By Ian Chadband
LONDON (Reuters) – Battered and bruised he may have been but Mo Farah took it all in his long, loping stride as he negotiated the minefield of the 5,000 meters heats in the rain at the World Championships on Wednesday to set up one final assault on track gold.
Even with three stitches in his spiked left leg and suffering from a bruised left knee, the legacy of his turbulent 10,000 meters triumph on Friday, Britain’s endurance maestro had the quality and nous to qualify easily for Saturday’s final.
Having finished runner-up in his heat in wretched conditions in a modest 13 minutes 30.18 seconds, the 34-year-old now has one race to put the exclamation mark on his extraordinary track career before concentrating on the marathon.
In Saturday’s final, he will be seeking an incredible fifth consecutive 5,000m/10,000m double at a global championships.
“The rounds are the hardest part,” Farah said after finishing behind 20-year-old Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha (13:30.07) in the first heats, easing into one of the five automatic qualifying positions.
“It was cold and miserable out there, but job done. The 10,000m did take a lot out of me but I am okay now. The knee is fine now, just the body is a bit tired but anything is possible.
“It isn’t easy to win the double, we saw that with Usain Bolt. It would’ve been nice to see him win, I was looking forward to that, but it didn’t happen. No-one is going to give it to you no matter who you are.
“It would be pretty amazing and something historic if I could do the double. You can’t take anything for granted. They are coming for me and they are hungry.”
Indeed, while Farah will be overwhelming favorite to secure a seventh world championship gold, the heats again demonstrated the pitfalls that lie ahead with a new youthful brigade of Africans snapping at his heels.
After a fairly pedestrian heat, it looked as if Farah would only slip up if he got tripped or became over-confident.
Much to the delight of a home crowd desperate for more British success after a poor week, their main hope avoided all the trouble to ease home with the leading quintet.
The second heat demonstrated the potential for calamity as one of the favorites, America’s Paul Chelimo, tripped on the heels of another runner, took a tumble and had to work hard to get back into contention.
As the pace for the second race was vastly quicker, Chelimo’s eighth place behind 17-year-old Ethiopian Selemon Baregaheat, who clocked 13:21.50, was enough to make the final.
The heats suggested that Farah’s biggest challenge will come from the three young Ethiopians Barega, Muktar Edris, the fastest man in the world this year, and Kejelcha.
“The rain was bad but I am happy to get to the final. It was not easy in these conditions and with some falls,” Barega said.
“Can I win? I don’t know, Mo Farah and Edris are very tough.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)