There’s a neat symmetry to Mo Farah’s career as a global medalist.
Following a pulsating 5000m race in front of a vocal and passionate crowd at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, 10 gold medals over 5000m and 10,000m are now neatly sandwiched by two silvers, both secured in races where the 34-year-old was defeated by an Ethiopian rival.
In the 10,000m in Daegu in 2011 it was Ibrahim Jeilan who outkicked Farah on the final lap. Here it was Muktar Edris, the 2012 world U20 champion and the 2017 world leader.
The 23-year-old showed a devastating turn of pace in the final 300m, to which Farah was unable to respond, the winning time of 13:32.79 a far cry from the 12:55.23 that the Ethiopian had set in Lausanne in July.
Not that times mattered.
It had looked like being another tactical masterclass from the quadruple Olympic champion, with Farah rarely straying from second place throughout the 12 and a half laps. Occasionally he pushed to the front, but he otherwise stayed out of trouble, content to let first Kenya’s Cyrus Rutto, then USA’s Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo take the lead.
Farah’s British teammate Andrew Butchart hit the front through the first kilometre, moving through in 2:48.20, with Farah third and Edris back in sixth, although the pace was comfortable for all 14 athletes.
Edris led momentarily after 1600 metres, but soon settled back into the pack, almost Farah-like in his insistence on not getting involved with too many unnecessary surges.
Another pace injection came after 3000 metres, with Australia’s Patrick Tiernan deciding to chance his arm, opening up a 10 metre lead that lasted until the final 700 metres.
Throughout the 22-year-old’s adventure, Chelimo, Farah, Edris and his Ethiopian colleagues Yomif Kejelcha and Selemon Barega bunched and jostled for position.
And so to the finish.
With 600 metres to go, Farah and Butchart hit the front in what was possibly a planned move, looking to run the legs out of the Ethiopians, all of whom were now to the fore.
With the volume levels set at maximum, the bell rang for the final lap with Farah, Kejelcha, Edris and Barega all in contention. With 250 metres remaining Kejelcha and Edris made their decisive act, opening up a two-metre lead as Farah gave chase.
Into the home straight, Edris showed superior sprinting speed, holding off the Briton, who picked off Kejelcha by charging down the inside. Chelimo, who himself had lost position a lap earlier, also swept past, securing bronze.
Edris’s performance was almost vintage Farah, even down to the Mo-Bot he performed ten metres beyond the finish line.
Farah, though, was left to rue the opportunity missed to close out his championship career on top of the podium.
An Ethiopian victory may have been a surprise to some, but not to the gold medallist.
“I was highly prepared for this race and I knew I was going to beat Mo Farah,” he commented. “After the 10km he was maybe tired so he did not have enough for the last kick. I was stronger.”
“Mo has many victories but now I have one. I am the new champion for Ethiopia. That's why I did the Mobot. I am the next champion.”
“I have won the gold in front of his home crowd. I didn't have much support but we did it. I did the Mobot out of respect as well for him.”
Farah was left to reflect on a week that has seen the end of an incredible career that even he might not have dreamed about back in Daegu when the medal rush started.
“It's been amazing. It's been a long journey but it's been incredible,” he said. “It doesn't quite sink in until you compete here and cross the line – I had a couple of minutes to myself – that this is it.”
And despite the crushing disappointment, the 10,000m champion could still find it within himself to congratulate the victor.
“To be honest with you it takes so much out of me. It's not an excuse, but it took a lot more out of me than I realised. Tactically, I was trying to cover every move. They had the game plan: one of them was going to sacrifice themselves. That's what they did tonight, and the better man won on the day. I gave it all, I didn't have a single bit left at the end.”
Dean Hardman for the IAAF