Mo Farah at the Monaco Diamond League press conference (© Philippe Fitte)
Monaco is clearly a good place for Mo Farah. Two years ago at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in the Stade Louis II he set his personal best 5000m time of 12:53.11, and two years before that his 1500m personal best of 3:33.98.
Now Britain’s Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion is back again to the track he likes so much, having left his training camp in St Moritz – and he is focusing his attention once more on the metric mile as he prepares for next month’s IAAF World Championships.
“I’ve consulted with my coach, Alberto Salazar, and I am going to run the 1500m in Monaco because I want to work on my speed before going to Moscow,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I have some happy memories of this track so if I can get near 3:33 or under it will be great. But the 1500m is a very different race from the 10,000m so I will just be hoping to stay in with the guys and see what I can do.
“The last time I ran in Monaco I ran a British record in the 5000m so I’m a bit gutted at not running another 5000m, but you have just got to do what the coach says. I am going into Moscow, and that’s the big one.
“Winning the Olympic titles last year changed my career and my running. But if I hadn’t had the disappointment of missing out on the 10,000m title at the 2011 World Championships I don’t think I would have been so determined in London. I learned a lot in that race in Daegu.”
Christian Taylor’s memories of Monaco are less fond, although he is all set on putting that right this week.
“Monaco was my first professional meet,” the World and Olympic Triple Jump champion recalled. “I am happy to come back here – but I am definitely hoping to do better than the first time.”
Taylor, a clear leader in this season’s Diamond Race for his event, explained that his first effort in Monaco “wasn’t even 17 metres,” adding: “That was a big blow because at the college nationals I had jumped 17.80m so I came here very confident. I was unstoppable. But then I felt what true jet lag was!”
The 23-year-old from Fayetteville, Georgia said it was “very unfortunate” that Britain’s former World champion and Olympic silver medallist Phillips Idowu would miss the World Championships after announcing a break from the sport following injury problems.
“A lot of the best people get injuries coming into championships. That’s something my coach and I focus on, staying healthy. We took it slow. The most important thing is August. It’s important to get to these points in order to make that statement.
“I have been a big fan of Phillips – although I don’t want to say since growing up because I don’t want him to feel old! Anybody that’s in the field, I don’t underestimate their ability.
“But my coach and I have discussed our schedule and we would really like to put a marker out here tomorrow to establish that I’m the person to beat, and to put the icing on the Diamond League race.”
France’s Olympic and European indoor and outdoor Pole Vault champion Renaud Lavillenie is also looking to produce a solid mark tomorrow, having recovered from injuring his hand during his fall after clearing 5.95m at the recent national championships, the world’s leading mark this year.
“I had a little knock, a little shock on it,” Lavillenie said. “I have been treating it prey well, so there is no problem. I was back jumping within two days of the French nationals and feeling no pain.”
Lavillenie is now preparing to add the title which he needs to “complete the circle” having taken bronze at the last two World Championships. “It is very important to be World champion,” he said. “We are about four weeks from the Pole Vault final and I am pretty pleased to be meeting the best vaulters here. This is something like the field at the World Championships final and I want to stay ahead of them. So it’s important that I win in Monaco.”
Lavillenie has been selected for Moscow along with his 22-year-old younger brother Valentin, a 5.70m vaulter. “I knew earlier in the season with what he had done he was in the team but I didn’t want to tell him until it was announced officially. I wanted also to have him under pressure. But after that we were very, very happy.”
France will thus have two pairs of brothers competing in Moscow, as Pascal and Thomas Martinot-Lagarde are picked for the 110m Hurdles.
Meanwhile the Olympic champion in the 100m Hurdles, Australia’s Sally Pearson, is hoping for an encouraging run as she looks forward to Moscow having had a difficult season undermined by injury.
“It’s going quite well,” Pearson said. “I’ve had a really good week of training. I am just playing a bit of a catch-up game with the other girls, but I hope I will be at my best at the Worlds. It would be good to have a good performance here.”
Asked if she felt any less pressure this season given that her injury had left her at less than full power, she responded: “I don’t think there’s any plus in getting injured. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise – but who wants that sort of blessing? It is what it is. I am racing and training as best as I can. We’ll see.”
There was a lot of laughter and banter between the three high jumpers assembled at the interview table – Olympic champion Anna Chicherova, London 2012 silver medallist Brigetta Barrett and former World champion Blanka Vlasic.
Vlasic, who missed last year’s Olympics after undergoing two operations on her achilles tendon, said Monaco would provide a “great competition”, but added that she was not putting pressure on herself to win.
“You need to understand that to be able to jump, at the beginning of this year, I wasn’t sure it would happen, ever. I didn’t have any expectation regarding results this year, I just wanted to start to jump, try a couple of meets, and hopefully my leg would not get worse.
“It’s getting better, but it’s a slow process. I have faith I will be healthy this time next year. I hope I will be able to jump as high as I used to.
“The truth is I can’t jump without pain. Mornings are especially tough when I wake up. Because of infection I had going very slow. After every competition I have to go home for physical therapy. This is my comeback year and I accept it and I don’t want to lose my mind because I am not jumping so high.”
Barrett recalled that Monaco was her first big meeting, and that she had asked Vlasic to sign her bib after the competition. “I remember thinking to myself I don’t know if I should do this but I look up to these women, I watch them all the time. So seeing Blanka for the first time, it was like ‘Oh, she’s real!’”
And to round their part of the press conference off, Barrett and Chicherova took the microphone to sing a line together from Amazing Grace.
Like Vlasic, Carmelita Jeter has been recovering from a serious leg injury she sustained in finishing second to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the Shanghai Diamond League meeting this year.
“It’s been a difficult season,” Jeter admitted, sitting next to her Jamaican rival. “Our bodies can only do so much and sometimes they give out on us. I had a very severe injury in Shanghai. Shelly-Ann helped me get my shoes off and get off the track. I have been working very hard to get back since then.”
Fraser-Pryce was looking forward to testing herself against Jeter in the 200m, an event with which the double Olympic 100m champion is still unfamiliar.
“This if the first season I’ve done so many 200s,” she said. “I’m still a little tentative at times about how I run it. I have a very good start, I am explosive over the first 100m. So I play around a little bit with that.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF