RIO DE JANEIRO – The London Olympic Stadium echoed with cheers as Mohammed Farah’s 2012 win in the 10,000 meters kicked off an hour’s worth of gold medal victories by British athletes, which would be remembered as Super Saturday. Four years and nine days later, Saturday night brought less of a roar from the crowd at the Rio Olympic Arena and medals of different hues for his compatriots.
The constant variable in the night of athletics was the surging and dominant speed that has come to be synonymous with Farah over the years.
More than 5,000 miles from London, the same tactics that he earned him two Olympic golds in London and four world championships since were employed on Brazil’s blue track. The only disruption in the process was a fall by the reigning champion as Farah clipped the heels of 2012 silver medalist and training partner Galen Rupp just four kilometers into the race.
“I was just thinking, ‘Try to get up, try to get up. Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic’ and then I got up. There was quite a lot of laps left so I managed to get back into rhythm and I tried not to panic to just get through it.,” Farah said
At the 1972 Olympics, Finland’s Lasse Virén fell in the men’s 10,000 meters before getting up and dashing to a world record. Farah got up within seconds, regained his form and gave Rupp a thumbs up before carrying on with his evening stroll. No world record but Farah, who is toeing the line in the “greatest of all-time” conversation, says he may attempt them when the time is right and before he shifts his focus to the marathon.
Saturday’s win was historic as Farah etched his name in the history books alongside Virén, Czechoslovakia’s Emil Zátopek and Ethiopians Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele as the only men in Olympic history to have won back-to-back 10,000 meter titles.
“It feels amazing to make history and to be along with Kenenisa, Haile and Zatopek,” Farah says. “I really wanted to play football when I was younger and over the years when I got into athletics, I started to enjoy it more and learn about it. I remember the first time I met [1984 British Olympic silver medalist] Steve Cram, I didn’t know who he was. I was like ‘Who’s this guy?’ Later on I started watching YouTube of Seb Coe and [Steve] Ovett and it’s nice to be able to be recognized as one of the best guys in the world.”
There were flashes of the 10,000 from London throughout the race as Farah and Rupp were in position to medal with less than a mile to go, but the final kilometer saw an injection of pace that Rupp could not match.
“The first couple laps were probably a little slower but we definitely ran hard. It wasn’t like we left it doddle until the end,” Rupp says. “I think it was to be expected that they were going to push. They’ve done it before. They did it last year and they’re going to do whatever it is to give themselves the best chance to win.”
At the bell, Farah was challenged by Kenya’s Paul Tanui but his closing speed of 55 seconds for his final lap was unmatched. There were no immediate threats to his reign with less than 100 meters to go so he smiled and arched his arms up in the air for his “Mo-Bot” pose—an exclamation point on each of his major victories since London.
“I’m more of a guy that wins medals rather than runs fast times,” Farah says. “For me, one of the things that keeps me going is winning medals for my country and making my nation proud.”
Tenui settled for silver in 27:05.64 and Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia took bronze in 27:06.26. East Africa has tried and failed repeatedly in the last four years to devise any sort of plan to dethrone Farah. In the mixed zone of Diamond League meets, Ethiopians have been seen bickering and yelling at each other over missed opportunity to make a move or push the pace to kill Farah’s kick. Nothing has worked.
The frustration has grown as Ethiopia and Kenya continue to find themselves without a gold medal in the 10,000 meters at the Olympics. The days of Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele are long gone with the Union Jack flying and God Save the Queen blaring at the Olympics and World Championships as the new norm.
Rupp nearly stopped in his tracks to help Farah after the fall. Through an interpreter Tanui and Tola said they wish to follow in Farah’s footsteps. Farah may not yet be the greatest of all-time but he is doing a fair job of being treated like the king and he will continue his reign in next Saturday’s 5,000 meters.