlan at the Worlds in 1983 but the first long distance gold ever won by a British male at a global championships.

So how did Farah manage to pull it off - and just how impressive a feat was it?

THE TACTICS

"We had a chat the other day, and Mo was very aware of what went wrong in the 10,000m," reveals Steve Cram, world 1500m champion in 1983 and a close friend of Farah's for many years.

"He watched how Vivian Cheruiyot won the women's 5,000m on Friday, and decided that was the example of how he should run it here: go to the front at the bell, wind it up, never be passed.

"The difference was that he had a whole host of rivals on his back with a lap to go, but he still pulled it off.

"What Mo did there took real guts. He still trusted himself on that last lap, didn't go too early as it would have been so easy to do. That was the key difference between here and his defeat in the 10,000m: this time he wound it up gradually and kept something back for the final straight.

"It was perfect. For those tactics to work he had to make sure he held his position at the front on the back straight, and when they tried to get past him he repelled them all.

"You need to have real confidence to run as he did. There were seven or eight men in that field who believed they could out-kick him. To be out front as the target is to be under real pressure, and Mo dealt with it superbly."

HIS RIVALS

This was a field packed with class - world champions, Olympic champions, European champions. How was Farah - who until last summer had never won a single championship track race - able to dominate them all?

"In some ways I'm surprised more didn't happen in the last few laps," admits Cram. "Two minutes 28 seconds for the last 1,000m of a championship 5,000m is not that fast, and the last lap was slower than in the 10,000m.

Great Britain's Mo Farah (right) wins gold from Bernard Lagat of the United States

Farah becomes the first British athlete to win a long-distance World title. Photo: Reuters

"I was talking to an agent before the final who represents some of the African runners. I asked him whether they would try to mess Mo up - get in front of him, try to unsettle him.

"None of them did that, and that shows the effect he is now having on his rivals.

"Lagat and Mo have been chatting all week. I was convinced that from 600m out Lagat was going to be tracking Mo so closely that he'd virtually be inside his vest, but after being in exactly that position for most of the race he then let two or three athletes get between them on the back straight, and he couldn't recover.

"I think Lagat trusts his kick a little too much these days. He's been beaten this season, but maybe his racing brain is yet to adjust to what his body is now capable of doing."

THE PREPARATION

Running through the pain of those blisters from last Sunday's showdown pales into insignificance compared to the privations Farah has already put himself through in search of World gold.

Returning from his honeymoon with new wife Tania, he realised he was short of training miles and left both wife and young daughter Rihanna at the airport to head into the mountains of Kenya and a brutal, basic training regime with the best distance runners in the world.

Then, at the start of this year, he moved his family thousands of miles from Teddington, Middlesex, to Beaverton, Oregon, to work with American distance coach Alberto Salazar.

"All athletes are seeking a formula that works," says Cram. "It's a complicated equation that involves your coach, your training group, your personal life. All those different elements have to gel for you to be at your best.

"Over the years Mo has taken steps in different directions, some of them forward, some of them back, all in search for that perfect formula.

"Alberto will be the first to say that this jump in class is not all down to him. He inherited an athlete who was 95% the finished product.

"But he has polished it up and added one key ingredient: confidence. Mo now believes he can beat anyone in the world, and he never thought that before."

This year Farah has been working with both a sports psychologist (Dr Darren Treasure) and the same biomechanists who used to work with 400m legend Michael Johnson.

"Alberto has got into the tiny details with him," says Cram. "He looks at Mo's tactics, at how he runs, at how his rivals run. He has structured his altitude training properly and he has structured his racing season around winning these big titles.

"Mo has been a great athlete since he was a kid. I can remember him coming on national junior cross country squads as a teenager. He wasn't the only one - talented kids do pop up like that - but it's what you do with it that matters."

WHAT THE VICTORY MEANS

"This display will change how 5,000m races are run when Mo's in the field," believes Cram. "The others will now be waiting to see what he can do - he's now controlling things, deciding when to put his foot down.

"But for the tiniest misjudgement, Mo would now be a double World distance gold medallist. And that would put him up there with the greats, with the Haile Gebrselassies and Kenenisa Bekeles.

"I've waited years to watch a moment like this. As Britons we're a nation of runners. Everyone watching or listening to that race can identify in some way with what Mo's done - with running a 10k, running a 5k.

