MO FARAH feared a last-lap stumble had killed his hopes of a sixth straight global title but he came through a challenge he branded the toughest of his career to land gold over 10,000 metres at the World Championships in Beijing.
Farah was ruthlessly focused amid a summer of speculation as he burst away from the twin Kenyan challenge of Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor and Paul Tanui down the home straight. The outcome could have been so different, though, as a tangle of legs in the closing stages threatened to send him crashing to the track.
But the 32-year-old, who has endured a tumultuous season, caught up in the doping allegations surrounding his coach Alberto Salazar, kept his feet and his cool to come home first in 27 minutes 01.13 seconds. Farah said: “At one point, I honestly thought I was gone as I stumbled and I was thinking, ‘Not 24 laps into it, the last lap’. I was trying to go round and the Kenyan guy Geoffrey caught my leg.
“So I almost stumbled and managed to stay on my feet, go round to the front and make sure I had something left at the end. It was close, it wasn’t easy.”
The double Olympic champion, back at the Bird’s Nest stadium, the scene of the biggest disappointment of his career when he failed to make the final of the 2008 Olympic Games, has now not lost at an Olympics or World Championships since 2011.
Farah was in a pack of five well clear of the field for most of the race. It included American Galen Rupp, his training partner at the Nike Oregon Project in Portland, and, ominously, three Kenyan team-mates.
The trio did their best to end the Briton’s run of domination, working together to push the pace in a bid to neutralise his finishing speed.
It did not work as Farah was able to work a little with Rupp to combat their tactics, and then kept his balance amid the tangling feet and flailing arms, kicking away to cross the line with a roar of delight and more than half a second to spare.
This race was almost half a minute quicker than his 10,000m triumph at London 2012 and 20 seconds faster than his victory at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.
Asked if it was the hardest of his wins, he said: “Yeah, for sure. I think the Olympics were pretty tough because of the pressure, being at home, I felt that a lot. But at the same time it was never that quick, so it always came down to the last bit, but tonight it was hard.”
The double Olympic champion has admitted his name has been dragged through the mud over his links to Salazar, although he himself has been accused of no wrongdoing and his coach has denied the allegations against him.
This win was the ideal way to answer his critics. “Definitely relief,” said Farah when questioned on his emotions given the year he has had.
“It’s for everyone that supported me and believed in me. I genuinely enjoy running and love what I do. It’s great to win here tonight and to be able to back it up year after year is pretty incredible.”
Meanwhile, two other Britons, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson, are set to battle it out for glory after an impressive opening day from the heptathletes.
Olympic champion Ennis-Hill returned to the global stage in impressive style, taking the lead with a points haul of 4,005 in her first major championship since London 2012 – and just 13 months after the birth of her son Reggie.
Johnson-Thompson finished just 80 points behind in second, with Nadine Visser of the Netherlands third on 3,871 and favourite Brianne Theisen-Eaton in fourth. The Canadian has 3,865 points after four events but conceded that gold is beyond her with the long jump, javelin and 800 metres to come.
Johnson-Thompson favours today’s first event and Ennis-Hill is better at the javelin, meaning it could all come down to two laps of the Bird’s Nest. “Gosh, the thought of it,” Ennis-Hill said. “It could do. It depends on the long jump and what the javelin goes like but it will probably be quite close in the 800 I would imagine. It is going to be a bit nerve-wracking.”
In the 100m heats, Justin Gatlin responded to boos from the crowd by storming to 9.83 seconds. The two-time drug cheat looked mightily impressive in qualifying fastest for today’s semi-finals.
His main rival, Usain Bolt, won his heat in 9.96, albeit into a slight head wind.
The most remarkable performance of the day, though, came in the marathon, which was won by Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, who at 19, gave Eritrea its first World Championships gold medal.
Ghebreslassie, who won in two hours, 12 minutes and 27 seconds, turns 20 in November, and his country is scarcely any older, having gained independence only in 1993.