After all of the conjecture ahead of Mo Farah’s first appearance of the year in the two miles at the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix, the final IAAF Indoor Permit meeting of the season, the race proved to be tailor-made for a swift clocking – the swiftest of all time.
The Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham turned into a mini version of London 2012 as Britain’s world, Olympic and European 5000m and 10,000m champion emerged from winter hibernation by nailing the first global mark of his career on another Super Saturday.
Anyone who suspected that the 31-year-old Londoner might have lost a little of his cutting edge after a year in which he performed heroics to complete the track distance double at the European Championships in Zurich following illness and injury were silenced in quite stunning fashion as Farah consigned Kenenisa Bekele’s seven-year-old world best to history.
The Briton crossed the line in 8:03.40, slicing 0.95 off the world best figures of 8:04.35 that Bekele established on the same track in the same meeting back in 2008.
It was the first world best or world record by a British man in a middle or long distance track race since 27 February 1990, when Peter Elliott set an indoor 1500m mark of 3:34.20 in Seville.
It was a superbly-judged effort by Farah in his first track race since breaking Steve Ovett’s European outdoor two mile best with an 8:07.85 clocking in Birmingham last August and his first race on any surface since his Great North Run half marathon victory in September.
Tracking British pacemaker Dale Clutterbuck for the opening 800m and then Kenya’s Paul Kipsiele Koech to just before the 2000m mark, he reeled off 400m splits of metronomic quality (59.3, 60.9, 61.9, 60.9, 60.5, 60.2 and 60.3 before finishing with a 57.7 flourish). His mile splits were 4:03.9 and 3:59.5 and his intermediary 3000m time of 7:33.1 broke the 7:34.47 British record he set here four years ago.
For the record, as Farah soaked up the acclaim, Koech took second place in 8:13.46 and Bernard Lagat third in 8:17.05, a second world over-40 best for the US veteran in the space of seven days.
“It’s very special to finally break a world best on home soil in front of a British crowd,” said Farah, who collected a $15,000 bonus for what was the tenth global mark in the history of the Birmingham meeting. “I’ve waited so many years, with people asking me so many times if I could do it.
“I’ve been out in Ethiopia for seven weeks and I trained well so I was confident. It’s different training for a world record or a world best and training for the championships. I wanted to see what I could do as we’d targeted the world best.
“I’ll never give up chasing medals for chasing world records. Medals mean a lot to me. This week inspired me. It feels amazing to break the world best.”
Farah intends to fly to his US training base in Portland tomorrow to celebrate with his family before preparing for the Lisbon Half Marathon on 22 March.
His main target for 2015, of course, is to defend his 5000m and 10,000m titles at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August and on this evidence he will take some stopping.
Rutherford saves his best for last
Much the same could be said of Greg Rutherford, the British long jumper who also plundered a home gold on that super Saturday night at London 2012.
In his first competition since the Great City Games in Gateshead five months ago and only his second indoor event in five years, the 28-year-old set four indoor PBs and finished with a world-leading 8.17m to snatch a dramatic victory with the final jump of the contest.
Rutherford uncorked an 8.03m jump in the opening round, an indoor PB. A further advance came in round three (8.08m) and before Chinese champion Gao Xinglog threw down the gauntlet with an 8.12m in round five.
Rutherford responded in the same round with a third PB, 8.10m, before snatching victory with the final jump of the competition. His 8.17m effort dislodged Spaniard Eusebio Caceres’ 8.16m from the top of the world list and was a tantalising one centimetre shy of Chris Tomlinson’s British indoor record.
All of which showed the worth of the extra weights Rutherford has been lifting in the gym this winter. “I’ve put on a bit of muscle over the winter and I wasn’t sure it would work,” he said. “It was a trial of the body and I didn’t expect to jump as well as I did.”
The Olympic, European and Commonwealth champion said he was still inclined to resist the temptation to contest the European Indoor Championships in Prague next month but added: “To be just one centimetre off the British record is frustrating. I might try again somewhere next week.”
There was no world lead for Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the long jump but the 22-year-old who is looking on course to follow the third of Britain’s Super Saturday gold medallists, Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, broke a second British indoor record in a week. She also beat Christabel Nettey, the Canadian who heads the 2015 world list with 6.99m.
Nettey led with a first-round 6.84m before Johnson-Thompson leapt 6.93m in the third round – one centimetre farther than her outdoor best and a four-centimetre improvement on Shara Proctor’s British indoor record.
“I knew I was in good shape after last week,” said Johnson-Thompson, who high jumped a UK record of 1.97m at the British Indoor Championships in Sheffield last Saturday. “I didn’t expect to jump better than my outdoor PB of 6.92m here, though.”
Look out for Natailya Dobrynska’s world indoor pentathlon record being challenged by the Briton in Prague. And look out for Greek fireworks in the women’s pole vault.
Another record for Kiriakopoulou
The Greek record fell for a third time in three days as Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou gave an instant response to Ekaterini Stefanidi – and defeated the former world champion Fabiana Murer for the second time in three days.
On Thursday night in Stockholm, Kiriakopoulou beat the Brazilian with a national record clearance at 4.76m. On Friday she lost her record to Stefanidi, who vaulted 4.77m in Flagstaff.
In Birmingham the 2012 European bronze medallist nailed 4.80m at the third attempt, eclipsing Murer, who still holds the world lead with 4.83m.
There was a world lead in the women’s 60m hurdles, US collegiate champion Sharika Nelvis getting off to a cracking start and finishing a clear winner in 7.87, an improvement of 0.04 on her lifetime best. European outdoor champion Tiffany Porter could only finish fourth in 8.13, with Pan American Games champion Yvette Lewis second in 8.09 and Briton Lucy Hatton third in 8.11.
The hotly-anticipated men’s 60m featured an eighth win in eight finals this year for Kim Collins. The 38-year-old St Kitts and Nevis sprinter was a decisive winner in 6.50, with British champion Chijindu Ujah second in 6.55 and Trell Kimmons of the US third in 6.56. Daniel Bailey and Michael Rodgers fell victim to false starts.
In the women’s 60m Murielle Ahoure finished 0.05 clear of Tianna Bartlotta in 7.10, while Kevin Craddock took the men’s 60m hurdles in 7.58, the low-dipping Briton Lawrence Clarke edging Jarret Eaton for second, both clocking 7.62.
There were home wins in the women’s 800m for world leader Jenny Meadows (2:01.25), in the men’s 400m for Nigel Levine (46.43), but – Farah, Rutherford and Johnson-Thompson aside – the British performance of the day came from the Seren Bundy-Davies in the women’s 400m.
Having fallen at the British Championships last weekend, the 20-year-old blasted away out in front from the gun and was rewarded with a breakthrough win in 51.72, a Welsh indoor record and the scalp of world indoor champion Francena McCorory, the US sprinter finishing runner up in 52.09.
Bundy-Davies now stands joint second on the 2015 world list with Taylor Ellis-Watson. Only Courtney Okolo (51.35) has gone faster.
Elsewhere, there wins for Kenyans Jeremiah Mutai over 800m (1:45.93) and Vincent Kibet over 1500m (in 3:34.91, the same time as runner-up and compatriot Bethwell Birgen).
Tunisia’s Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Habiba Ghribi was a clear 3000m winner in 8:46.61, while Ethiopian Axumawit Embaye won the women’s mile in 4:23.50, ahead of Shannon Rowbury of the US (4:24.12).
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF