Fulfilling the extraordinary expectations heaped on his slight shoulders, Mo Farah captured a thrilling victory in the men’s 10,000m tonight, the first ever in the event for Great Britain.
Farah’s captivating victory in 27:30.42 capped a stunning evening for the host nation, coming after gold medal performances by heptathlete Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford, the surprise winner in the Long Jump. And the 29-year-old did it in fine style, prevailing in one of the most entertaining and competitive 10,000m races in recent history.
No less than ten men were still in contention with less than a kilometre remaining, with the ultimate medallists not clearly decided until the final 100 metres.
Farah’s training partner, Galen Rupp, finished just a few steps back to take silver, the first medal in the event for the U.S. since Billy Mills’ victory in Rome 52 years ago. In his second Olympic Games, Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia, Kenenisa’s younger brother, took the bronze with his brother next, one second adrift.
"It’s the best moment of my life," said Farah, whose triumph ended a streak of four successive Ethiopian victories and crushed Kenenisa Bekele’s bid for a third straight. "My legs were getting tired but the crowd gave me a boost."
Tired legs or not, Farah will try to replicate Bekele’s Beijing double victory when he returns to action in the opening round of the 5000m on Wednesday. His opponents there will want to study this evening’s final to get a better grip on precisely what Farah will be capable of over the shorter distance.
He began conservatively, choosing to stay in the second pack for the opening nine minutes of the race and still mid-pack, running nearly side-by-side with Rupp, through the first half, which the leaders covered in just over 14:05. Eritrean Zersenay Tadese along with Kenyan Bedan Muchiri did much of the early leading, with the Bekele brothers shadowing closely.
Farah joined the front group early in the second half, slipping into fifth position. Just beyond the 18-minute point, with Kenyans Moses Masai and Muchiri leading, Rupp joined his training partner, moving up and into fourth. With about seven laps to go, the Kenyan and Ethiopian pairs along with Farah and Rupp were at the lead, but the pack still consisted of a dozen men who remained very much in contention.
With four laps to go, Farah moved to the front briefly to up the tempo; a lap later Ethiopians Gebregziabher Gebremariam and Tariku Bekele moved to the head of pack which at this late point only dropped a pair of runners off the back.
With the collective roar of another capacity crowd of 80,000 to propel him, the Briton made his decisive move with 500 metres remaining, with the younger Bekele and Rupp in tow. The noise of the crowd now deafening, Farah extended his lead at the start of the final turn and was well clear of the Ethiopian as he entered the homestraight. Spurred on by his colleague, Rupp passed Bekele with 50 metres remaining to secure the silver and a 1-2 finish for coach Alberto Salazar.
"I’m thrilled for Mo," said Rupp, who will also contest the 5000m next week. "Two training partners coming in first and second. I couldn’t be happier. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. We work hard but I’m the lucky one: I get to train with the best middle distance runner in the world."
Kenyan international newcomer Muchiri, just 21, was rewarded for his tenacity at the front with a fifth place finish in 27:32.94, more than half a second ahead of Tadese (27:33.51), the 2004 bronze medallist. His teammate Teklemariam Mehdin was next in 27:34.76, with Gebremariam (27:36.34) rounding out the top eight.