You can expect the flashier, explosive Usain St. Leo Bolt to garner more eyeballs than any other athlete at the ensuing IAAF World Championships in London. Indeed, it is unfair to subject anyone else to compare with the explosive sprinter but the world does not always follow logic and everyone will perhaps have to concede the limelight to the Jamaican.
Yet, at a time when Bolt has captivated generations of fans who admire the electric, explosive energy that he brings to the track, Sir Mohamed Mutar Jama Farah – or, simply, Mo Farah – has created an indelible legacy of his own. It is a tribute to his training, endurance, perseverance, mental strength and competitive quality that makes him a champion for fans across continents.
Back in the 1980s, British Athletics enjoyed a golden decade with the likes of Sebastian Coe, Daley Thompson, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, Steve Backley, Tessa Sanderson and, to a certain extent, Linford Christie. But by winning four gold medals in two Olympic Games, Mo Farah has risen above them all. What’s more, two more gold medals beckon the highly decorated runner.
To be fair, both distance finals in London promise to be classics since a few younger claimants to the crown have surfaced. Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris, his teenaged compatriot Selemon Barega and Uganda’s Joshua Kiprui Cheptegi came up with the quickest 5000m race of the year in Lausanne to lay down the gauntlet.
Similarly, in the 10,000m, Mo Farah will have younger runners snapping at his heels. Ethiopians Abadi Hadis and Jemal Yimer have scripted slightly faster times in the 10,000m this year. And hard as he tried to match their times in Ostrava, he had to settle for the third fastest time of the year. Yet, anyone who knows distance running will tell you that he is the king of tactics.
Mo Farah controls the races almost as if he casts an enchanting spell on his competitors. They may come to the track with their own plans to stump him but those are of no avail. His opponents have tried to break him with early runs in a bid to drain his energy but he has always appeared to have enough reserve in his tank with a finishing burst that can be the desire and envy of others.
Indeed, Mo Farah’s legacy as this decade’s premier distance runner can be imposing. He may not be making any claims to being the greatest. But when you realise that Lasse Viren (Finland) was only one with a double-double at the Olympic Games before Mo Farah achieved it in London 2012 and Rio 2016, you will recognise him a someone really gifted.
Come to think of it, the 34-year-old Briton will have his own corner in the distance running Hall of Fame alongside legends like Emil Zatopek (Czechoslovakia as the Czech Republic was then known), Miruts Yifter and Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia), Said Ouita and Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco).
Consider his record as a competitor: He was last beaten over either distance in a world-level race back in 2011. He was taken by surprise when a relatively unknown Ibrahim Jeilan (Ethiopia) overhauled him in the 25-lapper in the World Championships in Daegu. Since then, he has amassed five gold medals over the two distances at the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
Some clouds gathered, thanks to a leak by Russian hackers, Fancy Bears. There was a hint of scandal when the Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the probe the United States Anti-Doping Agency against his American coach Alberto Salazar. Yet, it does appear as if the Somalian-born has been unruffled and focused on his task as he heads towards retirement from track events.
“I can only control my legs and what I do and I know there are a lot of people who support me. It is just a small minority who think to become a success you must be doing something. I will never fail a drugs test. That is who I am. I believe in clean sports and I just have to enjoy what I do, keep smiling,” he said the Diamond League in London earlier this month.
The challenge of dealing with pressure when competing at home isn’t new, even if he has lived away from London for many years now. He had dealt with public glare and with fame as calmly as a champion would. He has perfected his skills the best he can and learnt to give it the best expression each time he has stepped on track at the world stage.
In the coming few days, we may well see him smiling all over again. If you answer to the call of Mo Farah, you may be able to achieve that preposterous thought of stealing a certain Usain St. Leo Bolt’s thunder. And, you will agree, that will have taken some doing. Another double, perhaps.
Updated Date: Aug 03, 2017 16:19 PM