London 2012: Fantastic Farah finds golden finish
Newham & Essex Beagles star helps make history
It was a night that will go down in the annals of British sporting history.
We were all on our feet, we were all roaring Mo Farah across the finish line.
The 29-year-old had taken up the charge in the 10,000m at the bell, after 24 laps of cat and mouse.
And, thankfully, the Newham & Essex Beagles ace held on in a lengthy sprint finish to win a remarkable gold medal on a night of sheer delight at the Olympic Stadium.
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After the noisy home crowd had toasted heptathlon champion and London 2012 poster girl Jessica Ennis, plus long jump gold for Greg Rutherford, they saw Farah cap Great Britain’s greatest day at an Olympic Games since 1908.
Farah’s gold was GB’s sixth on ‘Super Saturday’ following double success on the rowing lake at Eton Dorney and another cycling title at the Velodrome.
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He dropped to his knees after crossing the line in 27 minutes 30.42 seconds, then was quickly back on his feet to share a hug with the silver medallist, his training partner Galen Rupp, of the United States.
Farah’s heavily pregnant wife Tania, expecting twins next month, and seven-year-old daughter Rihanna joined him for a lap of honour as 80,000 collectively exhaled.
It had been, simply, stunning.
“I just can’t believe it,” said Farah. “The crowd got so much behind me and was getting louder and louder.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this. It will never get any better than this, this is the best moment of my life.
“It doesn’t come round often and to have it right on the doorstep and the amount of people supporting you and shouting out your name.”
Much had been expected of the 29-year-old Farah, following his successes on the European and World stage.
His story has been well documented, from fleeing his native, war-torn Somalia as a youngster in 1993 and having his natural talent for running identified by PE teacher Alan Watkinson, to taking himself off to train alone in the mountains in his quest for global supremacy.
A broken arm, sustained while playing football, meant Farah started Feltham Community College two weeks later than the other pupils, but Watkinson quickly spotted his prowess.
The youngster spoke very little English and was not always sure of where he was meant to be running during cross-country events, often getting outkicked in the run to the finish line due to his uncertainty. How times change.
He won an English Schools title while competing in the age group above his own at secondary school, earning a new Arsenal kit as further reward.
And after leaving school Farah moved into a shared house in Teddington with some top Kenyan athletes, including world 5,000m champion Benjamin Limo.
Under the guidance of coach Alberto Salazar in recent years, Farah has developed into a genuine world-class talent.
Now his name will go down in history alongside the long-distance greats.
With a quarter of the race gone, a breakaway led by Eritreans Zersenay Tadese and Nguse Tesfaldet, who clocked a lap of 61.95secs stretched the field out.
Kenyans Bedan Karoki Muchiri, Moses Ndiema Masai and Wilson Kiprop were right in the thick of the action in the lead group as well, as Farah headed a chasing pack.
With half the race to go, Farah had joined the front six and, although athletes traded places over the next few laps, the main contenders remained in position to attack.
A strong kick on lap 19 saw Farah move up to third, as Masai, Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele and Rupp jostled for pole position, and the crowd noise increased yet further as Farah took over at the front four laps from home.
Bekele and fellow countryman Gebregziabher Gebremariam then appeared almost from nowhere, but there was a big group still in contention with 1,000m left.
Farah remained at the heart of it all and, as the pace picked up, backed himself in a long run for home.
He kicked on the back straight, but couldn’t shake off his pursuers, then came off the final bend with an ear-splitting roar filling the air.
With the line in sight, Farah kept pushing before spreading his arms out wide in celebration, as if he wanted to hug the entire stadium.
It was a dramatic and poignant finale and Farah added: “It’s something I’ve worked so hard for. 120 miles week-in, week-out, long distance is a lonely event, so it’s just you, what you put in is what you get out.
“I’ve been away from my family for five weeks. I want to thank everyone who supported me from my childhood to now.
“Without them people it wouldn’t happen. I’ve just got to enjoy this moment.”
While Farah got a gold medal, there was frustration for his Newham clubmate Chris Tomlinson in the long jump.
Three-time Olympian Tomlinson – the Middlesbrough fan who lives in Hampstead – took an immediate lead with a first-round attempt of 8.06m, only for GB teammate Rutherford to produce a leap of 8.21m a few minutes later with his second effort.
American Will Claye then relegated Tomlinson to third place by just a centimetre and after jumps of 7.87 and 7.83, Tomlinson slipped back to fourth as Sweden’s Michel Torneus went out to 8.07.
It was all change again in the next round as Tomlinson moved into a share of second place with 8.07, only for Torneus (8.11) and Claye (8.12) to quickly put him back into fourth.
Rutherford, just as Ennis was being announced to the crowd for her closing 800m race, then attacked the runway and improved his lead with 8.31, just four centimetres short of the British record he shares with Tomlinson.
But time was running out for Tomlinson, who could only manage 7.84 as Ennis took a Union Jack flag from the crowd to celebrate her own gold medal on the other side of the stadium.
Australian Mitchell Watt, after three fouls in the first four rounds, managed 8.13 and Germany’s Sebastian Bayer (8.10) suddenly relegated Tomlinson to sixth, as most eyes were focused on the joint lap of honour being performed by the heptathletes.
The group stopped to bow to the crowd just as Rutherford was preparing his penultimate jump, which ended with a red flag as the tension went up another notch.
Only six centimetres separated the five men lying behind Rutherford going into the final round and Tomlinson needed something special to haul himself onto the podium.
Sadly, his final jump coincided with the introduction of the 10,000m runners and he was told to put his tracksuit top back on briefly until the race had started.
It was no surprise to see him manage only a 7.76 with that closing effort, after Watt moved into silver medal position with 8.16.
Claye’s poor last jump meant Rutherford would be crowned Olympic champion, as Tomlinson was left wondering what might have been.
But then all eyes turned to Farah and his fairytale ending to an historic day in British sport.