Only something “amazing” can stop Mo Farah starting the World Championships with a gold medal today, according to UK Athletics chief Neil Black.
The 30-year-old is the star of the Great Britain squad just a year on from taking the 5,000 and 10,000 metres titles at London 2012. Farah is odds-on to match his Olympic successes this week at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, where his campaign gets under way this afternoon on the opening day of the championships.
It will be his first 10,000m race on the track since last year’s Olympic final and gives him a chance to make amends for two years ago. Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan’s late burst denied him gold in Daegu, but UK Athletics performance director Black does not see any such challenges for Farah today.
“His expectation is higher than anyone else’s,” said Black. “He will, without doubt, expect to win. It will take an amazing performance for that not to happen so we will find out tomorrow what happens.
“He is in great shape. He arrived last night, we checked him out physically. He is a confident guy and looking forward to it. Bring it on, as far as he is concerned. He just wants to get on and enjoy it.”
Farah finalised his preparations for the championships with high altitude training in St Moritz, Switzerland – a far cry from the life he has enjoyed since London 2012.
Becoming a household name brings with it extra responsibilities, but Black knows he does not have to worry about Farah’s mentality.
“He has an amazing ability to switch and, using his own words, he lives the dream,” he said. “He chills out wherever he is. He can use time in a way he finds interesting and exciting, but when it comes to the competition he stays relaxed up until the final few minutes. Then he takes a real concentrated approach, purposeful and because he has such huge confidence I think a number of people are beaten before he even steps on the start line.
“I think it is that ability to go from completely chilled, completely relaxed to absolutely targeted, focused and an absolute belief in his ability to perform.”
Former world 1,500m champion Steve Cram believes Farah intimidates his rivals and Black, acting as head coach after Peter Eriksson’s departure, agrees.
“Because he is so relaxed and so confident it probably does in a way that is different to some others,” he said. “Some will try to intimidate others by making themselves bigger or appearing to be almost overtly confident.
“I think Mo in his almost casualness is probably doing a similar thing, saying, ‘If you guys think I’m that bothered, let’s see what happens on the track’.”
Farah himself feels a different athlete to the one that rocked up in Daegu two years ago.
“I am definitely a different athlete in terms of what I’ve done, in terms of confidence,” he said. “Daegu was the start and to come back in 2012 and win that and now 2013, I’ve been sort of mixing and matching a little bit. I started off with the half marathon and then coming through 5k, 10k. I am just that bit stronger, I’ve been injury free, that’s the most important thing. Your body allows you to do 100 plus miles week in, week out. You have done that base so I am just stronger.”
The only other medal decided today is the women’s marathon, where Britain’s Sonia Samuels and Susan Partridge will be hoping to impress.
Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat is bidding to become the first woman to land back-to-back world marathon titles, although she faces tough competition from Olympic gold medallist Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia. Olympic 400 metres silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu is the captain of the Great Britain team and she gets her championships under way today in the heats for the women’s 400m.
Ohuruogu is ranked only seventh in the world this year but the Londoner has never been bothered by the form book. In Osaka in 2007 she overhauled Jamaican race favourite Novlene Williams-Mills in the final five metres to snatch a surprise win after returning from a year’s suspension for missing three dope tests.