LONDON - Britain’s Mo Farah clinched an Olympic long distance double here Saturday, storming to a pulsating victory in the 5,000m just one week after his triumph in the 10,000m.
The Somalia-born runner timed his kick to perfection to cross in 13min 41.66, fighting off Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebreskel, who took silver in 13:41.98, and Kenya’s Thomas Longosiwa, who claimed bronze (13:42.36).
Farah is only the seventh man to achieve the 5,000m-10,000m double, adding his name to an illustrious list of runners which includes Czech Emil Zatopek, Finland’s Lasse Viren, Ethiopian Miruts Yifter and Kenenisa Bekele.
“I’m just amazed – two gold medals, who would have thought that?” said Farah, who moved to Britain at the age of eight after being born in Somalia and spending some years in Djibouti.
“I got great support from the crowd. It means a lot to me and those two medals are obviously for my two girls who are coming,” he said of the twins his wife is expecting.
“I didn’t feel great in the heats, but it was pretty good. The American guy tried to come past me but I knew I just had to hold on.
“It’s been a long journey of grafting and grafting.”
Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider led through the first lap in a pedestrian 1min 11sec, with Farah seemingly soaking up the atmosphere two metres off the tailender.
Ethiopian-born Azeri Hayle Ibrahimov took up the running, until Farah strode to the front after opening the 1km.
The atmosphere in the 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium was electric, the crowd rising to their feet, waving Union Jack flags and roaring every time the runners passed.
Lopez Lomong, who escaped war-torn Sudan as a refugee child and was adopted by an American family and now represents the United States, headed the field through with six laps to go.
With few surges, the slow pace continued for another lap until Ethiopian duo Yenew Alamirew and Gebremeskel lengthened their strides.
Farah sat on Gebremeskel’s shoulder and took the lead with 600 metres to go.
Training partner Galen Rupp of the United States joined him but was then overtaken by Lagat and a barging Alamirew.
The pace upped, the noise reaching a crescendo as Farah rounded the final bend with gritted teeth, eyes glued on the big screen television beyond the finish line.
Gebremeskel and Longosiwa emerged on his shoulder, but Farah had just reserves in his legs to keep in front. A third American, the Kenya-born Bernard Lagat finished fourth, with Kenya’s Isiah Koech in fifth.
Farah crossed the line with arms raised, mouth and eyes opened wide in shock, before slapping his shaven head, punching the air and making a triumphant lap of honour with a British flag knotted around his neck.
David Bowie’s ‘We can be heroes’ blasted from the tannoy as the crowd screamed out ‘Mo, Mo!’ in unison.
World bronze medallist Gebremeksel was left ruing his and his teammates’ misplaced tactics.
“It was a good race but we made mistakes,” Gebremeksel said. “We planned to make the race fast but we didn’t do that.
“Although we tried to make it fast at the end it was too late by then and we didn’t manage to reduce the number of athletes (in the lead group) on the last lap.
“When the last lap bell rang the lanes were blocked. By the time I tried to catch Mo it was too late.”