MO Farah told his rivals “I’m the man to beat” after conquering his stiffest challenge of the year in style at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Birmingham.
The double Olympic champion eased to victory at the European Team Championships at Gateshead last week, but yesterday’s success at Alexander Stadium was from the next level as he saw off a trio of talented Ethiopians with a time of 13 minutes 14.24 seconds.
Farah’s last lap was timed at 53.40secs as he sprinted for the line in a frenzied final 150m. At that point Yenew Alamirew and Hagos Gebrhiwet – the two fastest men over the distance this year – were well in contention alongside the Briton, but he would not yield. Gebrhiwet was first to drop off the pace, leaving Farah and Alamirew going head-to-head in the closing seconds but there was only one winner. The Ethiopian pair, in conjunction with compatriot Ibrahim Jeilan, attempted to work together to edge Farah out, but he goes into August’s World Championships in Moscow in confident mood after foiling their plans.
“The young guys wanted to beat me – I’m the man to beat. There’s no hiding me,” he said. “Winning gives you that confidence and I’m definitely looking forward to Moscow. These guys know they tried to race me on the last lap today, (now) they know they don’t want to leave it to the last lap. They’ll probably sacrifice someone to go hard somewhere (in Moscow); even today the three guys were talking between each other.
“The race was tough but it was important for me to race these guys. I could have had an easy race but I didn’t want an easy race. I wanted to test myself and to know where I was. I’m just really happy I won.”
Farah’s ‘super Saturday’ colleague from London 2012, Greg Rutherford, had to make do with second place in the long jump.
He is not yet at full fitness following knee trouble, but his leap of 8.11m was enough for him to go one better than last week’s finish.
Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, meanwhile, upstaged illustrious rivals Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter to win the 200 metres, capping a tough day for a string of reigning Olympic champions on their returns to Britain.
The standout race of the Diamond League meet was billed as a head to head between Fraser-Pryce and Jeter but triple African champion Okagbare made an unusually strong start and held off Fraser-Pryce, the two-time Olympic 100-metre champion from the United States, to win in 22.55 seconds. Jeter, the world 200 champion, trailed in a disappointing seventh in 23.36.
“The time wasn’t so fast but it’s always a good feeling winning so I’m happy,” said Okagbare.