Roger Black believes Mo Farah deserves to be considered Great Britain’s greatest athlete, with or without a world record to his name.
Farah recovered from an early fall in Saturday’s 10,000 metres to claim his third Olympic gold in stunning fashion, with the possibility of a fourth awaiting in the 5,000m.
His dominance over the distances has also seen him pick up multiple world and European titles as rivals from around the globe have tried and failed to unseat him.
One thing the 33-year-old has not managed is besting Kenenisa Bekele’s world record marks in either event but Black, a double silver medallist in Atlanta 20 years ago, thinks that is no bar to his claims on greatness.
“If we’re going to judge who are the greatest athletes, the only thing missing for Mo Farah is he doesn’t hold a world record,” said Black. “But all athletes know although records are important the mark of an athlete is ‘can you race when it matters, the Olympic final?’ and Mo is one of the great racers of all time.
“I’m not sure it’s about records for Mo, it’s about medals and they are the most important things. It’s corny but records are there to be broken.
“I don’t see him getting a world record in the 10,000m or 5,000m but I don’t think he needs to for us to at least talk about him as the greatest British track and field athlete of all time.
“How do you compare Seb Coe, Daley Thompson, Mo Farah? It’s a subjective question in an objective sport. But I think Mo is the best British athlete of all time.”
Nothing, it seems, can stop Farah. Not his training partner clipping his heel in Saturday’s final in Rio de Janeiro. Not three of Kenya’s best trying to wear him down with repeated spurts of acceleration. Not the final kick of rival Paul Tanui.
The Somali-born runner became the first Briton to win three Olympic golds on the track with this victory, and as he crossed the line he fell to the floor and kissed the track in joy before completing his distinctive ‘Mobot’ sign.
Speaking after the race, Farah wiped tears from his eyes and said: “I work hard and spend a lot of time away from my family. I just had to believe in myself and get through and I wanted to do it for my kids.”
Talking about his fall, which happened halfway through the 25-lap race, Farah added: “When you go down, you get really emotional and I just tried to pick myself back up and believe in myself.
“When I crossed the line I just got really emotional. You know what goes in, you can’t imagine how much work you put in, in one moment it’s gone.”
On a busy weekend of athletics, Jessica Ennis-Hill was also hoping to defend her title in the heptathlon but she came away with the silver medal, while long jumper Greg Rutherford took the bronze.
At the Olympic Stadium, Ennis-Hill, pictured below, was in second place before the final event of the heptathlon, the 800m, but despite winning her heat it was not enough to push her to the top of the podium. Fellow British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson finished sixth in an event won by Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam.
“It’s just so hard to find the words to describe this. It’s just so special,” said Ennis-Hill. “I have had an amazing few years and achieved so much in this sport. I’m really proud.”
The 30-year-old, who gave birth to her son Reggie two years ago, hinted that this Olympics could be her final competition. Asked if Rio would be her last, she said “possibly”, before adding: “I am really emotional. I have got to go away now to make a big decision as to what I do.”
Rutherford’s run of four straight major championship victories came to an end as a best leap of 8.29m earned him bronze in a thrilling long jump competition. American Jeff Henderson took gold with a final-round effort of 8.38m, denying South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga by a centimetre, and Rutherford was down in fourth until producing his best attempt with his last jump.
The 29-year-old Briton, pictured inset, was one of the heroes of ‘Super Saturday’ at London 2012 and admitted he was “gutted” at having to settle for bronze in Brazil.
“It’s very frustrating. Obviously I come into these competitions to win them. Ultimately I didn’t jump long enough today which is very difficult for me to take. But it is what it is I guess. I’ve just got to make do and move on from that but I’m pretty gutted.
“Things don’t go always go smoothly. I’ve won a lot and today I haven’t won. That’s something I’m not used to and something I have to deal with and figure out.
“My body is always a mess but I’ve been dealing with that for years now. There are no excuses on that front.
“I’m pleased on the last that I mustered what energy I had left to take me from fourth into a medal position but it’s still not good enough in my eyes.”