Briton becomes first man in 20 years to pull of 5K/10K double at European Championships.
Written by: David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Britain’s Mo Farah solidified his position at the top of European distance running here Saturday night by becoming only the fifth man –and the first in 20 years– to win both the 5000-meter and 10,000-meter gold medals at the European Championships. It was in the shorter race tonight, the 5,000 meters, where Farah took the victory, completing his third race in five days in this warm and muggy seaside city.
“For this I’ve waited for four years,” said Farah who was the silver medallist at 5,000 meters in these championships four years ago in Gothenburg by just 9/100ths of a second. “Four years ago, less than half a second. So, I had to work hard for four years to get stronger, and I’m really happy with how I went tonight.”
His finish time of 13:31.18 was nothing special, but the speed he showed in the closing laps was. The pace had jumped up and down in the early laps, but Farah seized control of the race over the final four laps by ratcheting up the pace, and closing with a ferocious kick. Chased by Azerbaijan’s Hayle Ibrahimov and Spain’s Jesus España, the defending champion, Farah ran 63.6 seconds, 61.4, then 59.1 seconds for the penultimate lap. He wasn’t done.
“I just had to work and dig and dig,” Farah explained. “Four years ago second by less than half a second. At that point where he (España) came past me, so in my head I didn’t want to look behind. I just wanted to dig and push and push. At that point I was just thinking I’m not going to let him come past me.”
Farah left nothing to chance. He blasted the final lap in 55.7 seconds to secure the victory, covering the final 1,600 meters in 3:59.8. As he crossed the finish line, he stretched his arms to the side, palms open, then knelt on the track, bowing his head so far that his forehead touched the track. He covered his face with his hands as the emotion of the moment washed over him. España, who kicked past Ibrahimov in the final 20 meters to get the silver medal, helped lift Farah to his feet.
“I was so happy; I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it,” Farah said of that moment. “But then in the 5K to do that…” His voice trailed as he struggled to find the words.
The other medallists from Tuesday’s 10,000-meter final, Italy’s Daniele Meucci (bronze) and Britain’s Chris Thompson (silver), also ran well here tonight. Meucci finished sixth and Thompson was eighth.
“He’s more than The Man,” Thompson said of his teammate. “I’ve been singing his praises for a long, long time. He is phenomenal, not just on the track, but off the track, in training, just everything about him. He’s got a great aura, a really nice guy, really works hard. You could see in the last 100 how much he wanted it.”
Ibrahimov, the former Ethiopian who went by the name Haile Desta Hagos, gave tiny Azerbaijan their only medal of these championships by winning the bronze.
In the men’s 800-meter final it was a big night for Poland. A slow first 400 meters (53.28) lead to a spirited sprint over the last 120 meters. Britain’s Michael Rimmer, who finished dead last in these championships in 2006, led coming out of the final turn and was in excellent position on the inside. But Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski surged to Rimmer’s right, trying to pass the Briton in the final few meters.
“He attacked me at the perfect point,” Rimmer said after the race. “Perfect for him, but not for me.”
Lewandowski made the final pass on Rimmer just before the line to collect the gold medal in 1:47.07. He said that he approached the final differently than the preliminaries and semi-finals by staying closer to the front.
“I knew I had to be very close [to the front]because everybody’s really good,” Lewandowski said in rapid-fire English. “So, if I had bad position in the last 200 it would be very hard to pass everybody.” He added: “I think it was perfect.”
Rimmer finished 1/10th of a second behind to collect his first international medal, but was disappointed with his run.
“Right now, I’m really down,” he said softly, looking down. “To come so close is tough. I wanted it very badly. Maybe give me a day or two and it might sink in a little bit.”
The bronze medal went to Poland’s Adam Kszczot, who just held off the Netherlands’ Arnoud Okken in the final meters, 1:47.22 to 1:47.31. He was thrilled that Poland had put two men on the podium.
“I think it’s a great pleasure to have two people on the podium,” the boyish-looking Kszczot said in halting, but confident, English. “What can I say more? It’s a great, great honor to be here to have this third place.”