Running man: Ethiopian legend and two-time Olympic 10,000 metres gold medal winner Haile Gebrselassie is a big fan of Mo Farah Photo: ACTION IMAGES
Mo Farah will definitely win a medal at this Olympics – and I believe that it could well be gold.
LONDON — For years the distance running events have been dominated by Ethiopia and Kenya, but Mo has the ability to challenge those countries for Great Britain, starting with the 10,000 metres today, and the 5,000 metres next weekend.
The beautiful thing about Mo when he runs, and one of the great advantages that he has, is his versatility. He can take on so many different tactics without letting it affect him.
While his ‘kick’ – the moment a runner steps up his pace to burn away the opposition at the end of the race – normally seems to come at about 800 metres, he can do a longer finish, where he constantly speeds up with each lap, or take on a really quick sprint finish. He can read the field and adapt to it, which is so valuable in this particular race.
I think this versatility stems from Mo’s background. He has had experience training in Kenya and the States, and he even spent some time building himself up in Ethiopia, which is where I first met him years ago.
I never actually raced against Mo head to head – when I was running in the marathon, Mo was racing on the track – but from talking to those who have, I know he has a great fight within him.
Everyone knows Mo is always smiling – imagine how big his smile would be with a gold medal around his neck? – but do not underestimate how tough he is. Mentally, he is one of the strongest on the track.
There is a remarkable confidence about Mo and his running now, as well, which has developed in the past two or three years. He will need that, too, because the quality of the field will make this one of the exciting at this Games.
Mo’s biggest challenge will come from my Ethiopian team-mate, Kenenisa Bekele, the world and Olympic record holder in the 5,000m and 10,000m.
Kenenisa has a lot of experience – he won gold medals in both distances in Beijing, and also a gold medal in 2004 in the 10,000m – and he could become the first athlete to win three consecutive gold medals over that distance.
I know that will be a great motivation to Kenenisa, but also the experience of having won the gold at an Olympics will be another advantage. I think Kenenisa was somewhat over-raced and may have over-trained in June and the beginning of July, but he is in very good shape now.
The reason Kenenisa is so dangerous to Mo is that he can also handle any tactics – he can be fast at any point in the race and he can do a 52-second last lap, which is astonishingly quick.
One factor that Mo has to deal with, of course, is the home crowd and how he reacts to this is one of the great unknowns. Sometimes it brings enormous pressure and acts as a kind of weight on your shoulders.
At others, the atmosphere lifts you up, and makes you faster. It is difficult to explain what this is like, but when I won the gold medal in the 10,000m against Paul Tergat, I had this kind of experience. The noise of the crowd seemed to swirl around me and I did not even feel my feet touch the ground. It was a bit like dreaming. It was magic.
I think the British home crowd can have that kind of power. I was here in London in the days before the Queen’s Jubilee weekend, and I was very impressed at the patriotism all around the city.
I hope Mo has that experience tonight. There are not many things in this world that are better than that.
One of the other highly anticipated events on the track gets under way on Saturday – the men’s 100m. Although all eyes will be on the Jamaican runners for this event, one of the athletes that I have mentored since 2007 in the G4S 4teen programme will also be competing: Obinna Metu, from Nigeria.
Obinna spent some time in Jamaica training with Coach Mills, who coaches the Jamaican team, and these sprinters who are racing here on Saturday. I think this is one of the best things we can do as runners – to teach the young athletes how to do it, and how to do it well.
Personally, these Olympic Games are a bit bitter-sweet for me, because I would really like to be competing here, but I am very happy that I am still able to play an important role in helping the younger athletes get ready for their competitions.
I also enjoyed an added bonus when I was asked to be one of the delegates to carry the Olympic Flag in the opening ceremony. That was an extraordinary night: the perfect way to set up what are promising to be an extraordinary Olympic Games.
Haile Gebrselassie is a mentor to the G4S 4teen programme. For more information, visit www.g4ssport.com
August 4, 2012