Mo Farah made it six global distance titles in a row as he retained his 10,000m crown despite a last-lap stumble to win Britain’s first gold of the 2015 World Championships.
Seven years ago in this stadium in Beijing, Farah crashed out of the Olympics after failing to qualify from the heats of the 5,000m.
But the 32-year-old Olympic champion saw off the determined team effort of his three Kenyan challengers before producing a last lap of 54.15 seconds to come away from Geoffrey Kamworor and Paul Tanui in the home straight.
It is a familiar sight now with Farah, an athlete transformed from the undisciplined also-ran of 2008, but it was no less impressive: a last 800m in one min 56.01 secs and a last mile of 4:06.6 to win in 27:01.13.
Kamworor took silver and Tanui bronze with Farah’s training partner Galen Rupp fading into fifth, the two Kenyans and team-mate Bedan Muchiri attempting to negate Farah’s fast finish by pushing the pace early on.
But in warm, sticky conditions – around 25 C and 60% humidity despite the race finishing after 10pm local time – Farah sat in behind his rivals as they produced a series of laps around 64 seconds and then kept closer order still as the pace dropped away in the heat.
The Briton went briefly to the front with four-and-a-half laps to go and then again with 1200 metres left, before surging definitively with 500m to go, a lead he would never relinquish despite a trip as he overtook a lapped runner.
With a series of allegations made against his coach Alberto Salazar – there is no suggestion Farah has done anything wrong, and his American coach denies the claims – this has been a difficult summer for the man who won the 10,000m and 5,000m double at both the last Worlds in Moscow and the London 2012 Olympics.
But Farah, an uncomplicated man, has retreated into what he knows best: disciplined training, tactically perfect racing.
And with the 5,000m final in a week’s time, he has the chance to leave Beijing as arguably his nation’s greatest ever athlete.
It wasn’t easy – Farah
Describing it as his toughest championship race, Farah said he knew his Kenyan and Ethiopian rivals would attempt to negate his kick finish by running quickly early.
“I knew the guys were going to do that, too many years now they’ve left it slow so they had to do it and it did happen,” the world champion said.
“It was a matter of digging in and hopefully it didn’t take too much out of me for the 5,000m. It’s not easy running 27 minutes in this heat.
“The last lap, that was close – I honestly thought at one point I was gone because I stumbled. The Olympics were pretty tough because of the pressure and being at home, but at the same time it was never that quick.”
‘Fantastic Farah performance’
Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Brendan Foster: “That was a great race. Farah was tested, but he followed every move. It was a fantastic performance. He might end up being regarded as the greatest distance runner there’s ever been. The 5,000m will be difficult because there are heats to get through as well. Mo will hate the heats, because he’s run 25 laps here, and when you have to run 12-and-a-half laps in a heat for the 5,000m, your body doesn’t want to do that.”
Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe: “The field threw everything at him, including nearly tripping him. But he just took it in his stride. He’s in the shape of his life, and he knew that whatever they tried, they weren’t good enough to beat him.”
European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey: “Mo stayed out of trouble. He wasn’t fazed by the field pushing the pace. He conserved energy, and only pushed when he needed to. He looked comfortable. He was so professional afterwards – he’s only focused on the next race.”