Mo Farah's glittering track career ends with the ovation it deserves

January 1, 2018

 

 

An unapologetic, involuntary shriek left my mouth as Britain's most under-rated champion was crowned sports personality of the year a few Sundays ago.

 

Only a few giants of the sporting world have dominated the way Sir Mo has done over the last decade, so you'd go far to find anyone more worthy of the accolade than the man who has four Olympic Golds, six world championship golds, and was the first man to complete the 'double double' by winning both the 5000M and 10,000M at consecutive Olympics. A feat those considered the best, à la Kenenisa Bekele and Haille Gebrselassie, were unable to achieve meaning we, as a country, can lay claim to the greatest distance runner of all time, no?

 

Now that Mo has hung up his spikes and switched from the track to the road, I thought it poignant to take a moment to say thank you to the man who brought us not only some of the greatest Olympic moments, but sporting moments over the years as we, as a nation, willed him down the home straight in London, Rio, London again, and countless championships in-between. His part in Britain’s arguably finest Olympic hour, the now-famed 'Super Saturday' of London 2012 will live long in the memory as he was roared on to the 10,000M victory by fellow champions of the night Greg Rutherford and Jess Ennis Hill. His races, even those of non-Olympic calibre, became essential viewing for households as people were inspired to see him win again and again in such a domineering way British sporting fans had never seen before on the track, and only a handful of times in other events.

 

Amongst all his rigorous success, it’s easy to forget that Mo almost quit running all together following the 'biggest disappointment' of his career at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, when he staggeringly failed to even reach the 5000M final; a low moment that he would undoubtedly agree lit a spark in him to train harder, and not waste the potential he had.

 

This potential would see him break the African stronghold on distance running, as prior to Mo's 2012 Olympic triumphs, six of the last eight 5000M golds had gone to African countries and the last six 10,000M golds had also gone that way. His one-man dynasty in distance running became so strong in recent years that long-time rivals - the Kenyans and Ethiopians - were forced to band together to create strategies to stop the legendary commentator (and athlete) Steve Cram once labelled the 'puppet master' explosively and inevitably leaving them once the final lap bell rang.

 

On every occasion that comes to memory, bar his final 5000M this year at the World Championships when he could only grab silver (I think we can forgive him for that), these attempts failed. He was clipped, hassled, harried, and boxed in on countless occasions over the last five-and-a-bit years of his track career, but it's the 10,000M race at the Rio Olympics last year that really cemented his legendary status. A fall in any event, from short to long distance, usually signals the end of a competitor as they trudge off to the side with their dreams dashed. So when Mo, after being so comfortable, then possibly saw his dreams snatched away from him at the hands of a fall half-way through the race, somehow managed to summon the mental strength to rise back up again and storm to victory, he created an iconic British sporting moment, up there with Sir Chris Hoy's final gold of London 2012 and Sir Steve Redgrave's comeback in Sydney 2000.

 

These type of accomplishments made it extra sweet to see his humbling reaction as he was announced winner of BBC's annual sporting prize, something he (probably) and I never thought he'd win, due to the volume of success we, as a country, have had in the last decade. But maybe it was beautifully symbolic that the quiet, driven, unassuming champion, wins when nobody thought he would.

 

 

So as Mo slides on the trainers and attempts to take on the marathon, I think we, as a nation, (athletics fan or not) should take a minute to thank an athlete that gave us incredible, spine-tingling moments for nigh on 10 years, and who created the Mo-bot of course. So thank you Mo and here's to success on the road.

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