"That's why - with respect to Jess Ennis and Phillips Idowu - people can relate to this gold medal in a slightly different way."

Throughout Farah's journey from young scamp on the streets of Mogadishu to beaming adult on top of the world, certain related figures have exerted a key influence upon him.

There is Watkinson, the PE teacher who first encouraged him to swap football for athletics; Paula Radcliffe, whose financial support enabled him to pay for the driving lessons that meant he could get to training sessions; Alan Storey, his coach at St Mary's College in Twickenham; Ricky Simms, the agent who first suggested he should house-share with a group of elite Kenyan athletes living together near Bushy Park in south-west London, and Cram, whose middle-distance races Farah admits to watching obsessively on YouTube.

All were at Farah's wedding last summer; all were cheering on around the world as Farah's rich talent finally came to fruition.

"From a personal point of view, not since I finished competing have I enjoyed watching a win so much," admits Cram. "When you've been there yourself it's an emotional thing, and I had a lump in my throat.

"At the bell you're thinking, oh no. I know that feeling you have in your stomach at that point - you know it's all going to kick off at that point, and you feel so sick!

"In the UK we all want middle and long distance success. We had that with Kelly Holmes, but with Kelly she was winning things over a long period.

"What's particularly pleasing with Mo is that he keeps improving. He keeps going up the rungs of the ladder.

"He has also changed as a person; his performances on the track have given him so much belief. To see a person you know change like that is a wonderful thing."

THE FUTURE

The London Olympics are less than 12 months away. Does Farah's victory here in the humid heat of Daegu mean he is now favourite for the biggest prize of them all?

"From a British point of view it gives me so much confidence for next summer," says Cram.

"I don't buy into this idea that going in to 2012 as a reigning world champion brings more pressure. All athletes need to win, and this will feed his confidence.

"Imagine what those other guys will now be thinking: 'Oh, we can't out-kick him, even after he's run a 10,000m.

"As long as he doesn't get hurt between now and the Olympics, he's going to be really hard to beat - really hard."

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Unlike the 10k Mo Farah did everything right that gradual build up was the correct stategy he used what went "wrong" in the 10k to win him the race. Like Steve Cram I think that Lagat should have been closer to Mo, at the finish he did leave himself too much to do. I actually thought that the 5k was better field then the 10k and I was not at all sure he could do it.
    I think that Mo Farah is a perfect example of a sportsman, Bernard Lagat as well. Great sportsmanship. Next year is a new year and in Olympic year and the competition will be tougher then ever.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    I agree with Steve Cram

    "I think Lagat trusts his kick a little too much these days. He's been beaten this season, but maybe his racing brain is yet to adjust to what his body is now capable of doing."

    The race was very similar to a Diamond League race I saw earlier this year (don't remember where), Lagat left himself too much to do and was a very similar distance behind Farah, I expected him to learn from his mistake then but he didn't

    It will be very interesting to see how Bekele returns next year, when he has a lot more training and racing done

    also will be interesting to see how the previously unheard of Ibrahim Jeilan does, will he start competing at Diamond League meetings? and will he race the 5000m in 2012 ?

  • Comment number 4.

    I wonder if Mo feels tempted to go up the distances to the marathon?

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Go Mo!

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    5) He's been here since he was 10! Hardly came here 'ready made'.

  • Comment number 9.

    Wow! Posts 2, 5 and 7 are essentially say that Mo isn't British. The guy's been here since he was 8 and his Dad was born and raised here too I think. At least try to get your facts right if you're going to slate an athlete.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    What a run, what a difference a few days make. I to didn't think he had done enough with 200m's to go and actually turned to my wife and said "he's not going to do it!" which got me sneared at before a a rousing "Go on Mo!!" came from across the room. I actually had a tear in my eye as Mo crossed the line. Top fella, great athlete and now a British Athletic Legend.

  • Comment number 12.

    I share concerns about athletes changing nationality but Mo Farah arrived as an 8 year old refugee from Somalia 20 years ago so I hardly think this applies to him.

    Linford Christie was only a year younger than Farah when he moved to the UK from Jamaica - was he an 'imported talent' too?

