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BEIJING—Double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah of Great Britain survived not one, but two tripping incidents in his 5000m preliminary heat on Wednesday at the 15th IAAF World Championships in Athletics at National Stadium.
Running in the second of two heats with his American training partner Galen Rupp, Farah was first tripped 6 minutes and 48 seconds into the race with 6 laps to go, nearly falling. Five laps later, he tangled with Canada’s Mohamed Ahmed with just 180 meters to go, pitching forward but again managing to stay on his feet. He went on to finish second to Ethiopian teenager Yomif Kejelcha in 13:19.44.
Since Farah’s heat was much faster than the first—won by Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrehiwet in a pedestrian 13:45.00—Farah knew he could have fallen, gotten up, and still qualified on time.
“I was thinking, even if I went down at that point, I looked at the laps and I knew (what) we had to run, if I run 75 (seconds) I’d still qualify,” he told reporters. “I felt all right. I felt good. Just have to recover now.”
After the incident, Ahmed was disqualified under IAAF rule 163.2 (pushing, obstruction or jostling). But, Athletics Canada appealed, their appeal was successful, and Ahmed’s result was allowed to stand: third place in 13:19.58.
Farah pointed out that because he has a long, loping stride, he is often clipped by other runners, even in practice. He said it’s just part of racing.
“Somebody just caught my leg,” he explained. “You know, the way I run I just have long strides. I don’t blame anyone. Even in training, sometimes like with training partners, they touch my legs. It just happens. That’s why sometimes I have to be at the front, not the back.”
Rupp left the track bleeding from his shins with multiple spike wounds, but still qualified on time in eighth place in 13:20.78. Rupp wasn’t surprised by the sloppy running in his heat.
“I’m one of the bigger guys in there so it’s a little easier for me to hold my ground, I think,” he said. “It’s just to be expected.”
Also advancing from Team USA were Ryan Hill and Ben True.
Farah is looking to win his third consecutive 5000m world title, while also trying to duplicate his double-gold medal performance from these championships in Moscow in 2013. He said now he just needed to lay low and recover in advance of Saturday’s final.
“I just have to get in the ice bath now, two days in my room, playing PlayStation, chilling out.”
In the first round of 800m qualifying for women, American Alysia Montano—six times the USA champion in the two-lap event—wasn’t as lucky as Farah. She tangled with another runner with a little more than 200 meters to go in her heat, tumbling to the track. Although she was able to get up, she finished a distant seventh in 2:09.57. United States Track and Field lodged a protest, but it was denied by officials. Her world championships are over.
“It happened really quick,” a stunned Montano said moments after leaving the track. “It was just a little clip. I’m not sure. When we all started to move, I don’t know. It happened so fast. Honestly, I just have to figure it out. I’m just pretty bummed out right now.”
Montano’s American teammate, Brenda Martinez, the bronze medalist from Moscow in 2013, got boxed-in in the homestretch and struggled to clinch the third and final qualifying position from her heat.
“I made the biggest mistake,” said Martinez, looking slightly embarrassed. “I settled behind, and a space did not open at all until maybe 100 meters to go. The whole time I was licking my chops. When I finished, I was like, I’m not even tired. Like I shouldn’t be racing like that. I’m a little disappointed in myself.”
Other women’s 800m medal favorites advanced without incident, including Marina Arzamasova of Belarus, Lynsey Sharp of Great Britain, reigning champion Eunice Sum of Kenya, and Selina Büchel of Switzerland.