What a topsy-turvy sport athletics can be. You wait all week for a medal then, just like the proverbial London bus, five come along in quick succession. London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium came alive at the weekend as Sir Mo Farah's hard fought silver in the 5,000m on Saturday night (12 August) effectively fired the starting pistol for a glut of medals in the relays.
Sir Mo Signs Off With Silver
runABC called it right when we previewed the men's 5,000m final last week, predicting a bumpy ride for Mo, who was only third fastest in a stellar field. To the great man's credit he threw everything at his East African challengers to claw his way to silver when a lesser athlete might have capitulated completely.
Farah (34) had uncharacteristically led mid-race with Scot Andrew Butchart to resounding cheers from a packed stadium. However, it was the finishing speed of 23-year-old Muktar Edris (Ethiopia) – fastest in the world this year – that clinched gold (13:32.79) from Mo (13:33.22) and Richard Chelimo (13:33.30). Butchart finished an excellent eighth (13:38.73).
Farah, winner of 5,000m gold at the last three World Championships, said: “I wanted to win, I was confident that I would do whatever, but at the same time the better man won on the day. There is nothing you can do, it happens in athletics. I gave it my best, it wasn’t enough today.”
Less than an hour later the women's 4x100m relay team of Asha Philip, Desirèe Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita lifted spirits in the stadium by upgrading their Olympic bronze to World silver (42.12) behind USA (41.82) and the day ended in euphoria as the men's sprint quartet (pictured) ran the third fastest in history (37.47) to win their first World gold. CJ Ujah, Adam Gemili, Danny Talbot and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake demonstrated the fine blend of speed and dexterity necessary for success in this highly technical event. Hearts were in mouths as the squad progressed safely and swiftly to a new British and European record.
The final day saw more tangible reward for Britain's 4x400m squads to reflect great credit on the team spirit within the camp and the relay coaches and team management, who took brave decisions that worked out. First up were the women's team who mirrored their sprint relay team mates' silver to USA through Zoey Clark, Laviai Nielsen, Eilidh Doyle and Emily Diamond (3:25.00). Then Matt Hudson-Smith, Dwayne Cowan, Rabah Yousif and Martyn Rooney grabbed an unexpected bronze behind Trinidad & Tobago and USA in a season’s best (2:59.00) to take GB & NI to a respectable sixth on the medals table.
With five fourth places – more than any other nation – Britain also has hopes for future success at this level, so for this correspondent at least the cup is certainly at least half full.
Full event information and results at IAAF World Championships website.
Image courtesy British Athletics media