From sheer panic to a place in his­tory, Farah joins greats

Bri­ton feared worst af­ter fall but is now ready to take on his tough­est test yet with 5,000 de­fence

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - RIO 2016 - By Ben Bloom in Rio de Janeiro

In the blink of an eye, the rogue flick of a toe and the crash of a dou­ble Olympic cham­pion thud­ding into the ground, Mo Farah feared his dreams were over.

It was just be­fore the half­way stage of the 10,000m fi­nal on Satur­day night that Farah, un­aware of those be­hind him, felt his heel clipped and hit the deck.

“There was a lot of panic in my mind when I fell,” he said, re­lax­ing the morn­ing af­ter with sunglasses perched on his freshly shaven head in the Rio sun­shine. “I thought, ‘Oh God where am I.’ As I went I was think­ing, ‘No, no, this can’t be hap­pen­ing’. The heart was beat­ing madly. In that split-sec­ond I thought four years had gone and it wasn’t in my con­trol.”

It was the type of mo­ment that haunts a professional ath­lete in their sleep. Af­ter hun­dreds of train­ing ses­sions, months away from his fam­ily and thou­sands upon thou­sands of miles run, ev­ery­thing Farah had worked so hard for threat­ened to dis­ap­pear in an in­stant.

But as quickly as the fears arose, they slipped away. Galen Rupp, his Amer­i­can team-mate who had been the cause of the con­tact, slowed to check ev­ery­thing was al­right, Farah hauled him­self up off the lurid blue track and went on win – mak­ing his­tory as the first Bri­tish track and field ath­lete to win three gold medals. Trou­ble, what trou­ble?

Search on YouTube and you will be able to find a hor­ri­bly grainy video of a re­mark­ably sim­i­lar in­ci­dent in­volv­ing a re­mark­ably sim­i­lar ath­lete in a re­mark­ably sim­i­lar race. Lasse Viren, the only man to have suc­cess­fully won a ‘dou­ble-dou­ble’ of Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m, was al­most ex­actly the same dis­tance through his open­ing race at the 1972 Mu­nich Games when he fell just as Farah did.

Like Farah, he dragged him­self up and went on to claim the first of four Olympic ti­tles.

“I’ve heard of him,” said Farah, when asked about the Fly­ing Finn’s feats four decades ago. “But I’m too young to know much about it. It sounds like he’s pretty good.” Farah is not a man with much ap­petite for in­tro­spec­tion. Ask if he con­sid­ers him­self as one of the all-time great dis­tance run­ners and he avoids the question. It is up to other peo­ple to make that de­ci­sion, he says.

Favourite to re­tain his 5,000m ti­tle this week­end and match Viren’s achieve­ment, there should be no doubt that he be­longs up there with the best in his­tory. And yet there is.

Ever since the mo­ment that his coach Al­berto Salazar was ac­cused of dop­ing of­fences last sum­mer, Farah has, in his own words, “had my name dragged through the mud”.

Soon af­ter, it emerged that he had missed two drugs tests in the run-up to Lon­don 2012 and when Jama Aden, a So­ma­lian mid­dle dis­tance coach, was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of pos­sess­ing per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drugs a cou­ple of months ago, Farah was forced to ex­plain mul­ti­ple pho­tos show­ing the two men along­side each other. That Bri­tish Athletics ad­mit­ted Aden had acted as an “un­of­fi­cial fa­cil­i­ta­tor” for some of Farah’s train­ing ses­sions did not help matters.

Asked again about his as­so­ci­a­tion with Aden, Farah in­sisted he can­not po­lice ev­ery per­son he is pho­tographed with. In­stead he urged peo­ple to be­lieve him when he says he has never cheated.

“It’s dif­fi­cult for me be­cause I am an hon­est guy,” he said. “I try to be hon­est in ev­ery­thing I do.

“The me­dia have made it hard for me in the last year, nail­ing me for ev­ery­thing I do. It’s been re­ally tough on me.

“We should be able to en­joy our sport and en­joy this mo­ment be­cause my ca­reer is short.” At a time when more peo­ple are be­ing caught dop­ing than ever be­fore, there can be no apolo­gies for a level of wari­ness, with even Farah de­scrib­ing Ethiopian Al­maz Ayana’s 10,000m world record last week as “crazy”.

Whether Farah will ever have the full sup­port of a na­tion that thrives on cyn­i­cism is un­cer­tain, but a gold on Satur­day will give him breath­ing space at the top of the list of Bri­tish athletics cham­pi­ons.

Hav­ing al­ready achieved the 5,000/10,000m dou­ble in Lon­don, Farah is on fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory as he at­tempts to repli­cate the feat, al­though he sug­gests it will be the hard­est test of his ca­reer.

“It will be harder than Lon­don – a lot harder,” he said, ex­plain­ing that, at 33, he feels the ef­fects of his ex­er­tions more now than ever be­fore.

“Even in my train­ing there are cer­tain days where I’m sup­posed to do a ses­sion but my body doesn’t al­low me to do it, so I have to wait for another day. Or I’ll talk to the coaches and say I’m feel­ing a bit tired and cut my ses­sion down a bit. You’ve just got to be smart.”

Flash­point: Mo Farah feared his dream was over when he fell dur­ing the 10,000m fi­nal - but got up and won

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