BEIJING: Mo Farah made history defending his 10,000m title at the world championships on Saturday as sprint arch-rivals Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin flexed their muscles to advance easily to semi-finals of the 100m.
Farah’s victory was his sixth consecutive global track distance title, an unprecedented feat that saw him better the likes of Ethiopian legends Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie.
“It’s nice to be known as someone who has won the most medals for my country,” Farah said.
“It’s great to make history.”
The 32-year-old, who clocked 27min 01.13sec for gold ahead of Kenyans Geoffrey Kamworor (27:01.76) and Paul Tanui (27.02.83), will have a chance to make it seven global titles in the 5,000m, scheduled for next Saturday.
Farah, known for his blistering last-lap pace, made his move with 500m to go, moving slickly to the front and peeling away.
Although tracked by the fast-finishing Kamworor and Tanui, the Londoner held on for victory that made up for his Bird’s Nest outing at the 2008 Olympics, when he failed to qualify and suffered what he described as the “biggest disappointment” in his career.
The comprehensive win will also help Farah bury some headlines he made for all the wrong reasons in recent months, with his renowned American coach Alberto Salazar accused of violating several anti-doping rules.
Salazar has strenuously denied all the accusations against him and Farah, who was not accused of any wrongdoing, has vowed to stick by his coach unless any allegations are proven.
“It hasn’t been an easy year, but it’s nice to get the team started well,” acknowledged Farah.
Bolt, Gatlin flex muscles
Sprint rivals Bolt and Gatlin sailed into the semi-finals of the men’s 100 metres.
Boos rang round a packed Bird’s Nest when Gatlin, who has served two doping bans, was introduced to the crowd over the loudspeaker.
But the 33-year-old American roared home in the fastest qualifying time of 9.83 seconds while defending champion Bolt, greeted with whoops at the stadium in which he took the world by storm at the 2008 Olympics, cruised home in a very comfortable 9.96.
The semi-finals and final are scheduled for Sunday and Bolt was under no illusion what was in store.
“I know tomorrow, just watching the guys and how fast they’re running, the semi-finals are going to be pretty fast,” said the towering Jamaican, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Friday.
“I know Gatlin was running very easy but that is how it is. I’m not worried, I want to get faster in the semi-final and get something more in the final.”
Gatlin, who has clocked the quickest time in the world this year of 9.74, added: “I’m not going to lie. When it gets to the finals I’m going to go out there and execute my race and see what happens.
Such has been Bolt’s complete dominance of sprinting since 2008 that astonishingly the only time he has failed to land a major title was when he was disqualified for a false start in the 100m in Daegu four years ago.
With allegations of widespread doping engulfing athletics, his showdown with the sport’s pantomime villain Gatlin is being viewed by some as a symbolic struggle of light versus dark.
Asked about Bolt shutting his race down at around 60 metres and coasting to the finish, Gatlin shrugged:
“You look at Bolt, he did the same thing in 2012 (at the London Olympics). He ran kind of slow in the first round, picked up in the semis and crushed it in the final.”
German, Eritrean golds
The first of the three golds on offer went the way of unheralded Eritrean teenager Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, who stormed to a shock victory in the men’s marathon.
In hot, clear conditions, Uganda’s defending champion Stephen Kiprotich could only finish sixth as 19-year-old Ghebreslassie took the lead on the 36km mark and saw off pressure from Ethiopian Yemane Tsegay for a memorable win in 2hr 12min 27sec.
“This is my first gold medal in my first marathon championship,” said the Eritrean, winning his country’s first-ever gold and crowned the youngest ever world marathon winner in just his fourth race.
In the absence of New Zealand’s four-time world champion Valerie Adams, Germany’s Christina Schwanitz claimed victory in the women’s shot put, a best of 20.37 metres trumping early leader and home hope Gong Lijiao.
The Chinese thrower sealed silver this time around with 20.30m, American Michelle Carter taking bronze (19.76).