He won’t call himself a legend like Usain Bolt, but he is pretty close.
Britain’s Mo Farah gained something akin to legendary status Saturday winning the 5,000 metres at the London Olympics one week after winning the 10,000 metres. He becomes only the seventh man in Olympic history to win both events at the same Games.
And Britain could barely be contained. Farah had been the face of British track and field for a year, since he won the 5,000 metres at last year’s world championships and came second in the 10,000. Nothing less than a double gold in London would do.
“I wanted it badly I wanted to make a double,” Farah said Saturday. “I wanted to make history. [On the starting line] I was confident, felt good. I was just telling myself, I was thinking, I want a gold medal.”
He talked earlier in the week about being tired after qualifying rounds, but it didn’t show Saturday. He stuck with the pack through a slow early pace, then gradually moved to the front. He was in the lead by the last lap and never looked back, covering the final 400 metres in 52.9 seconds for 13:41.66.
Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia came second in 13:41.98 and Kenya’s Thomas Longosiwa was third in 13:42.36. Both Africans have much faster personal best times in the 5,000 than Farah, but couldn't catch him Saturday.
Canada’s Cameron Levins came 14th, in 13:51.87.
“I’ve just been ill. I wasn’t 100 per cent and I just ran poorly because of it. It’s as simple as that,” Levins said afterward. He added that he caught a cold earlier in the week which had moved into his chest and restricted his breathing.
When Farah finished, as the crowd roared, he sat down and did a few sit ups.
“I knew that I was going to have to do something for the crowd. Bolt did his press ups last night [after winning the 200m] so I thought I’d do some sit ups to match him,” he said.
He joked that the second gold had special importance because his wife is expecting twins. “I didn’t want to have one twin have a gold medal and the other one left out. That’s what really drove me.”
Farah, 29, was born in Somalia and came to Britain with his family when he was 8-years old. He started running at the age of 12 and trained in Africa when he was older. A couple of years ago he headed to Oregon to train under famed U.S. distance runner Alberto Salazar. Since then his times have dropped sharply.
Farah credits Salazar and his novel training methods for his success. He also said he hopes his victories will encourage Europeans and others not to be intimidated by African distances runners. He said he used to think that star African runners “were just untouchable.”
“But you know you learn about the sport, you train with these guys and you change that mentality,” he said. “If you want it you can get that.”
He isn’t sure what his next move will be. More races in the short term and likely a move up to the marathon, perhaps by the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
When asked if he saw himself as a legend, like Bolt, Farah shook his head. “No,” he said. “He got three gold medals and he has world records. Come on.... I think we take him for granted we are not going to see a legend like him again.”