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm absolutely amazed at the horrifically bigoted remarks I'm reading above, namely from Nos. 2, 5 and 7. Like it or lump it, Britain is now a society with people from a multitude of racial and religious backgrounds. Deal with that fact first of all.

    Farah came to the country when he was EIGHT, barely speaking a word of English. To become an eloquent world champion from BRITAIN is to be applauded, not criticised in any way.

    I'm a Briton of Asian heritage, but one thing is for sure. I'm proud of and love my country. I am British. Now celebrate Farah's achievements and the fact he chose to run (and win) for GB and stop behaving like a bunch of bitter bigots.

  • Comment number 14.

    Norman Conquest????

    Where do you get your knowledge from? The guy came over as an 8 year old from a country in Civil War, so did we send our chief Athletics Scout out there and though ''mmmm there's a ready made athlete for 2012!!''

    The guy is totally a product of the British system and for me a hero. Roll on 2012

  • Comment number 15.

    To the racists who say Mo isn't British. He has lived here since he was 8. His dad was born in England. He is a product of the British athletics system and has represented his country for over a decade and won his first English Schools Cross Country over 14 years ago. Unlike you, he makes me proud to be British and I am delighted along with British distance runners everywhere I am delighted he won today.

  • Comment number 16.

    As far as I am aware Mo came to the UK when he was young and so is not a 'ready made import'.

    He has done fantastically well and is a brilliant example to youngsters. We should be very proud of him. Well done Mo!

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    Mo Farah is as much English as Lennox Lewis is Canadian.

    On another note, why the hell is Dwain Chambers not running in the relay along with Mark Lewis Francis? These current jokers were amateur. I hate the politics in UK Athletics. The only losers are UK athletes and UK fans. Justin Gatlin ran the second leg for USA and he had served a drugs ban. Gatlin will also be performing at the Olympics. Does America care about setting a moral high ground? Of course not, as long as the rules are followed, they want the best athletes to compete.

    In the UK we have this stupid moral high ground, and we think we are setting an example to the world, when in reality the world dont care and we are just punishing our own, above and beyond the international rules, it makes no sense, and is just done to please the fragile egos of the idiots that run UK athletics.

    There is no real reason why Chambers should not be in the 4x100m or even in the Olympics next year. He is our best sprinter in a generation and the fans lose out big time.

    It just annoys me so much to see Justin Gatlin run for the USA relay team and then knowing he will compete in London, after his drugs ban, and then we ban Dwayne. Why are we shooting ourselves in the foot when no other country in the world would do that?

    We're just stupid.

    PS I think Lennox Lewis is Canadian.

  • Comment number 19.

    Fantastic, well done Mo!! It was an awesome race and won by a true champ. You inspired me to go to the track and do a few 200m reps this afternoon to get the leg speed going! :)

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    Mo Farah is what is great about our country he came here from a country at war as an refegee and has become one of our great sportsmen. Yes he does have an African background, but so does Bernard Lagat (Kenya). I thought that last year was the best he could ever be but he has proved me wrong and many others.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hello??? Is it not starting to dawn on you people that 2012 London is shaping up to be a PR disaster? Too many people believing their own publicity.The next Olympics will be remembered for the transport chaos and nothing else. Move on.

  • Comment number 23.

    Mo came to Britain at 8 years old from a country ravaged by civil war and has become a world champion. It makes me hugely proud of our country that something like that could happen. Mo represents everything that is Great about Great Britain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Seeing that the topic of relays has been introduced, it is worth recalling that GB squads in recent years have frequently relied upon the protest jury or the misfortunes of other teams to enhance their own medal status. Different story today , however which saw the team cast in a "terminator " role ! with the two clowns not alone ensuring their own demise but that of the potential silver medallists as well - when did you ever witness a block/tackle on a running track??
    Methinks, quite a lot of work to be done to shake off the notion of SECOND CLASS NATION status

  • Comment number 25.

    Great run Mo and agree with all the posts defending his right to Britishness, he is a product of our society and our system!
    Shame about the usual suspects and their nasty negativity but there's always going a to be a few narrow minded oafs I suppose (and tripefc, what on earth has transport issues got to do with this particular blog anyway??!!)
    Decent champs for GB in the end, 6th in the medals table and still plenty of room for improvement - 4 silvers, 3 of which could easily have been gold and took truly outstanding world class performances to beat them.

