Olympics 2012:Athletics – Long Distance

So much has already been written about Mo Farah’s brilliant double success that I won’t spend long on it.  I certainly never thought I would see the day when a British athlete won an Olympic gold in one, let alone two distance, races.  The first time I saw Mo run was in the National Cross-country championships when he was about sixteen. He was already being talked of as a great prospect and it was little surprise that he became the best British senior athlete. However, I didn’t ever really think he would be good enough to beat all of the Kenyans and Ethiopians. Certainly not after Beijing where he seemed to have lost his way. It was a bold but necessary move to change coaches and uproot his family. It certainly worked.

Last year in the World Championships I thought Farah made his decisive move at slightly the wrong time in the 10000m and it cost him the race. He learned from that to win the 5000m in Daegu and followed those tactics again in London winding the pace up so that nobody could get past. Having said that, I don’t think that the opposition was as strong as it could have been. Bekele wasn’t at his best and the Ethiopians and Kenyans in the 5K weren’t the finest that they have produced. The biggest concern I had was how Mo would recover after the 10K because of the hard track, which was good for sprinters but bad for long-distances. In the heats of the 5000 he looked slightly laboured but by the final was much better.

I think that the track denied Tirunesh Dibaba the chance to make history by becoming the first woman to win four individual event golds in athletics. She looked excellent in the 10000m but seemed to have lost some of her spark in the 5000m. It may have been fatigue from the races but I’m sure the hard track took its toll on her legs.

Two athletes who ran really well were Jo Pavey and Julia Bleasdale who were top Europeans and ran good times. I first saw Jo when she ran the 1500m in the English Schools Championships in 1990. That day she was the only athlete who tried to stay with the girl who won the race and Jo paid the price when the wheels came off on the last lap.  That race has stuck in my mind whenever I see Jo run because I know she always gives 100 per cent.  It was a blessing in disguise when she missed out on the marathon this year. I have never really been convinced that she is a marathon runner. Her best distance to my mind is 10000m.  As Jo comes towards the end of her career there are plenty of promising young runners in Britain coming through. Bleasdale’s ability to perform at her best in the Olympics is a very good sign that she can rise to the occasion. Global events may be a step too far with the Africans so dominant but at European level Julia could well win things.

I can’t really comment too much on the men’s marathon as I was watching from the course. I only got to see what was happening when the runners came round as there was no commentary where I was. It’s good to see a different nation like Uganda emerging to challenge the Kenyans and Ethiopians.

At one point in the women’s marathon I thought we could have a Russian winner. The Russian women always like to start slowly and come through towards the end of the race as the leaders tire. Usually this is only good enough for a minor medal as it is too late to reel in the leader but this time the catch came early. However, the Ethiopian winner was far too good. It does seem that the only women’s distance event that Europeans can compete with the Africans is the marathon.

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