Fright knights

Farah trails in Ed­in­burgh - as Mur­ray tum­bles to Djokovic

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - tele­

A quiz ques­tion: prior to this week­end who was the last Bri­tish ath­lete to beat Sir Mo Farah?

If you are rack­ing your brains for a fel­low dis­tance run­ner you can spare your­self the trou­ble.

Tri­umph­ing on a rain-drenched Uni­ver­sity of Bath track more than four years ago, the unlikely con­queror was An­thony Joshua, then Olympic su­per­heavy­weight gold medal­list and now world IBF heavy­weight cham­pion, who left Farah for dead over 100m in a BBC post-Lon­don 2012 res­ur­rec­tion of Superstars.

There were no box­ers on the hills of Holyrood Park yes­ter­day, but home favourite Cal­lum Hawkins was on hand to de­liver the knock­out blow to a se­verely un­der­cooked Farah over 8km at the Great Ed­in­burgh Cross Coun­try.

In all hon­esty, Farah never stood a chance. The four-time Olympic track cham­pion had ad­mit­ted be­fore­hand that train­ing was “not where I want it to be” af­ter bask­ing in the glory of his Rio suc­cess last sum­mer and he was com­fort­ably beaten in the Scot­tish cap­i­tal.

Farah may have felt a sense of déjà vu, run­ning the last cross coun­try race of his ca­reer as he en­tered the home straight in the wake of Amer­ica’s Garett Heath. Ex­actly a year ago the duo had tus­sled it out on the same stage with Heath pip­ping his more il­lus­tri­ous ri­val to take the over­all vic­tory.

This time around nei­ther of them was able to live with the pace at the front as Farah traipsed in way down the field in sev­enth place, more than 45 sec­onds be­hind shock Amer­i­can win­ner Leonard Korir.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed but you have to be hon­est with your­self – dur­ing the last cou­ple of weeks train­ing hasn’t gone as well,” said Farah, who was knighted in the New Year Hon­ours list last week.

“I got a lit­tle bit ill. I’m not mak­ing ex­cuses, but it just hasn’t gone as smoothly as I wanted and it showed to­day.

“I could have done the easy thing and stayed at home, but I didn’t want to pull out. I wanted to show up and see what I could do.

“Sev­enth is not where I want to be, but at least I can go back now and fo­cus and get it right. Hav­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence I have, I should be able to get it right.”

While Farah floun­dered, his Bri­tish team-mate Hawkins was edged out of vic­tory by the nar­row­est of mar­gins af­ter a thrilling nip-and-tuck bat­tle with Korir.

Hawkins, who fin­ished ninth in the Rio Olympic marathon last sum­mer, dic­tated the race from out­set, drop­ping his op­po­nents one by one un­til Korir was the only man left on his heel.

He looked to have dropped the Kenya-born ath­lete when he kicked for home in the fi­nal 500 me­tres, but Hawkins could not quite hold on – Korir tak­ing vic­tory in 24min 3sec, with the Scot just one second be­hind. Aras Kaya, who claimed the Euro­pean Cross Coun­try ti­tle last month, fin­ished third.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing to get beaten but I gave it my all,” said Hawkins, 24. On claim­ing the prized scalp of Farah, he added: “I think if he has an off-day, like here, there are a few of us now who can take him.

“You see what he’s done for Bri­tish ath­let­ics to spur peo­ple like my­self, Andy Ver­non and Andy Butchart on. The sport is mov­ing in the right way, back to where it was.”

Un­der the weather: Sir Mo Farah ad­mit­ted that his train­ing had not gone to plan, es­pe­cially af­ter over­com­ing a re­cent ill­ness

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