By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Mo Farah returned to the scene of his 2012 Olympic glory and completed his preparations for the defense of his distance double in Rio with a crushing sub-13-minute victory in the 5,000 meters at the London Diamond League meeting on Saturday.
The Briton was never threatened in a celebrational procession, running solo for the second half of the race and putting in a late burst to cross the line in 12.59.29 — the fastest time in the world this year.
Fellow Briton Andrew Butchart outkicked veteran American Bernard Lagat for second place but they were effectively in a separate race, coming in 15 seconds behind.
“I just wanted to go for it. It was my last chance to run quick before Rio. This track has so much meaning for me and I got amazing support from the crowd,” said Farah, who grew up in London after leaving Somalia as a boy.
“Rio is right around the corner and I’m in good shape. I just have to keep my feet on the ground and stay patient but I’m excited.”
Farah will start as favorite in both the 5,000 and 10,000m in Rio next month — only Finn Lasse Viren has retained both titles – while at the other end of the scale Dafne Schippers will seek the 100m/200m sprint double.
The Dutchwoman, now totally converted to the track after giving up the heptathlon, will be the woman to beat over 200 and looked supremely relaxed as she easily triumphed in her preferred distance in 22.13 seconds.
“I’m happy for now, I came here to win the race and I feel like the time will come in Rio,” said Schippers, who last year won the 200m world title and was second in the 100. “I’m comfortable with being tagged as the favorite (in Rio), I’m never nervous, which is good for me.”
In the 100m none of the trio of American big guns was present but Jamaican 2015 world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has ground to make up if she is to win a third successive Olympic title as she managed only third in 11.06 on Saturday as she continues her recovery from an injury-hit season.
Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast was the surprise winner, having run a 10.96 personal best in the heats then matched it in the final to triumph ahead of Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad & Tobago.
After their women’s team set a national record in the 4x100m relay on Friday Britain’s men responded with an impressive 37.78 on Saturday — the world-leading time for the year and 0.05 away from the British record.
The British B team were only three hundredths behind them, raising national hopes of a medal in Rio after years of disqualifications and baton malfunctions.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)