Farah denied fairytale ending in 5,000m

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Updated: August 12, 2017

8:14 PM ET

LONDON STADIUM — Even Mo Farah could not buck the trend.

This will be the World Championships that will be remembered for swiping aside fairy-tale endings, throwing any sporting romanticism into the abyss and laughing at those who came in hope of one glorious farewell to athletes who have transcended track and field.

Usain Bolt was the first to taste the bitter pill of defeat, losing the 100-meter final to archrival Justin Gatlin in what was supposed to be the swan song for the king of sprinting.

But then came Mo Farah in the 5,000 metres, back on the track where he made his name, in front of the crowd that adores him, where he won a gold medal on the opening night of these championships and in a discipline upon which he has left his own indelible, remarkable stamp. Surely he would be the one to be granted a golden farewell?

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Instead, Muktar Edris of Ethiopia, the fastest man in the world this year over this distance, had other plans. In a thrilling sprint finish, he finished 0.43 seconds ahead of the man who seemed to be unbeatable. “There is nothing you can do, it happens in athletics,” Farah said. “I know myself, when I crossed the line, there was nothing left — I gave it all.”

At the start of the race, Farah was cheered to the rafters, but there was a stony focus in those normally gleeful eyes as he acknowledged the support. Along the line, the man who would go on to win bronze, Paul Chelimo, did the “Mobot” and then swiped his fingers across his neck and shoulder — he later said it was him telling Farah that he was coming for him but qualified it as a sign of respect for the man he thinks of when he wakes up in the morning.

For so long it looked to be a typical Farah performance in which he ran at his own tempo, ignoring the marauding Patrick Tiernan when the Australian broke away with too far to go, and then went to the front.

He vied with Yomif Kejelcha until kicking in the final 300 metres, but this time it was not going to end with him left on his own, crossing the line, arms spread wide. Instead, it was Edris who got there first, and Farah fell to the ground, curled up and panting heavily, as the cheers still continued to ring around this stadium he knows so well.

“They had a game plan, it was three against one,” Farah said. “They had to sacrifice one of them — Kejelcha — not to get a medal, and Edris to sit at the back and to do as [little] work as possible and to come beat me on the last lap.”

The finish line was a moment when eventually the emotion got to him; carrying the weight of British sport on your shoulders must be exhausting. But as he rose from a position so near to where he collapsed in celebration five years ago, the smile returned, a little more weary than usual.

“I gave 110 percent, there was nothing more I could have done,” Farah said. Those in the stadium were still proud of their hero, recognising what he has done for British sport and the legacy he leaves behind. A montage of his greatest moments played on the stadium’s screens as Edris began his lap of honour.

This 5,000-meter silver medal now sits alongside his world championship golds from Daegu, Moscow and Beijing and his two Olympic triumphs in London and Rio over the distance. And then there are his three 10,000 world titles and two Olympic golds in the longest track event. It has been some ride as he now turns attention to the marathon, but this has been a turbulent, testing week for Farah.

He is the man at the front of the promotion for the championships, alongside his friend Usain Bolt. That Bolt’s finale an hour later would be even more shocking, with the Jamaican injuring himself in the final leg of the 4×100-metre relay and ending up prone on the track, just hammered home the message: Glorious goodbyes do not come easy.

Farah was hurting after the 10,000, in which he was kicked around the track, and then came the 5,000 heats in dismal conditions under an angry London sky. Afterward he limped towards the mixed zone, shivering. A towel was hastily put around his torso, and then a hoodie draped over his shoulders. The teeth were chattering; he looked mortal.

As Bolt also found out, the supposed also-rans have not bought into the romanticism here in London. The Ethiopians teamed up on Farah and ended his spell of dominance before he could walk away.

Farah has his detractors — those who will point to his close ties with Alberto Salazar, who is under investigation from the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and how he was featured in a leaked Fancy Bears’ report — but as one sat in the London Stadium, Farah was hope personified for this audience, each captivated by his every stride, leading to involuntary applause, cheering, jumping while wearing clothing probably bought for the last royal wedding.

But those golden evenings are now memories. A line has now been drawn under that part of his career; the marathon follows in as competitive a field as the men’s category has seen in recent memory. He will have to adjust his running style to cope with the longer distance, but even at the age of 34, you expect it will just be something he manages.

While Farah will head on, he leaves a gaping void in British track and field sport. Alongside the now-retired Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford, he was the last part of that 2012 “Super Saturday” triumvirate. They offered a hope to British sport and were as close a thing to a guaranteed big-meet animal they had since double-Olympic-champion decathlete Daley Thompson.

But with Rutherford now struggling with injury, and Farah and the retired Ennis-Hill now embarking on new challenges, new stars have to take their place. Perhaps it started with the 4×100 teams that raised the roof on the stadium that was once Farah’s dominion.

The challenge is there for the next generation, but this was still Farah’s night. “Nobody used to think we could beat the Kenyans, the Ethiopians. Anything is possible,” he said, choking back the emotion.

“What I have achieved for the last six or seven years has been incredible. It just shows what kind of person I am and what it takes to be champion. At the same time, I know I gave it all, the better man won on the day.

“This is end of it in terms of major championships, I’m done. I’ve closed that chapter of my life. I want to start a new challenge in my life and move on to the roads and see what I can do.”

On a warm Saturday evening, the clouds that had sat comfortably over London Stadium all day parted to leave clear sky as Sir Mo left with a silver medal, and the hearts of a nation.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/athletics/story/_/id/20315455/iaaf-world-athletics-championships-2017-farah-fairy-tale-ending-denied-muktar-edris