Mo Farah and all of Britain couldn’t have asked for a better ending.
Farah not only won the gold medal in the 10,000 meters Saturday night, something no Brit has ever done, but shortly after the race ended and while the crowd of 80,000 was still roaring his seven-year step daughter Rihanna ran on to the track and into his arms. His wife, Tania, followed clutching a Union Jack.
“Seeing them on the track was the best moment of my life,” Farah said afterward. He urged Rihanna to take off her ill-fitting shoes and come on a victory lap with him. “But she got scared because the crowd was so loud, she was like ‘I don’t want to do it’,” he said.
All of Britain desperately wanted Farah to win the 10,000 meters.
Not just because he has been the face of British athletics since he won the 5,000 meters at the world championships last year and came second in the 10,000. And not just because he’s considered the great hope to revive Britain’s once proud legacy of distance running. But also because of his personal story, arriving in London at the age of eight with his family from Somalia to escape civil war and eventually becoming a world champion runner.
So when Farah announced plans to go for double gold, in the 10,000 and 5,000 at the London Olympics, he captured the country’s imagination. Few runners even attempt that double during the Olympics and only one man since 1984 has won both. Not only that, but no non African had won the event at the Olympics since 1984.
And Farah did it in remarkable style, running a flawless race and sprinting home the last 400 meters in 53.48 seconds. It wasn’t easy. Several Africans, notably Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea, pushed the pace repeatedly and at times Farah appeared to fade back.
“I wasn’t getting worried. The first few laps felt great and in the middle it didn’t feel that good because there was a lot of surging going on. but [my plan] was always try to finish off strong toward the end.”
Farah finished in 27:30.42 less than one second in front of his training partner, Galen Rupp of the United States. Third went to Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia in 27:31.43.
Farah and Rupp run together in Oregon with a club sponsored by Nike and managed by famed American runner Alberto Salazar. The project started 11 years ago with the objective of improving American distance running and winning medals at the Olympics.
“It’s still a little weird seeing Great Britain and the United States on the medal stand in a distance race," said Rupp. “This is something we’ve been talking about, me and Alberto, since I was in high school, going on 10 years now.”
There were two Canadians in the field; Cameron Levins who was 11th in 27:40.68 and Mohammed Ahmed who finished 18th in 28:13.91.
“I expect to be racing these guys for years to come,” said Levins, 23, who has only run a few 10,000 meter races and will be running the 5,000 metres as well in London. “I wanted to see how I matched up against these guy and I’m not quite there yet but I think I will be.”
Ahmed, 21, said he also found the race invaluable.
“It was tough,” he said. “It’s a completely different style of racing at the international and it’s something that I need to get used to.”