Callum Hawkins is set to earn automatic marathon selection for Tokyo 2020 after Mo Farah revealed he is to pass up on the event next year and throw his energies into returning to the track and the pursuit of a third consecutive Olympic 10,000 metres title.
The four-time gold medallist, now 36, had previously considered a U-turn on his place this season but ultimately decided to skip the world championships and compete at last month’s Chicago marathon, where he finished eighth.
But with British Athletics selectors due to name up to four marathon runners for Japan in two weeks’ time, his change of heart means Hawkins – ranked second behind Farah – is all but certain to be given the green light to skip April’s official trial in London.
“If I get pre-selected,” he said, “it will allow me to not do a spring marathon and focus completely on getting ready for Tokyo.”
Farah’s withdrawal also boosts the selection prospects of Hawkins’ elder brother Derek who recently made a successful return to the marathon for the first time since the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The move back to the 10,000m probably offers Farah the best hope of one more major medal. And although he will not aim to win a third successive 5,000m gold, seeing the world championships action in Doha made him believe that he can pull off a successful return.
“I watched the 10,000m, and watched other races, and part of you gets excited,” he said. “You’re seeing people winning medals, for your country and stuff, and you ask yourself. It almost felt like I needed to be there. I’ve still got a chance with the Olympics. Why would you turn it down?”
London Marathon confirmed Farah will skip next year’s race although it is unclear whether, in needing to achieve the qualifying time of 27 minutes and 28 seconds, he will take part in the official UK 10,000 trials in June.
Farah has won double gold at each of the last two Olympics, taking the 5,000m and 10,000m crowns in London and Rio, but switched his focus to the marathon in 2017.
He won the Chicago Marathon in 2018 but has decided to return to his old stomping ground, saying on his YouTube channel: “The big news is I’m back on the track in the 10,000m in Tokyo next year.
“I hope I haven’t lost my speed but I’ll train hard for it and see what I can do.”
He enjoyed considerable successes during his time at the longer distance, notably taking 37 seconds off the European record with a time of two hours, five minutes and 11 seconds during his Chicago triumph. But he never matched the dominance of his earlier career and indicated last year that he would reverse his decision to retire from track competition if he felt it improved his chances of another Olympic victory.
“To win the Chicago Marathon was nice, to finish third in London was OK, it was good. It’s been a learning curve for me,” he continued. “[But] next year I’ve decided, Tokyo 2020, I’m gonna be back on the track. I’m really excited to be competing back on the track and give it a go in the 10,000m.”
The news comes just a day after UK Athletics announced it had commissioned an independent review into its dealings with Farah’s former coach Alberto Salazar, and the now mothballed Nike Oregon Project.
The American, who worked with Farah from 2011 to 2017, was banned for four years by the US Anti-Doping Agency in October for violations of its code, but this month announced he would be challenging the sanction at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Farah has never failed a drugs test and has always strenuously denied breaking any anti-doping regulations.
The independent review is expected to publish its findings “in or around spring 2020” on a range of specific questions relating to UK Athletics’ response to allegations against Salazar in 2015 and 2017.