Cape Times

Farah hangs up his spikes as debate rages over his ‘best ever’ status


LONDON: Right at the last, Mo Farah’s unbeatable air could not stand up to another examinatio­n by the world’s best distance runners as he was denied one final global triumph in his farewell championsh­ip track race on Saturday.

There is a powerful argument to say, after 10 straight global championsh­ip victories stretching back to the 2011 world 5000 metres triumph in Daegu, that the 34-year-old is the greatest distance racer we have ever seen on the track.

Yet being considered the best racer is very different from being seen as the greatest distance athlete of all-time.

Sebastian Coe, the IAAF President and a massive fan of Farah, set the ball rolling when declaring on Friday that Haile Gebrselass­ie was the greatest.

“I’m tough on this,” said Coe, who is considered by many as the best middle-distance runner of them all.

“For me, it’s not Mo Farah – and that’s not to do a disservice to Mo, who is one of the greats of all time.

“For me that still has to be Haile Gebrselass­ie, for the distances that he covered, the titles he won and the world records he broke.”

In championsh­ip running, Farah won 10 on the trot before Saturday’s setback, compared with Gebrselass­ie’s six in a row at 10000 metres and Kenenisa Bekele’s best run of four championsh­ip wins in succession at both distances.

Yet the two Ethiopian greats also went chasing records to extraordin­ary effect, Bekele setting a total of three new world marks at 5 000m and 10 000m and Gebrselass­ie seven at the two events.

Farah has never been down that route, with his capacity for really fast times never examined.

It remains an extraordin­ary fact that the most successful championsh­ip runner ever at 5 000m with five global titles, is ranked only the 31st-fastest runner of all time, at 12:53.11 seconds. Bekele holds the world record at 12:37.35.

At 10000 metres, in which Farah has also won a record five global golds, he is also still only the 16th-fastest (26:46.57), nearly half a minute down on Bekele’s world record of 26:17.53.

Bekele won nine global golds, once went unbeaten for eight years at 10 000 metres, won 11 world cross-country titles and holds the second-fastest marathon time in history (2:03.03).

For the moment, even if Gebrselass­ie was the great trailblaze­r, it seems fair to rank Bekele the highest for his all-round achievemen­ts on the track, country and roads.

Farah said after his race: “As I’m getting older, it’s getting a bit more challengin­g and that’s the reason I’m going to end on the track and see what I can do on the roads. I want to start a new challenge in my life.” –Reuters

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