Mo Farah evoked memories of the London 2012 Olympics as he ran the fastest 5000m of the year to bring the Müller Anniversary Games to a rousing conclusion at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday (23).
It was an afternoon of British success on the last day of IAAF Diamond League action before the world’s best athletes set out on the road to Rio. Few will go with more confidence than Farah who now leads the 5000m world list as he heads off to defend his two Olympic titles.
Farah was roared on by some 30,000 fans to a solo victory in 12:59.29, a fraction quicker than Muktar Edris’s time from Eugene back in May.
It was Farah’s first race at this distance at this arena since he claimed his second Olympic gold four years ago and the double-double world champion didn’t disappoint the expectant crowd as he stormed through a last kilometre within 2:30.
“I got amazing support from the crowd – I just wanted to go for it,” said Farah. “It was my last chance to run quick before Rio. I love this track, it means a lot to me. Not many people get a chance to compete in their home town and have so many memories of the place.”
In the Olympic final he set off at the back of the pack, coming through late in the race. This time, he started with intent, targeting Edris’s time of 12:59.43.
The first kilometre clicked by in 2:36.57 as Farah tucked in behind pacemakers Hillary Maiyo and Henry Rono. Rono took them through 2000m in 5:14.93 and on to 3000m in 7:52.72 where the Briton was left to battle the clock.
By the time he passed 4000m in 10:29.5, he had a 50-metre lead. He pushed on, needing 1:59 for last two laps and 58 seconds for the final circuit. With the crowd now on their feet, he made it home with 0.14 to spare.
“I am in good shape but I have to keep my feet on the ground,” said Farah. “Anything can happen in two-and-a-half weeks, it is all about staying patient now.”
Behind him, Andrew Butchart came from way back to make it a British one-two in 13:14.85 while 41-year-old Bernard Lagat broke the world masters record in third, clocking 13:14.96.
There was world leading British success at the start of the meeting too, when Britain’s 4x100m relay squad ran 37.78 – not only the fastest sprint relay time this year but just five hundredths of a second outside a national record which has stood since 1999.
The quartet of James Dasaolu, Adam Gemili, James Ellington and CJ Ujah just held off a British B team by three hundredths. It was just the second time in history that one nation had recorded two sub-38-second times within the same race.
“There has been a lot of hard work from a lot of people to make this team stronger,” said Gemili afterwards. “We believe we can go out there and challenge the world's best.”
There was more great sprinting in the women’s 200m where world champion Dafne Schippers dominated the field to win by a wide margin in 22.13, just missing the meeting record by 0.03. Schippers ran her customary powerful bend before pulling three metres clear.
“I'm happy for now, I came here to win the race and I feel like the time will come in Rio,” said Schippers who extended her six-point advantage at the top of the Diamond Race but couldn’t beat her own world lead of 21.93.
Behind her, Tiffany Townsend equalled her best of the year to take second in 22.63 while Joanna Atkins was third in 22.64.
None of Schippers’ likely Rio rivals were in the half-lap line-up but there may well be a new threat in the 100m in the shape of Marie Josée Ta Lou, who produced two runs of 10.96 – both into headwinds – to win the shorter sprint here.
The double African Games champion came from behind to beat Michelle-Lee Ahye in her heat, posting her first sub-11. She matched the performance and the time in the final, again finishing fast to Ahye and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
After false starting in Monaco last week, this was quite a return to form for the Ivorian sprinter. Ahye took second in 10.99 while Fraser-Pryce clocked 11.06 in third ahead of Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith.
Farah may have enjoyed his return to the Olympic Stadium, but there was less success for Olympic 110m hurdles champion Aries Merritt, who was run out of contention in his heat and eased over the line seventh as Britain’s Andrew Pozzi bossed his way to a personal best of 13.19.
Pozzi then withdrew from the final with cramp, leaving Dimitri Bascou to take victory in 13.20 ahead of Gregor Traber after two false starts.
Kerron Clement claimed maximum points in the men’s one-lap hurdles to go top of the standings ahead of Michael Tinsley. Clement came from behind in the home straight to beat the tiring Javier Culson in 48.40, his best time of the year and second on the 2016 world list.
Five men ran faster than 49 seconds, but Tinsley could only finish eighth while world leader Johnny Dutch was seventh.
Tunisia’s 2011 world champion Habibi Ghribi took the lead with four laps to go in the women’s steeplechase and came home ahead of USA’s Stephanie Garcia in 9:21.35. Garcia held on to her tail to take second in 9:26.26.
Matthew Hudson-Smith won the non-Diamond-Race 400m in 45.03 after his British teammate Martyn Rooney had been disqualified for a false start, while another Briton, Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, outran Molly Ludlow and Lynsey Sharpe to win the women’s 800m in 1:59.48, her first sub-two-minute performance of the year.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF