By winning the Olympic 5,000-meter run on Saturday evening in London, Great Britain’s Mo Farah joined a small but rather exclusive club.
The 29-year-old Farah, who moved to Britain from Somalia when he was 8, became just the sixth runner in Olympic history to win the two longest events on the track in the same Games.
Farah, who won the 10,000m run earlier in the week, turned in a 52.9-second last 400m (and a 3:57 final mile) to take the otherwise pedestrian race in 13:41.66. It was the was the slowest Olympic 5,000 final since the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, but the roaring capacity crowd of 80,000 could have cared less as it celebrated Great Britain’s double Olympic hero.
“There is no way to describe it,” Farah told reporters after the race. “As a young athlete, you dream of becoming Olympic champion. To do it twice is unbelievable.”
The race started at a very slow pace as the tightly bunch field of 15 runners passed through the 1,000m split in 2:55 and the first mile in about 4:44. Farah mostly hung out at the back of the pack early on but eventually got into the middle of the group as the tempo started to increase.
Hoping to put the hurt on the faster kickers in the field, Ethiopia’s Deien Gebremeskel, one of runners many thought would challenge Farah for the win, started pushing the pace with five laps go. But Farah and the rest of the field hung tight despite suddenly cruising at sub-4-minute mile pace. Farah went to the front with 700m to go and was joined momentarily by U.S. training partner Galen Rupp with 550m to go.
With a lap to go, several runners jostled for position but Farah held the lead, fighting off several surges along the backstretch and the final turn. Farah glanced to his right with 100m to go and started to surge, but Kenya’s Thomas Longosiwa couldn’t react. Farah opened a two-stride lead down the stretch, enough to hold off a resurgent Gebremeskel (13:41.98) on the way to the finish line.
Longosiwa (13:42.36) held on for the bronze medal, just ahead of America Bernard Lagat (13:42.99). Rupp, who used a strong kick to take the silver medalist in the 10,000m, didn’t have much left in the tank in this race and finished seventh (13:45.04). The third American in the field Lopez Lomong was 10th in 13:48.19.
Farah has been training with Rupp under American coach Alberto Salazar in Beaverton, Ore., for the past 18 months. Farah won the 5,000m at last year’s world championships in Daegu, South Korea, but narrowly missed out on winning the 10,000.
In pulling off the historic Olympic double, Farah joins Finland’s Hannes Kolehmainen (1912), Czechoslovakia’s Emil Zatopek (1952), Russia’s Vladimir Kuts (1956) and Ethiopia’s Mirutus Yifter (1980) and Kenenisa Bekele (2008) as the only other 5,000/10,000 double winners in the same Olympics.
Farah dedicated his two gold medals to his yet-to-be-born twins.
“These two gold medals mean the world to me, because my wife is carrying twins,” Farah said. “I didn’t want to have just one gold medal, and then have twins.”
In the women’s 800m, Russia’s Mariya Savinova ran away from the field over the final 200m to claim the gold in 1:56.19. South Africa’s Caster Semenya was a distant fifth at the start of the homestretch but closed hard to take the silver in 1:57.23.
Russia’s Ekaterina Poistogoya (1:57.53) held on for the bronze. American Alysia Johnson Montano, who led the field through the 400m in 56.31, faded a bit before the 600m mark but closed hard to finish fifth (1:57.93)
Also on Satruday, the U.S. won the women’s 4x400m relay. The quartet of Deedee Trotter Allyson Felix, Fracena McCorory and Sanya Richards-Ross ran a season-best 3:16.87, giving them a commanding win over Russia (3:20.23) and Jamaica (3:20.95).
In the men’s 4x100m relay, Jamaica continued it’s sprinting domination with a world record 36.84 victory that gave Usain Bolt his third gold medal of this Olympics and sixth in the past two. The U.S. was a close second in an American record-tying 37.04.
The Olympics conclude Sunday with the men’s marathon.