  • Comment number 26.

    C'mon BBC. Post my comment. You left #7 on there for a good 20 mins before taking it down. It never should have gone on in the first place! Seeing that it did you should have the decency to post mine.

  • Comment number 27.

    Its been a great world champs - outstanding performances in a lot of disciplines from a lot of athletes. Pearson's 100m hurdles win yesterday was sublime. Kirui's marathon, Taylor's triple jump, and the Jamaicans' sprint relay to name a few from the last couple of days. True athletics fans are celebrating! For those only interested in the Brits (seems like the majority around here), they acquitted themselves pretty well too. There's no reason to think that next year won't be just as enthralling in T&F. Transport chaos? tripefc how do you manage to get out of bed in the morning?

  • Comment number 28.

    Tripefc - never was a name more fitting.

    I expect you were one of those who said Britain would never be able to build the venues on time. Then we did, so now you have to move on to your next moan and prediction of doom. Its being so miserable that keeps you going isn't it? You're the sort who is only happy when something is going wrong I am afraid.

  • Comment number 29.

    Born in Somalia and acheiving success after living in USA. A British success?

  • Comment number 30.

    and that is in no way a racist comment. I'm just saying in these days of athletes changing nationality 2/3 times and trainign abroad I don't know why anyone supports their "country" or why patriotism makes sense. Support athletes you like. not based on some arbitrary affiliation.

  • Comment number 31.

    #18 Paul Smith
    "I think Lennox Lewis is Canadian."
    He holds dual citizenship, British and Canadian but 'thinks' of himself as British.

  • Comment number 32.

    #30 reallyneutral
    Reallyneutral? What is neutral about telling people who they should and shouldn't support. If people want to support an athlete that competes under their flag then that's their choice.
    If you can't make 'sense' of that, you shouldn't be under the illusion that we are all of the same low mentality.

  • Comment number 33.

    reallyneutral: born to a British father, returned to the uk aged 8. Went through the British schools athletics system with a British running club. Only moved to america this year to enhance his own chances at world level after dominating at European level.

    Mo Farah is absolutely a British success

  • Comment number 34.

    Kane u missed my point, I said Mo Farah was just as British as Lennox Lewis is Canadian.

    I was implying that Mo Farah is British having resided here since the age of 8 and learning all his skills here and I was also implying that Lennox Lewis is Canadian having moved to Canada at age 8 and learning all of his skills there.

    Lennox Lewis representing Britain is the equivalent of Mo Farah now switching to represent Somalia. How would UK fans feel about that?

  • Comment number 35.

    Mo was magnificent at the champs as were Dai and Hannah England. There is much to be positive about going to London next year and for Mo in particular. He has a genuine shot at two Golds! Read more here: http://wp.me/p1b961-6B

  • Comment number 36.

    Utterly brilliant performance from Mo Farah, to run 10,000 meters and then run the 5,000 meters within the same week is amazing, to actually win the 5,000 meters after the crushing disappointment of missing out on Gold in the first race shows that Mo Farah is an athletic great. From listening to his post-match interviews Mo Farah seems to be a very level headed man, and one with a sense of humor!.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm not sure what our blogger means by monkey tennis - sounds a bit racist to me.
    But anything would be more interesting than blokes running in a straight-ish line This country doesn't care about athletics. For one very good reason: it's dull. Give us football or tennis. Olympics? Yawn.

  • Comment number 39.

    @18 - Lennox Lewis moved to Canada from the UK as a teenager. Mo came here as an 8 year old. So by your logic (that Lewis is a Canadian) Mo is British.

  • Comment number 40.

    reallyneutral - He was born in Somalia then came here as a refugee age 8. He only moved to America to train a year ago. He's lived the majority of his life in the UK. Coached and developed by British coaches. He's no different to the British athletes who used to train in Australia during the 1990s.

  • Comment number 41.

    @ 34 - Just seen your explanation and I understand your previous comment. To be honest Lewis switching to represent GB after the Canadians trained and developed him (he was even represented them at the olympics) I can imagine they were not best pleased.

  • Comment number 42.

    sadly it was entirely predictable that people would (wrongly) question Mo's nationality, I wonder if he was say a white South African (perhaps one who's good at cricket) they'd as quick to slate him!?

