Much like the previous Saturday with Usain Bolt, it was not to be the perfect end for Sir Mo Farah but in some ways the world championship silver medal which he claimed in the men’s 5,000m final last night was a fitting end to the major track career of Britain’s greatest ever athlete.
Not what he or the expectant capacity London Stadium crowd wanted but a race which illustrated the character of the man as much as any of his long list of golden triumphs.
The previous Friday’s 10,000m epic had clearly taken its toll, that much was clear in Wednesday’s 5,000m heat. “They are coming for me,” said the 34-year-old then.
“They” have been trying for years but, finally, right at the end, they got their man.
As a compelling 12-and-a-half laps came to the boil it was Farah chasing, not trying to fend off and kick as is so often the case. As the 23-year-old Ethiopian Muktar Edris held his lead and the track began to run out despite the desperate exhortations from the stands, some may have thrown in the towel.
But Farah remained a fighter and a racer to the end. If it wasn’t to be gold then it damn well wasn’t going to be anything less than silver. He dug in and just chested out Olympic silver medallist Paul Chelimo on the line. Scotland’s Andrew Butchart finished eighth.
“It’s been a long journey but it’s been incredible. It didn’t really hit home until I crossed the line and I had a couple of minutes to myself and realised this is it,” said an emotional Farah before he took one last lap of honour around this track, which was the launchpad to his impending legendary status at London 2012.
“To be honest with you it takes so much out of me. It’s not an excuse, but it took a lot more out of me than I realised. Tactically, I was trying to cover every move. They had the game plan: one of them was going to sacrifice themselves. That’s what they did tonight, and the better man won on the day. I gave it all, I didn’t have a single bit left at the end.”
It has been said that the Africans had to work together to beat Farah and, while there was a bit of teamwork from the Ethiopians, it wasn’t a major factor in the outcome. Simply, it was a race too far for the man with an astonishing ten major global golds to his name and the younger man Edris prevailed.
In the end, it was an unlikely break from Australia’s Patrick Tiernan, who finished 11th, which stretched things out after it looked like Farah, briefly in tandem with team-mate Butchart, had a lid on things.
Just as Farah had clawed back the Aussie, Edris took the opportunity to go and, despite the valiance you would expect, the Briton just didn’t have enough this time.
New champion Edris performed Farah’s famous “Mobot” celebration as he crossed the line in triumph.
“I was highly prepared for this race and I knew I was going to beat Mo Farah,” said the Ethiopian. “After the 10km he was maybe tired so he did not have enough for the last kick. I was stronger.
“Mo has many victories but now I have one. I am the new champion for Ethiopia.
“That’s why I did the Mobot. I am the next champion.”
For Butchart it was a slip back from the sixth he achieved at the Rio Olympics but the 25-year-old from Dunblane was philosophical.
“You end up watching it on the big screen because they are so fast. I was kind of cheering on Mo in my head then I got caught on the line,” said the Scot.
“I was spent. I just wasn’t there to react for the last part of it. I wanted to place higher but I’m happy enough.
“I left it hard for myself but I’m on par with these guys – I’m meant to be in these races, so it’s not like I’m expected to come last. I’m expected to do well.”