Talk about pressure. Just four days after carrying the home nation’s hopes in the 10,000m, Mo Farah will set out to add the Olympic 5000m title – the first-ever for Great Britain - to his World Championships triumph over the distance one year ago. He may be taking the line as a favourite, but he’ll have his hands full.
The 29-year-old's profile has risen significantly since his 5000/10,000m double victory at the 2010 European Championships, one that brings him to London as one of the home squad’s strongest hopes. A year after his Barcelona double he notched a 12:53.11 national record in Monaco as a prelude to his Daegu gold which came on the heels of a narrow defeat in the 10,000m. This year he's won each of his four 5000m outings, including a confidence-boosting early June 12:56.98 run in Eugene where he beat many of the world's best.
However, he no doubt watched with great interest the sizzling early July race in Paris that decided, among other things, the Ethiopian Olympic squad while making a significant revision to the all-time list.
The contest in the French capital signalled the official changing of the guard in the event for Ethiopia when Dejen Gebremeskel and Hagos Gebrhiwet, at 22 and 18 respectively, left World record holder Kenenisa Bekele in the proverbial dust and off the London 5000m squad. Their eyes-out battle over the final lap, covered in under 55 seconds, was won by Gebremeskel whose 12:46.81 world leader elevated him all the way to No. 5 all-time. Gebrhiwet wasn’t too far behind in second, his 12:47.53 moving him to the No. 7 position all-time as the new World junior record holder.
The first ten all crossed the line in under 12:56, quicker than Farah has run this season but it's Gebremeskel, who also beat a strong field in Oslo, who appears the strongest threat to rain on the Briton's parade.
Gebrhiwet, while still a teenager, was also second in Oslo but won an earlier high level race, the Shanghai 5000m, to also emerge this season as a podium contender. The third Ethiopian spot was claimed by Yenew Alamirew whose 12:48.77 was nearly 12 seconds better than his previous best set last year. His only major international experience came earlier this year when he finished a distant ninth over 3000m at the World indoor championship.
Leading the strong Kenyan attack is Isiah Kiplangat Koech, who lowered his career best to 12:48.64 with his third place finish in Paris. Just 18, he has nonetheless proven himself internationally already, having finished fourth at the World Championships last year. He underscored his status as the Kenyan No. with his victory at the Kenyan Trials. Earlier he was second behind Farah at the Prefontaine Classic and won the Ostrava 3000m.
The Kenyan team also includes Beijing bronze medallist Edwin Soi, this year the runner-up at the trials who clocked 12:55.99 in Paris, and Thomas Longosiwa, a Beijing 2008 finalist whose 12:49.04 PB also came in Paris where he was fifth.
Don't underestimate Bernard Lagat who will be competing in his fourth Olympic Games in search of an elusive gold. He may be 37, but that didn't keep the 2007 double World champion from collecting a third World indoor 3000m title in March. He's raced sparingly - only at the U.S. trials over 5000m and twice over 1 mile - but as perhaps the smartest tactician on the circuit today, his competitors will only discount him at their peril.
Lagat’s teammate and Farah’s training partner Galen Rupp (12:58.90 PB, 2012), who is also doubling back from the 10,000m, and Ugandad Moses Kipsiro (12:50.72 PB) could be in the mix as well.