If it’s possible to top a gold-medal performance, Great Britain’s Mo Farah did it on Saturday.
After bringing his country its first 10,000-meter Olympic gold medal a week earlier, Farah fought off both Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel and what could have been the crushing weight of a nation to win his second title of these Olympic Games and become the first man to win a 5000-meter gold medal for Great Britain.
"There's not a word to describe it," said Farah, who grew up in London. "You dream of being the Olympic champion, but to do it twice is unbelievable."
Thanks to the jogging tactical pace of the early laps, his winning time of 13:41.66 was the slowest since Mexico City in 1968. But if the crowd of 80,000 that rocked Olympic Stadium minded, they hid it well while roaring in deafening support of their favorite son’s every move.
Gebremeskel, of Ethiopia, won the silver medal in 13:41.98, with Kenya’s Thomas Longosiwa taking bronze in 13:42.36. Right behind him, in what was almost certainly his last Olympic race on the track, was Bernard Lagat of the U.S., fourth in 13:42.99. American Galen Rupp, the 10,000-meter silver medalist and Farah’s training partner, finished seventh in 13:45.02, with Lopez Lomong of the U.S. 10th in 13:48.19.
“There couldn’t have been more pressure on him,” said Rupp, “and he dealt with that.”
After a dawdling 70.6-second first lap, Lomong took the pack through 2000 meters in 5:56.70. It wasn’t until the 2500-meter mark that Ethiopia’s Yenew Alemirew went to the front and began to quicken the pace, followed by Gebremeskel, the 2011 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist. The Ethiopians had said after the 10,000 that they would have to neutralize Farah’s fearsome kick to have a chance at the top step of the podium, and here they appeared ready to employ that strategy.
But Farah easily moved into position behind them. At the bell, Gebremeskel—whose time of 12:46.81 is the fastest in the world this year at 5000 meters—took off, but Farah went right with him and easily took command. Nearing the finish line, his home crowd in a flag-waving frenzy, Farah kissed both hands. His eyes wide with astonishment, he slapped himself twice on the head as if to prove to himself that he wasn’t dreaming.
“The crowd helped him,” observed Lagat, who had been poised coming off the last turn but couldn’t make up enough ground to win his first Olympic gold medal after a bronze and silver at 1500 meters. “He was running at 100 percent and they gave him another 10 percent.”
Before starting his lap of honor, Farah dropped to the track and performed a few sit-ups, likely in honor of the great Usain Bolt’s display of push-ups after the Jamaican secured the 100-200 double. Just over an hour later, Bolt himself would pay tribute to Farah after leading his 4x100-meter team to a world record, mimicking Farah’s “Mobot” pose during his own lively victory celebration.
"To see him do the 'Mobot' is amazing after breaking the world record, wow," said Farah. "I can't believe he did that. It's an honor."
After their back-to-back medal ceremonies, Farah and Bolt addressed the crowd together.
Let “Mo Mania” begin in earnest.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg