In a night that lit up like a firestorm of passion, Mo Farah, now the greatest long-distance runner ever, rode on the combined emotion of 56,000 screaming fans to demolish a joint African challenge, which in the middle of the 25-lap race seemed to be doing its work.
But in the end, Farah plugged into the roaring, resounding, boisterous sea of humanity, sprinted past the finish line in 26:49.51; the second-fastest time in World Championships history of the 10,000m. You got to feel for Uganda's 2014 world U20 champion Joshua Cheptegei and the Kenyan Olympic silver medallist Paul Kipngetich Tanui. The Africans did everything but the Briton wasn’t going to spoil his exit plan with any other medal but gold.
“I knew at 12 laps to go when they went hard from there, I knew it was going to be tough. It was about believing in my sprint finish and knowing that I have been in that position before. It helped a lot having the experience,” said Farah, eyes gleaming like nuclear-powered lanterns.
Tough it was as Cheptegei, Tanui, Moses Kurong and Kipsang Kamworor held the lead and increased the pace in almost every alternate lap. It wasn’t the pace that would have worried Farah. It was the realisation that each of the hugely talented Africans would keep him away from the kick and probably force him to circle around that made the reigning champion kick into third place in the 15th lap. But yet again he was pushed back into seventh and eighth spot.
The roar of the crowd was deafening and in the 17th lap even they sensed that someone had to break in this relentless pace. It could easily have been Farah. The laps were so fast that for the first time in World Championship history, the first seven athletes came inside 27 minutes.
Much before the World Championships kicked off, Farah had said he was in good shape. And he proved it by sitting back and letting the front runners handle it off. In the seventh and eighth lap, Kurong and then Tanui were almost 50 metres in the lead, the rest of the runners all tightly put together like beads on a necklace. By the 6km mark, two distinct groups had formed with Farah running at the back of the first group of 12 runners.
The Ethiopian duo of Abadi Hadis and Jemal Yimer also moved into the top four twice. At the 4,000m mark, which was timed at 10:53.80, Farah surged ahead to the roar of the fans but Cheptegei snatched back the lead. 5,000m came in 13:33.77 as Bedan Muchiri Karoki did a spectacular 61-second lap and Tanui, Kamworor, Cheptegei and Kurong trailed in with Farah running comfortably in 11th spot.
Farah moved into fifth place as the clock showed eight laps to go. Slowly the tempo was built. The fans got into it, knowing they were watching a special performance, a feat they would eventually end up talking about till memories of the race remained. The lead was with the Briton with exactly two laps to go. Farah wasn’t running anymore. The athlete was surfing the extraordinary atmosphere; its vibrancy, enthusiasm and the excitement pushing Farah towards the finish line as Cheptegei and Tanui just didn’t have anything left in the last 10 metres.
It was Farah’s 10th consecutive world track title and number 11 seems to be around the corner when he starts for the 5,000m.
"The Kenyans, Ugandans and Ethiopians all gave me a race,” said Farah. “Fair play to them, they worked hard. I just had to stay strong and remember that I didn't put all this work in for nothing. But what a way to end my career in London. This was very special.”
Cheptegei, the silver medallist from Uganda admitted that the plan from the start was to run a hard race. “The opening lap was not a problem. I thought I was going at 65 but I saw it coming at 61 and it was fine. I'm not upset about the loss as Mo is a great guy and a legend, so running with him in the last championship is really great."
Farah’s stunning victory not only made him the greatest, but also ensured that the fans, for a while, had forgotten that this was Usain Bolt’s farewell championship. Even after Farah’s victory, the buzz inside the stadium was powerful enough to create an energy force that could light up a small Indian town.
After the withdrawal of Andre De Grasse, this has become a championship for Bolt to lose. Christian Coleman, Yohan Blake, Chijindu Ujah were good but not fast. Anybody could win but after the first round, it seems that Bolt’s long legs and finish would once again tilt a World Championship 100m in his favour.
Christian Coleman, who has the best time of the year at 9.82, said, “Everyone has the same goal to come out here and win. My mindset is always to get the victory and tomorrow (Saturday) will be no different."
Blake, nicknamed ‘The Beast’, reminded everybody that he has won the World Championship once. "It is good to be here and I just want to get a similar result to the 2011 (World Championships). I'm fit and I'm healthy," he said.
Former Olympic Champion Justin Gatlin, booed by the crowd when his name was announced said, “I am not worried about the crowds and I just focus on my start and my race. I am just here, seeing my teammates, seeing my countryman and just have a good time.”
Meanwhile, the greatest ever athlete, Usain Bolt, showed dodgy knees in his sixth heat to clock 10.7. The start was bad and the Jamaican superstar appeared to stumble. At the 30m mark, you could sense the stress and tension in the crowd. But by the time the sprinters reached the 70m mark, the Big Man cantered through which to many would have appeared like a jog.
"That was very bad, I stumbled coming out of the blocks," explained Bolt. “I'm not very fond of these blocks. I think these are the worst ones I've ever experienced. I have to get this start together because I can't keep doing this.”
India picks up the challenge on Saturday. But the wide gap between India and the World is not narrowing anytime soon. PU Chitra, who wanted a seat on the flight for the World Championships, wouldn’t have qualified for the semi-finals. The slowest qualifier among the three heats was Germany’s Hanna Klein who ran 4:09.32. Chitra’s Asian Athletics Gold timing was 4:17.92; almost eight seconds off.
Take a look at Lakshmanan’s timing in the Asian 10,000m final – 29:55.87. Farah won the World Championship in 26:49.51! Australia’s Patrick Tiernan, who finished 22nd, had a time of 29:23.72.
On Saturday, on a day when Bolt runs the 100m final, three Indians will enter the fray — Swapna Barman (Heptathlon), Dutee Chand (100m) and Mohammed Anas (400m). Most fans following athletics back home would hope courage, grit and a certain amount of spunk would lift their performance to at least breaking their own national records.
Updated Date: Aug 05, 2017 15:59 PM