The Kenyans and Ugandans threw everything at Mo Farah over the first nine kilometres of the 10,000m final but the reigning champion still found himself in the position where he is at his most dangerous and virtually unbeatable: at the front with 800m remaining.
While the Kenyans made it a hard race from the gun two years ago in Beijing, a different gameplan was put into fruition on the opening night of the IAAF World Championships London 2017 on Friday (4) in a bid to spoil Farah’s swansong.
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei and the Kenyan trio headed by his training partner Geoffrey Kamworor staked out their claim with an opening lap of 61.02 and while surging was the tactic of the day, there was still a moment of deja vu as Farah nearly fell on the last lap for the second World Championships in a row.
But the sapping variances in pace – and another stumble on the last lap – didn’t sufficiently blunt Farah’s legendary speed as the reigning champion secured his tenth successive major track title, a streak which started all the way back to the 5000m at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, with another irresistible last lap timed at 55.63.
Farah opined beforehand that he wasn’t in his very best shape but now 34, his winning time of 26:49.51 was the second fastest of his career – second only to his European record of 26:46.57 set in Eugene six years ago – as well as the second fastest winning time in championship history. He also covered the second half in 13:13.31 as he was roared to the first half of another potential 5000m/10,000m double. Of note, the fast pace in the second half brought seven runners under the 27-minute mark, making it the deepest race in championship history.
BOLT CRUISES INTO SEMIFINALS
There were also question marks surrounding Usain Bolt’s form and fitness ahead of his last competition before retirement but if he didn’t allay any worries about his well-being in the Monaco IAAF Diamond League last month where he won in a season’s best of 9.95, a relaxed 10.07 in the 100m heats was proof enough that the three-time 100m champion is poised to bow out with his eighth individual title at the World Championships.
Bolt was cumbersome out of the blocks but he didn’t need to unduly exert himself to overhaul James Dasaolu (10.13) and Jimmy Vicaut (10.15), glancing insouciantly across at both of them as he eased past in the sixth heat.
Bolt’s teammate Julian Forte, who was second at the Jamaican Championships, equalled his lifetime best of 9.99 to lead the 100m heats from USA’s Christian Coleman (10.01) and Ivory Coast’s Ben Youssef Meite (10.02).
FAVOURITES PROGRESS FROM 1500M HEATS
The quality of the women’s 1500m heats was such that a sub-4:05 clocking was no guarantee of automatic qualifying into tomorrow evening’s 1500m semifinals.
Despite the relatively benign qualifying conditions on offer – the top six, plus the six fastest time qualifiers – Jessica Judd didn’t leave anything to chance in the first heat, pushing the pace hard through the bell in 2:58.77. Judd had to succumb to the faster finishers but she had split the field sufficiently to finish sixth and secure automatic qualifying in a lifetime best of 4:03.73.
After indifferent early season form, reigning champion and world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba from Ethiopia led qualifying with 4:02.67 from the first heat ahead of South Africa’s Caster Semenya (4:02.84), who is bidding to become the first woman to claim a middle-distance double in World Championships history.
Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen, another noted front-runner, didn’t allow the pace to lag in the third heat. The 20-year-old was one of six runners to run faster than 4:04 – stopping the clock at 4:03.60 – in a race won by Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon from Kenya in 4:03.09.
The second heat was an archetypal championship affair with world leader Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands cruising from her customary position near the back of the field to cross the line first in 4:08.90 with a 61.83 last lap.
MANYONGA THROUGH, HENDERSON OUT
Luvo Manyonga stepped on to the runway in a competitive environment for the first time since straining his ankle in the Stockholm IAAF Diamond League meeting in June and the Olympic silver medallist expended as little energy as possible in long jump qualifying, progressing through to tomorrow night’s final with his first jump of 8.12m.
Radek Juska broke the 29-year-old Czech record in May with 8.29m and the 24-year-old underlined his potential as a medal candidate, leading the qualifying rounds with 8.24m ahead of world U20 champion Maykel Masso from Cuba (8.15m) with Manyonga’s teammate Ruswahl Samaai improving to 8.14m with his third jump.
After finishing fifth at the US Championships, Jeff Henderson seemed to be returning to form with victory in this arena last month at the London IAAF Diamond League meeting, but there was no happy return for the Olympic champion who missed out on a place in the final with 7.84m.
Jenn Suhr is the one notable absentee from the pole vault final as the gold medallist from the Olympics five years ago recorded three failures at her opening height of 4.55m. Her successor to the Olympic title – Ekaterini Stefanidi from Greece – led proceedings with a first-time clearance at 4.60m.
World champion Piotr Malachowski from Poland (65.13m) and three-time champion Robert Harting (65.32m) qualified for the discus final with their first throws but world leader Daniel Stahl – who will be aiming to become the first Swedish thrower to claim a world title tomorrow night – produced the longest throw of the evening with 67.64m.
EVENING KICKS OFF WITH MEDAL REALLOCATION CEREMONY
The programme began with a reallocation ceremony for five 4x400m relay teams and two 400m runners whose finishes at the 2009, 2011 and 2013 World Championships have been upgraded following the disqualification of the results of the original medallists after their sanction for anti-doping rule violations. It was an emotional moment for many of the athletes who finally stood on their rightful podium steps and a moving one for the spectators who expressed their support and congratulations.
Steven Mills for the IAAF