2014-04-21
Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Sports Personality of the Year: Why Mo Farah should win


Each of the 12 Sports Personality of the Year contenders has an advocate explaining why they should win. Here, Mo Farah's coach Alberto Salazar backs the athlete.

Sometimes it's the unexpected detail that tells you how big a sporting moment has been.

There were so many images from Mo Farah's two golden nights in the Olympic Stadium still alive in the consciousness four months later: his eyes wide with pain and exertion in the last few yards before the finish line; thousands of strangers waving fists and screaming in the stands all around; Farah's incredulous slapping of his shaven head as the magnitude of those victories kicked in hard.

Then there's the anecdotal stuff from elsewhere in the capital and across the country. Families yelling in unison at the television. Entire pubs stopping to watch a 5,000m race on the big screen. Mobots galore being busted out on nightclub dancefloors as celebratory Saturday nights became Sunday mornings.

In winning the 10,000m Farah became the first Briton to ever win a distance gold at an Olympics. In adding the 5,000m title exactly a week later he joined a select band of greats to have completed the long-distance double - Emile Zatopek and Lasse Viren; Vladimir Kuts and Hannes Kolehmainen; Miruts Yifter and Kenenisa Bekele.

Of that list, only Bekele has done it in the modern era, with today's deep fields and geographical spread of global rivals. It is an achievement thought impossible for a Briton, accomplished, unfeasibly, with total domination.

"To be the best distance runner in the world, you have to come up against so many other people," says Alberto Salazar, Farah's charismatic coach and former marathon superstar.

"Look at how many kids run, in how many countries. Look at the hundreds and thousands of east Africans alone who run distance races.

"To be the best distance runner in the world is harder than any other event in athletics apart from the 100m, and it's harder now than in any other era.

"It's a hell of a lot harder than when Yifter was the best - he wasn't running against as many of his compatriots or as many Kenyans. It's certainly harder than when Viren did it or Zatopek. Other than Bekele [who won double gold in Beijing in 2008] I think Mo's achievement was greater than any other distance runner at an Olympics."

Farah's first gold, the tactically perfect 10,000m, capped the greatest night in British athletics history - three golds in less than an hour, Jess Ennis starting Super Saturday with her heptathlon coronation and Greg Rutherford ramping the ferment still further with a brilliant long jump series.

A year before at the World Championships in Daegu, he had started his kick a fraction too early in the 10,000m, opened up a lead and then been overhauled, agonisingly, in the final few strides, winning silver.

Not this time. He controlled the race beautifully, went hard at exactly the right time, in the biggest race he had ever run.

"The amount of pressure that was on him… The whole idea is that you want to avoid that," says Salazar. "But he knows that the whole country has its eyes and hopes on him. For him to be able to deliver under those circumstances was phenomenal.

"Mo is one of the most intuitive tacticians I've ever seen. In these races I'll give them real basic guidelines, but he will make his decision on what he's going to do when.

"There's no plan. We know what he's going to do and we'll agree on the basic idea, but he has complete discretion within that.

"Once Mo establishes his position in the last two laps, there's never any back-tracking from there. If he's in second, he won't allow himself to go into third; if he's in first, nobody's passing him at that point.

"You can't think, I'm not feeling good. The second you start thinking about it, someone's going to come by you."

Going into the 5,000m final seven days later, Somali-born Farah, 29, not only had those 10,000m in his legs but was ranked only 11th in the world on season's bests, while seven men who lined up had quicker personal bests.

He should have been tired, out-run and out-sprinted. Instead, once again, the implausible became reality. Farah bossed the field again, went to the front, refused to be passed and then, when Gebremeskel closed in at the death, found a final kick to see him home.

"Mo has the ability somehow to reach down deep and get it done," says Salazar. "And that's really difficult.

"Trying hard doesn't always work. You can go deep, but you have to do it correctly. If you over-stride, if you tighten up too much, you're going to get killed.

"It takes extreme discipline and grace under pressure to find that other gear. The kiss of death is to try too hard, but Mo has the ability. The guy's always got one more gear."

Once again, Farah celebrated in style - knocking out a set of sit-ups in tribute to his friend Usain Bolt's press-ups after his 200m gold, hugging his training partner Galen Rupp, going off in search of stepdaughter Rihanna and wife Tania.

Tania was heavily pregnant with the couple's twins, due to give birth at any point. Like her husband, she held on to both.

When the girls arrived a few days later, Farah announced them to the world as Aisha and Amani. Wags had suggested Five and Ten might be rather appropriate. Like with everything else this summer, their father got it right.





Post your comments