It must be Sir Mo – he has proved he is Britain’s greatest ever athlete
Denise Lewis Distance runner is in a class of his own, but these Games show the future of British athletics is bright
Where else to start when looking back at what the British athletes achieved in the Olympics than with Mo Farah? If he does not receive a knighthood now, I will be flabbergasted.
It is hard to express just how amazing his two gold medals were. If you compare what he achieved here, by completing the “doubledouble” of back-to-back 5,000 and 10,000 metre titles, to what any other Briton has managed in any other sport, I think you have to say that it is at least on a par.
I don’t know if he really gets the recognition he deserves. There is little more he can do to prove that he is the greatest long-distance runner Britain has ever produced.
It is probably hard for the lay person to comprehend just how much work he has to put in and the kind of mileage he has to clock up to achieve the performances he produces at major championships.
He changed his training base to America and the long, intense preparation camps that he embarks upon every year in pursuit of excellence is something to be respected and admired.
The way he stamps his authority on his races demonstrates the brilliance of his tactical awareness and confirms that he has the best racing brain of any runner in the world. He always seems to put it together when it matters and whatever his rivals try, they cannot throw him off his race plan.
We saw a classic example of that in the 5,000 m final in the early hours of yesterday (British time). When the pace started to wind up with two laps to go, Mo refused to relinquish his inside position and, when he came under attack, he put in a surge and ended with the gold medal, like he always does.
We have seen him do that so many times since 2012 that we go into every race that he contests confident that he will pull it off – especially with that devastating sprint finish he has; an electrifying turn of pace that is just staggering.
Although Mo was the only British athlete to win gold here in Rio, I am actually quite pleased with the team’s performance. They hit their target of seven medals and had some very close fourth places. I know those do not equate to medals but, looking at Adam Gemili and Cindy Ofili in particular, there are plenty of young athletes on the rise.
Sophie Hitchon winning bronze in the hammer was an outstanding performance after the agony of finishing fourth at the World Championships last year. Many of the girls who throw against her are much older and more experienced, so to throw a national record on her last effort was really fantastic.
I enjoyed watching Andrew Butchart, who came sixth in the 5,000m. I gather from the distance experts that he has a good racing brain and it will be nice to see him develop over the next few years.
Seeing the 4 x 100m girls stand on the podium to receive their bronze medals was amazing, because it was the first time any of them have competed at an Olympics. For Daryll Neita, at 19, to be bringing the baton home alongside Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is outstanding. Desiree Henry only just missed her personal best in the 100m and Dina Asher-Smith matched her performance from the World Championships last year to finish fifth in the 200m. I think Dina, in particular, will take another big leap forward in the next couple of years.
One of my favourite moments of the championships was actually Katarina Johnson-Thompson clearing a national record of 1.98m in the heptathlon high jump. Obviously things did not work out the way she had hoped overall in the heptathlon, but that height would have won her a gold medal in the individual high jump had she been entered – not that she will be too hung up about that. You kind of just accept it as it is. Hopefully, she can take the confidence from her jump and use it in the future as mental food to help her perform better. I am sure, somewhere along the line, she will unlock her potential.
It would also be remiss not to mention Christine Ohuruogu, whose bronze here means she has won medals in three consecutive Olympics. She is another who is often overlooked.
You cannot deny her pedigree, but I think people forget just how close she came at London 2012 to retaining the 400m title that she won in Beijing. She has been an extraordinary servant to British athletics over the years, quietly going about her business, and she schools the girls in that 4 x 400m team. They squeeze every last ounce out of themselves for the greater good of that relay team. To see her finish her Olympic career with a bronze medal was great and I hope her services are retained in the sport because she is the type of character who is invaluable.
Often after a major championship, that you walk away wondering what the future holds for British athletics. People ask about the depth and quality in the team after you take out such stars as Mo, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford. But I think the past week or so has shown that there are strong prospects across the board. The World Championships in London next summer will be extremely important because, with home advantage, I would hope that the performances of the British team will rise again.
I love the attitude of the new breed of British athletes. They have a lot of confidence and they are not happy with settling for anything less than to aim for the very top. I hope that in the next few years we will see the fruits of their labour.