Feature12 Aug 2012

Farah joins Distance legends after securing second gold


Mo Farah wins the 2012 Olympic 5000m title in London (© Getty Images)

London, UKMo Farah has secured a place in Olympic history by taking both long distance gold medals in the London Olympics. Having won the 10,000m one week ago he now added the 5000m gold after a thrilling race that saw six runners still in contention for victory when they entered the home straight.

Six runners had so far achieved the prestigious distance double at Olympic stage: Finland’s Lasse Viren even managed it twice, in 1972 and 1976. The others are Finland’s Hannes Kolehmainen (1912), Czech’s Emil Zatopek (1952 plus gold in the Marathon), Russia’s Vladimir Kuts (1956) as well as the Ethiopians Miruts Yifter (1980) and Kenenisa Bekele (2008). Farah now became the seventh runner to win the double. He is the first one to be able to do it on home soil.

"It is unbelievable, I can not describe how it feels. You dream of winning an Olympic gold – but two, who would have thought that," said Farah, who became the first non-African winner of the Olympic 5,000 m since Germany’s Dieter Baumann 20 years ago. "These two medals are for my two girls who are not born yet. It could be any day." Farah’s wife, who is expecting twins in the next 12 days, nd his daughter were watching him in the stadium.

With around 700 metres to go Farah moved to the front. When he entered the final lap the stadium seemed to explode. Running the last 400 metres in 52.94 no one was able to pass him, although it was close. Farah won with 13:41.66 from Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopia/13:41.98) and Thomas Longosiwa (Kenya/13:42.36).

"The crowd gave me an enormous boost. Without them it would probably not have been possible. I would perhaps not have been able to dig in so deep. It was so loud in the stadium as if it was a football match and a goal had been scored. On the last lap I just told myself that I must stay in the lead and let no one pass me," said Farah. "To now stand in one row with some of the greatest runners ever, who did the double at the Olympics – Kenenisa Bekele, Lasse Viren and the others – this is just superb."

Regarding the future Farah said: "I want to run the Marathon. But first I will continue to run the 5000 and the 10,000 metres. There are more medals which I want to win. Regarding the next Olympics in Rio I cannot say at this stage what I will do." However he will turn to the roads already next month: On 16 September Farah will compete in the Bupa Great North Run in Newcastle. The Olympic Champion will be up against Ethiopia’s superstar Haile Gebrselassie in the world’s biggest Half Marathon. Before that he will run in Birmingham’s Samsung Diamond League Meeting on 26 August.

At the age of eight Farah had come from Somalia to London. He has African roots, but he grew up in Great Britain. Farah had explained in an earlier interview: "When I came to my father, who had already been in London, it was of course a different life. For him it was very important that I do well at school. I loved sports and running. So when I went running my father would ask: But did you do your homework?" It was his sports teacher Alan Watkinson who spotted Farah’s talent for distance running. "He convinced me to stop playing football and going for athletics instead. And he brought me to the local athletics club, where it all started."

The coach who guided him into European top class and then into world class was Alan Storey. Farah first won a series of continental championships: For example in 2001 he was the 5000m European Junior Champion, then he took the European Cross Country Championships in 2006 and the European Indoor Championships in 3000m in 2009 and 2011. At the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona he won the distance double.

With the help of his London-based manager Ricky Simms he had been training in Kenya and Ethiopia. It was when he was close to Kenyan world class runners that he had realised that he had to change his daily lifestyle to succeed. "The only thing they did was eat, sleep and train," he recalls. "In former times I thought athletes like Haile Gebrselassie would be untouchable. But you can get there with very hard training."

At the beginning of 2011 Farah decided to join the training group of former world class runner Alberto Salazar in Oregon, USA. "He has done it as an athlete," said Farah. American Galen Rupp, who had won silver behind Farah in the 10,000m and was seventh in the 5000m final, became his training partner and close friend. "We are relaxed and we have a lot of fun together, for example playing Play Station. But we also help each other in races," said Mo Farah, who praised his former coaches and said about Alberto Salazar: "He takes care about everything for us – he is always there to help."

Since Farah joined Salazar he has found another gear. At the World Championships in Daegu in 2011 he just missed out on the double, taking silver in the 10,000m and gold in the 5000m. Now he did it in his home city and there could not have been a better Olympic stage. "I hope that with our performances we were able to inspire the youngsters to start running."

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF
Pages related to this article