Britain’s Mo Farah last night became the first man to retain the 5,000m title at the European Championships, but then found himself apologising to domestic fans and rivals.
Farah, who is also world champion over the distance, led at the bell in Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium and was never going to be caught as he powered to victory in 13 minutes 29.91 seconds.
That was more than 30 seconds slower than his world-leading time in 2012 set in Oregon earlier this month, but the gold medal was all that mattered and proved once again that the 29-year-old has matured into a superb championship athlete.
It was a far cry from his last appearance – or non-appearance – on the track, which led to him being accused of being “disrespectful” to fellow competitors and letting down the paying public.
At the Olympic trials in Birmingham on Friday night, Farah easily won his heat of the 1,500m and celebrated well before the line with his so-called ‘Mobot’, before then withdrawing from Saturday’s final.
Anthony Whiteman, who finished fifth behind Farah, felt that was “out of order,” adding: “On the last lap Mo kept looking round to see the best time to do his showboating.
“It is disrespectful to the athletes behind him working their backsides off.”
Farah insisted that was not his intention and said last night: “I got a little bit of stick for it but I didn’t intend to disrespect anyone. Sometimes you get carried away and do a celebration.
“I didn’t do the 1,500m final but it was just to save my legs and to come out here and get a good race and see where I am. I apologise to everyone who bought tickets (but) this medal means more to me than doing the final and getting a medal there.
“I knew training has been going well and I recently ran 3:34 for 1,500m so I had good speed, but you always have to respect the opposition and I had to work hard and make sure I had a bit left towards the end so I could kick again.”
York’s Richard Buck suffered a traumatic day as his chances of reaching London 2012 looked to have gone up in smoke in 400m qualifying.
After an impressive showing in his heat, which saw him win in 45.83 seconds, Buck was then disqualified from the semi-finals after being judged to have stepped out of his lane.
Buck had finished a disappointing fifth at the Olympic trials in Birmingham at the weekend and was very much drinking in the last-chance saloon in Finland this week, with Martyn Rooney and Conrad Williams having already secured two of the three individual British 400m spots for the Games.
But after a nervy afternoon, which included a successful appeal to the event organisers against his disqualification, the City of York athlete’s London 2012 dream remains alive.
“The Europeans are a big competition, in any year, so I was treating it like that and looking to do as well as I could through the rounds,” said Buck.
Buck was eventually the second quickest qualifier for tonight’s semi-final, with Irish athlete Brian Gregan fastest in 45.63 seconds.
However, there was no such luck for fellow British athlete Luke Lennon-Ford, who suffered qualifying disqualification and with it he effectively ended his chances of representing Britain individually at London 2012.
“I would really like to get in the final,” added Buck. “Britain’s always got a chance of getting a medal once you’re there because we’re so strong domestically.
“It would be nice to get a medal but realistically this is my first outdoor senior individual spot and I’m happy to be here.
“London is of course on everyone’s mind and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on mine but I need to take the semi-final on its merit and not get carried away at this stage.”
Elsewhere, Luke Gunn’s Olympic dreams ended in tears in the 3,000m steeplechase.
Gunn needed a ‘B’ qualifying standard of eight minutes 32 seconds to leave himself as the only athlete available for selection.
But the 27-year-old crashed into a barrier less than two laps into his semi-final and was unable to continue, admitting he found it difficult to put into words the disappointment of missing out on a home Games.
“It’s been the sole aim for the last four or five years and I’m absolutely devastated,” he said.
It was a case of mixed emotions for Sheffield’s Mukhtar Mohammed as he sealed his place in the 800m semi-finals, but missed out on the Olympic qualifying standard.
Mohammed finished second in his heat in Finland in a time of 1min 47.13 secs and with the top four progressing that was more than enough to seal a spot in today’s semi-finals.
But Mohammed knows that due to his top-two finish at last weekend’s Olympic trials, a run of 1:45.6mins will be enough to guarantee himself a place on Team GB at London 2012. That is a time that the 21-year-old has never achieved before but with a semi-final to come he remains confident that he can produce the run when he needs it most.
“This is the Europeans but the A-standard and a place at the Olympics is what I am really thinking about,” said Mohammed. “There will be good people in my semi-final, I’m sure of that, so I will try to push and so will they to get the time I need.”
There was disappointment for the likes of Carl Myerscough (shot), Abigail Irozuru (long jump), Isobel Pooley (high jump), Laura Whittingham (javelin) and Ashleigh Nelson (100m) as they all failed to reach the final of their events. Mark Lewis-Francis also failed to reach the 100m final, but Harry Aikines-Aryeetey qualified behind defending champion Christophe Lemaitre while Robbie Grabarz and Samson Oni made the high jump final.
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