By Drazen Jorgic
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Britain’s Mo Farah shrugged off an early fall to cement his place in the pantheon of distance greats by retaining his Olympic 10,000 meters title with a blistering final lap on Saturday.
Farah ran a superb tactical race before obliterating the opposition in the final stretch to became the first British runner to win three Olympic titles. He is now the favorite to add a fourth in the 5,000m next week.
Should the 33-year-old manage it he would emulate Finnish great Lasse Viren, currently the only man to complete the distance “double double”, by retaining the Olympic 5,000 and 10,000m titles.
He has already achieved the feat in the world championships, with three in a row in the 5,000m and two over 10,000m.
“This medal means so much to me,” said Farah, who dedicated the victory to his oldest daughter Rhianna.
“It’s nice to be able to be recognized as one of the best guys in the world.”
The second half of the race was a masterclass in distance running by Farah, who was accidentally tripped with 16 laps to go by American training partner Galen Rupp but picked himself up and surged through the field to claim victory in 27 minutes 5.17 seconds.
“I got emotional because you put so much work in and in one moment it’s gone,” said Farah, who added his daughter was also in his thoughts after falling.
“In my mind, I was like ‘I can’t let her down’.”
All of Farah’s championship victories have come in a similar style, where he tracks his usually Kenyan and Ethiopian rivals before hammering a last lap and kicking in the last 200 meters.
It again played into his hands when none of his rivals seemed willing to set a pace that might have drawn his sting, even after his fall.
As the pace increased in the final laps and the leading bunch lost numbers, the race finally descended into a winner-takes-all dash for gold between Farah and Kenya’s Paul Tanui, with the composed Briton always looking favorite to come out on top.
Once again Farah relied on his finishing kick to out-sprint Tanui and crossed the line with his hands placed on top of his head in his signature “Mobot” pose.
Tanui, who has won two world championship bronze medals over 10,000 had to settle for silver, with Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola getting bronze.
“I thought going into the race an Olympic record could have been broken. We started out pretty fast but that pace wasn’t kept along the way and it didn’t end up happening,” Tola said.
“Mo Farah is obviously a great athlete.”
Having not lost a competitive Olympic or world championship race since 2011, Farah said he must remain on his toes if he wants remain at the top.
“It’s never an easiest thing when you know you’ve got a target on your back,” Farah said.
The 33-year-old added that to be mentioned in the same breath as Ethiopian greats Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie, who have four 10,000m Olympic gold medals between them, was an honor.
“It feels amazing to make history and to be along with Kenenisa and Haile,” he said.
(Editing by Ed Osmond/John O’Brien/Mitch Phillips/Greg Stutchbury)