Double Olympic champion delights big crowd with two-mile road victory on Tyneside
Four years ago at the Great North City Games, Mo Farah won the mile in 4:13 and cut a sullen figure as he explained why he was so bitterly disappointed to have been knocked out in the 5000m heats of the Beijing Olympics and totally determined and committed to turning things around for the next Games.
Few people listening to the young Briton that day could have possibly imagined exactly what he would go on to achieve in London 2012. It has been a turnaround of epic proportions and he returned to Tyneside this weekend with two Olympic gold medals around his neck.
A little like his two-mile race at the Birmingham Diamond League last month, this was pretty much one big lap of honour for Farah as huge crowds on the Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside cheered him under brilliant blue skies.
After the early skirmishes, the race settled down into a two-man race with Australian Collis Birmingham pushing the pace and Farah settling behind. There were slight doubts over Farah’s form as he has not trained at 100% since the Olympics, but after a first mile in 4:17 he cut loose with around 700 metres to come home comfortably ahead in 8:40.04.
Delighting the crowd with the Mobot as he crossed the line, behind him Birmingham faded on the home straight and was passed by Bobby Curtis in the final strides for the runner-up spot.
“I’m looking forward to spending some time with my girls now,” said Farah, “and eating what I want!”
He added: “My lungs were on fire today! I’ve been doing a bit of training, but not a lot, so this race was hard!”
It has been a frustrating season for Hannah England and she was denied victory in the women’s mile by American 800m specialist Brenda Martinez. Jenny Simpson, the world 1500m champion, had made most of the pace but England and GB team-mate Julia Bleasdale moved ominously on to the shoulder of the leader in the closing stages before England made her move coming off the road and into the final all-weather finishing surface.
The world silver medallist, whose Olympic campaign was wrecked by an early season Achilles injury, looked a sure-fire winner but Martinez burst past in the final 50m to win in 4:35.00. “I made my move a bit early and got a bit excited with100m to go with all the cheering,” said England, who along with Bleasdale and others in this field head across to New York this week for the Fifth Avenue Mile.
There was a good victory, though, for Chris Tomlinson in the long jump. The Middlesbrough athlete jumped 8.18m (-0.1) in the third round to beat a field that included Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor of the United States and British Olympic long jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford, the latter jumping 7.89m (1.4) for second.
In the women’s 150m on a long all-weather straight, meanwhile, Anyika Onuora smashed the UK best with 16.72 (1.0) for a convincing victory. “In the last race of the season, if you’re going to finish anywhere then it’s got to be here – it’s great to end the season on home turf,” she said.
Dwain Chambers also enjoyed his last race of an eventful 2012. “The crowd here was absolutely great,” he said, after he beat Britain’s James Dasaolu and American Darvis Patton in the 100m in 10.04 (1.0).
Elsewhere, Jeneba Tarmoh of the United States won the women’s 100m in style with 11.18 (0.6). It was one of several victories for the US team in a match against the GB which the Americans won easily by a score of 6-3.
In the men’s mile, Bernard Lagat gave the US another win as he held on to beat a plucky James Brewer in 4:01.62. Wallace Spearmon won the 150m in 15.13 (0.7) to edge Marlon Devonish and Christian Malcolm as Ryan Bailey pulled out injured.
Spearmon then revealed that he and the US Olympic team had been invited to meet the President Barack Obama at the White House but chose to compete at the Great North City Games instead.
Jason Richardson, the Olympic silver medallist, won the 110m hurdles in 13.41 from fellow American Ryan Wilson. Britain’s Lawrence Clarke enjoyed a lighting start and led to halfway but faded to third in 13.57.
“I got an amazing start but completely lost my focus as Jason’s run 12.9 this year,” he said, before adding that he was heading immediately to Oxfordshire to enjoy a belated end-of-season birthday party.