On a wet, windy London summer’s evening, Mo Farah managed once again to elicit roars of approval from an adoring IAAF World Championships crowd.
And that was just for the warm up strides.
Drawn in the first heat, the recently crowned 2017 world 10,000m champion returned to the track five days after producing a world leading 26:49.51 for 10,000m and safely negotiated his way into Saturday’s final, finishing second behind Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha.
Last week’s race was an instant classic and, following a classy performance in winning heat two by Kejelcha’s Ethiopian teammate, the 17-year-old Selemon Barega, hopes remain high for another piece of drama and a barnstorming end to Farah’s track career.
With only five to progress automatically and a relatively slow pace throughout, there was no margin for error for the runners in the first race.
The very early pace was made by Spain’s European champion Ilias Fifa, before Eritrea’s Aron Kifle hit the front to clock a 2:48 first kilometre. Farah meanwhile, as has become customary, was content to run an even, steady pace in the pack and he was joined there by Kejelcha and another Ethiopian, Muktar Edris, the former world U20 champion and the fastest 5000m runner of 2017 with a best of 12:55.23 set in Lausanne in July.
It wasn’t until six laps to go that the Briton made his first significant move, accelerating through to second as the rain fell.
From then on there were surges and counter-surges from Tanzania’s Emmanuel Gisamoda, Australia’s Morgan McDonald, Kenya’s Davis Kiplangat and Azerbaijan’s Hale Ibrahimov, with Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo, in particular, looking full of running.
With 800m remaining Kiplangat, the 2015 IAAF U18 silver medallist, hit the front and the real race began. 200m later Farah started to push in earnest and that clicked Kejelcha into life, the IAAF world indoor champion taking a lead that he wouldn’t relinquish, crossing the line in 13:30.07.
Farah tracked him all the way, stopping the clock at 13:30.18 as did Edris, who was just 4/100ths behind. Canada’s Justyn Knight emerged from the pack to take fourth, ahead of Kifle.
Kiplimo, Kiplangat and Bahrain’s Albert Rop, all of who would have had high hopes of progressing, were eliminated.
The second heat was arguably the tougher of the two, although the absence of Ethiopia’s Olympic medalist Hagos Gebrhiwet, who didn’t start, made things slightly easier for those who toed the line.
Norway’s Sondre Moen led for the first 2000m, going through the first kilometre in 2:44.43 and the second in 5:27.51, and even at that early stage it was clear that the fastest non-automatic qualifiers would likely come from the second race.
Barega, the IAAF World U20 champion, moved to the front after 2400 metres and moved the pace along, with USA’s Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo in close proximity.
With 1650m remaining, there was drama as Chelimo was sent tumbling to the ground after having his heel clipped by Kenya’s Josphat Menjo, who also hit the deck hard.
Incredibly, within a lap the American was back in the lead pack, where he would stay.
Australia’s 22-year-old Patrick Tiernan then hit the front with three laps to go, but with 800m left Barega took control.
He finished in 13:21.50, followed by Birhanu Balew of Bahrain, Kenya’s Cyrus Rutto, Tiernan and a fast-finishing Ryan Hill of the USA, all of whom qualified automatically.
Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed, Britain’s Andrew Butchart, Chelimo and Eritrea’s Awet Habte all made it through as time qualifiers, as did Jamaica’s Kemoy Campbell, who became his country’s first ever IAAF World Championship 5000m finalist.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF