Another Saturday evening in the capital and another farewell party gate-crashed by a man determined to pay tribute to the guest of honour.
Muktar Edris was by no means as unpopular with the bulk of those in attendance as Justin Gatlin had been when he denied Usain Bolt his fifth World Championship 100 metres title a week earlier, but a defeat for Mo Farah in the Olympic Stadium was not what they had come to see.
Whereas the American had bent a knee to the great Jamaican, Edris performed ‘the Mo-bot’, Farah’s trademark celebration and the silver medallist took a lap of honour that was full of warmth if understandably much more subdued than it would have been if he could have found a way to get to the line first.
While the three time previous 5000 metres champion and owner six World Championship gold medals as well as four Olympic golds has proven capable of controlling races from the back it perhaps betrayed some doubt that he was in or around the head of the field throughout this race, keen to keep an eye on every move.
It proved a tactical affair, Australian Patrick Tiernan making the most meaningful looking move of the race with 2000 metres to go, pulling well clear and maintaining that advantage until a little more than two laps to go when he was reeled in then overhauled. Team-mate Andy Butchart briefly got onto Farah’s shoulder with 600 metres to go, but any reassurance the two Britons took from that was swept away as the Edris and his Ethiopian colleagues Yomif Kejelcha and Selemon Barega gathered, while Paul Chelimo, the American who had finished runner-up to Farah in Rio last year, was also still in contention.
As Edris took the initiative on the final bend Chelimo leant on Farah, squeezing him onto the inside, and while home hopes were raised as a gap opened up to give him a clear sight of the leader, those 34-year-old legs, that had looked badly beaten up after the previous week’s 10,000 metres victory, could not get him there.
“I don’t think there’s any more I could have done,” Farah admitted afterwards.
“It’s been a long journey, but it’s been incredible. It didn’t really hit home until I crossed the line and a had a couple of minutes to myself and realised ‘this is it.’”
He noted that the Ethiopians had worked effectively as a team to hand him his first defeat in a major final since the World Championship 10,000 metres in Daegu six years ago, but Edris thoroughly deserved his victory and while respectful he made it clear that he had expected his win.
“I was highly prepared for this race and I knew I was going to beat Mo Farah. After the 10km he was maybe tired so he did not have enough for the last kick. I was stronger.
“Mo has many victories but now I have one. I am the new champion for Ethiopia. That’s why I did the Mobot. I am the next champion. I have won the gold in front of his home crowd. I didn’t have much support but we did it. I did the Mobot out of respect as well for him.”
With Chelimo claiming another major championship medal, Butchart finished eighth, two places further down the field than he had in the Olympic final, unable to cope with that final lap explosion of pace.
“You end up watching it on the big screen because they are so fast,” the 25-year-old from Dunblane admitted.
“I was kind of cheering on Mo in my head then I got caught on the line. I was spent. I just wasn’t there to react for the last part of it. I wanted to place higher but I’m happy enough.”
He was, however, critical of the lack of awareness he had shown earlier in the race.
“I was sitting at the back just relaxing and then before you know it it’s down to four laps, three laps…and you think, it’s not long to go now and I’m back,” he said.
“So I left it hard for myself but I’m on par with these guys, I’m meant to be in these races, so it’s not like I’m expected to come last. I’m expected to do well and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I didn’t get caught out, I just wasn’t smart, I wasn’t thinking enough.”
Meanwhile, for all the eulogising there has rightly been about the departing Bolt and Farah the most complete athlete at these championships picked up his first major gold medal last night.
Frenchman Kevin Mayer is not a household name and may never become one, but the decathlete who claimed a silver medal at the Olympics in Rio last year is, still only 25, reckoned to be capable of dominating the event for many years to come and claimed the title by a considerable margin last night.
There was also a hugely popular victory in the women’s 100 metres hurdles for Sally Pearson, the Olympic champion in London who was denied the chance to defend that title in Rio due to injury.
Source : HeraldScotland