Britain’s Mo Farah last night became the first man to retain the 5,000 metres title at the European Championships, but found himself apologising to domestic fans and rivals.
Farah, who is also world champion over the distance, led at the bell in Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium and was never going to be caught as he powered to victory in 13 minutes 29.91 seconds. That was more than 30 seconds slower than his world-leading time in 2012 set in Oregon earlier this month but the gold medal was all that mattered and proved again that the 29-year-old has matured into a superb championship athlete.
It was a far cry from his last appearance – or non-appearance – on the track, which led to him being accused of being “disrespectful” to fellow competitors and letting down the paying public. At the Olympic trials in Birmingham on Friday night, Farah easily won his heat of the 1,500m and celebrated well before the line with his so-called “Mobot”, before then withdrawing from Saturday’s final. Anthony Whiteman, who finished fifth behind Farah, felt that was “out of order,” adding: “On the last lap Mo kept looking round to see the best time to do his showboating. It is disrespectful to the athletes behind him working their backsides off.”
Farah insisted that was not his intention and said: “I got a little bit of stick for it but I didn’t intend to disrespect anyone. Sometimes you get carried away and do a celebration. I didn’t do the 1,500m final but it was just to save my legs and to come out here and get a good race and see where I am. I apologise to everyone who bought tickets but this medal means more to me than doing the final and getting a medal there.”
Farah’s win was in stark contrast to many of his team-mates’ results on the opening day of competition, with Luke Gunn’s Olympic dreams ending in tears and Luke Lennon-Ford’s coming to grief thanks to a “blatantly tight” track. Gunn needed a B qualifying standard of eight minutes 32 seconds in the 3,000m steeplechase to leave himself as the only athlete available for selection. But the 27-year-old crashed into a barrier less than two laps into his semi-final and was unable to continue, admitting he could not put into words the disappointment of missing out on a home Games.
In the 400m a total of seven athletes were initially disqualified for lane infringements from the five heats – Slovenia’s Brent Larue even managed to get DQ’d from both the 400m and 400m hurdles – and, although Richard Buck was subsequently reinstated thanks to “inconclusive” video evidence, Lennon-Ford had no such recourse. The European under-23 bronze medallist blamed renovations which saw the track relaid after the football pitch in the infield was extended to meet international rules.
“They’ve changed the curve and they have blatantly made it too tight,” the 23-year-old said.
There was also disappointment for the likes of Carl Myerscough (shot), Abigail Irozuru (long jump), Isobel Pooley (high jump), Laura Whittingham (javelin) and Ashleigh Nelson (100m) as they all failed to reach the final of their event.
Mark Lewis-Francis also failed to reach the 100m final, but Harry Aikines-Aryeetey qualified behind defending champion Christophe Lemaitre while Robbie Grabarz and Samson Oni made the high jump final.