Mo Farah wins the 5000m at the European Championships in Helsinki
Few of the men that Mo Farah beat in tonight’s 5000m final at the European Championships will line up against him at the Olympics, but it was a confidence-boosting victory nonetheless for the world champion just five weeks ahead of the London 2012 Games.
It was two years ago at the same championships where Farah finally made a big impact as a senior, winning double gold at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona.
This was the first year when the European Championships have been held in the same season as an Olympic Games, and as such Farah chose to defend just one of his titles in Helsinki – the 5000m.
His defence was never really in doubt tonight in the Finnish capital. Russia’s Anatoliy Rybakov opened up a significant lead over the first two kilometres, but the rest of the field inevitably caught up with him and they passed through 3000m in a comfortable 8:17.50.
Farah then settled among the leaders, alongside the likes of defending bronze medallist Hayle Ibrahimov, 2012 European 10,000m silver medallist Daniele Meucci, Kenyan-turned-Turk Polat Kemboi Arikan and much-improved German Arne Gabius.
Ibrahimov and Arikan led as the field approached the final lap, but Farah soon took up the running. Arikan tried to go with him, but Gabius moved into second on the final bend, while French champion Yohan Durand was making up ground.
Farah finally moved into top gear as he hit the home straight and kicked for home, eventually winning by two seconds with a 53.5-second last lap. His time of 13:29.91 was the fastest time at the European Championships since 1990. Gabius was second (13:31.83) with Arikan holding off Durand by 0.02 in third, clocking 13:32.63.
Meucci was just 0.04 behind Durand, while Farah’s team-mates Rory Fraser (13:51.05) and Mitch Goose (14:21.91) finished 14th and 23rd respectively in the straight final.
“I wanted to run fast, but my aim was to run hard without pulling anything,” said a delighted Farah, who became the first man to ever win back-to-back European 5000m titles.
“I knew training had been going well and that I had good speed, but there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be worked on,” he added. “I’ll look back and watch the race and sit down with my coach and tell him how I felt, but today the most important thing was to get a good race and see what I could run on the last lap.”
At the other end of the distance spectrum, another defending champion, Christophe Lemaitre, took one step closer to 100m by breezing into the 100m final. He’ll be joined by team-mate Jimmy Vicaut and Norwegian record-holder Jaysuma Saidy Ndure, who both won their respective semi-finals.
For the first time since 1982, Britain will be represented by just one man in the European 100m final. Harry Aikines-Aryeetey clocked 10.30 in his semi-final to make it through as the slowest qualifier. Defending silver medallist Mark Lewis-Francis finished sixth in his semi-final in 10.36.
World finalist Ivet Lalova and European indoor champion Olesya Povh look to be the medal favourites in the women’s 100m, both winning their semi finals with respective times of 11.23 and 11.13. Defending champion Verena Sailer looks to be back to her best after two difficult years of injury and can not be written off. Ashleigh Nelson, the last remaining Briton in the women’s 100m, finished sixth in her semi final with 11.43 behind Povh and Sailer.
World indoor finalist Robbie Grabarz qualified easily for the men’s high jump final with a first-time clearance at 2.23m. Just two men – Lithuania’s Raivydas and Russia’s Sergey Mudrov – jumped higher, while Samson Oni also progressed to the final. But Olympic finalist Tom Parsons was some way below his best, clearing just 2.10m to finish 38th overall.
Bronze medallist at these championships 10 years ago, Lee McConnell looked as good as she has all season with a second-place 52.58 in her 400m heat. Fellow Briton Kelly Massey was sixth in her heat (54.44), while former world silver medallist Nicola Sanders withdrew from the heats due to illness. Svetlana Usovich of Belarus posted the fastest time of the round with 51.98.
The big favourites made it through to the javelin final, but none of them particularly stood out. Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen threw just 79.34m for ninth overall, former world champion Tero Pitkamaki just scraped over 80 metres by 66 centimetres, while world leader Viteszlav Vesely was 10th overall with 79.09. Former European under-23 champion Ari Mannio of Finland led the qualifiers with 84.31m.
In the final decathlon event of the day, the 400m, Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov extended his lead with a 48.07 clocking, but Germany’s Pascal Behrenbruch still looks on course for gold after clocking 48.54, his second-best ever clocking. Britain’s Ashley Bryant is in 18th place overnight after running 49.29 in the 400m.