    PS Please let's not make anyone (be it Farah, Ennis or whoever) the 'face' of the games next year let them train and prepare without the hype that blights over sports e.g. the England football team.

  • Comment number 43.

    Mo Farah is the perfect poster boy for London 2012 - a positive-reason immigrant as a youngster who was veering down the wrong side of the fence until he found something to channel his energy into. He worked at it, gave up so many things and is now reaping the rewards. This is the ultimate story of how it can be done - to come to this country with nothing and not rely on the welfare state to support you.
    For all those who say that he "is not British" (perhaps paraphrasing for "doesn't deserve the right to be British"?) please bear in mind the myriad of British sports stars who were not born here: the aforementioned Linford Christie, a large proportion of the world-beating England Cricket team, many England Rugby players, Greg Rusedski... I could go on. The fact is that Mo recognises what it is to be British - the traditions, the never-give-up attitude, the stiff upper-lip etc. He was brought here by his Father for a better life, free from violence and since he was taken under the wing of his PE teacher, he has never wanted for a free ride, which arguably *some* immigrants are perceived as wanting.
    The guy is British. Full stop.

  • Comment number 44.

    Some Brits seriously take Xenophobia to a new level. Here you have a guy, only ever trained as a youngster in England, taken under the wing by some of Britain's finest. Happy and proud to call himself British. Always striving for the next level as a Brit. Reaches the top as a Brit. Actually looked proud yesterday when the Anthem was playing for him and still we have to mention that he was born elsewhere.

    What would happen, theoretically speaking, if David Beckham's kids should they play a sport, decide not to play for England? I mean his youngest boy Cruz was born in Spain and lives in the US. Mo is more British than him then by that logic isn't he?

    Mo deserves a MBE for his efforts. He is an inspiration.

  • Comment number 45.

    My last comment was removed because it responded directly to a comment that claimed Mo isnt British so here is something else for the BBC moderators to chew on.

    Its a terrible indictment on society in general that rather than comment on amazing individual human achievement, a large slice of the dicussion centres on where's he's from rather than what he has done. The championship are there to showcase the best in athlectic endeavours. Mo transformed crushing disappointment into glorious triumph using his given talent underpinned with self belief.

    The discussion should be how insipring that commitment to be the best can be rather than debating what the criteria is to be 'British'.

  • Comment number 46.

    Congrats to MO for his success. He has really worked hard for it. I hope people dont get too carried away though. Watching the race, Lagat had a poor tactics. If he had been o the inside lane close to Mo, i strongly believe he would have beaten Mo for pace. He looked stroger and faster coming from behind to finish 2nd. Mo has a good finish but he is certainly not the strongest sprinter in the field as proved by Jelain in the 10K.
    Surely if Bekele is fit by 2012, Mo will be fighting for silver/bronze if he is to get a medal

  • Comment number 47.

    Congratulations to Mo on an excellent year in a demanding event and he deserves all the success coming.

  • Comment number 48.

    Mow has trained hard and I'm delighted for his success.

    The problem with this article is here;
    'I was talking to an agent before the final who represents some of the African runners.'
    The author has made the mistake of thinking Mow's nationality (British) has changed his ethnicity (African).

  • Comment number 49.

    #34 Paul Smith
    I think, if Mo Farah wanted to run for Somalia and did so, opinion would be divided as always but I think one has to respect the athletes decision. It was tough on Canada losing Lewis but he was born in England and that is a big pull.
    Mo's story is different also and I think it's ok to judge each case on it's merits.

  • Comment number 50.

    #49 Lennox Lewis was British when it was convenient. Fought for Canada at 2 Olympics but given Britain's desperation for a Heavyweight Champ and knowing he could earn 10 times more as a British World Champ than a Canadian World Champ, he chose to leave the country where he'd lived half his life and learned all his skills to come back to Britain for the money.

  • Comment number 51.

    I suppose we better give The Ashes back to the Aussies then Strauss Petersen and Trott were not born here, seems to me we pick and choose who see as British. Well done Mo you made a proud Brit happy

  • Comment number 52.

    #50 conradedkins
    "...he chose to leave..."
    You operate in life minus any wisdom. Had your parents emigrated when you were 12, what would you have done, stayed behind? No! He didn't choose, he had no choice and when he did have that choice he came back.

 

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