World Championships: Ethiopian trio pose a credible threat to Mo Farah's golden goodbye
Tonight marks Farah’s final fling on the biggest stage as he attempts to wrap up his glittering, medal-laden career with another special night at the Olympic Stadium, in his home city of London.
However, if he needed a warning sign that athletics scripts don’t always follow the plan, he received it under the lights seven days ago when fellow legend of the sport, Usain Bolt, suffered a painful – for the sport – defeat in the 100m.
Farah is hunting a fifth straight long-distance double as he runs the 5,000m final tonight, eight days after winning the 10,000m on the opening night of the championships.
After easing through the heats on Wednesday, the Londoner, who continues to face drug allegations against him, promised to sign his career off with an 11th global title.
“I’m going to do it,” he said.
“It ain’t easy. We’ve seen it with Usain Bolt. It happens. It would have been nice to see him win. I was looking forward to that but it didn’t happen. But no one’s going to give it to you, no matter who you are, even Usain Bolt.
“He’s a human being at the end of the day and I now have to focus on myself and get ready.”
Once again, all eyes will be on Farah’s movements over the 13 and so minutes.
Like the yellow jersey holder at the Tour de France, he will be a marked man in the field of 15.
However, unlike in last Friday’s 10,000m, Farah will face a limited African challenge and have the additional benefit of a British counterpart, Andrew Butchart, alongside him.
In that race, Farah’s competitors launched repeated attacks in an attempt to disrupt him.
Even two spikes grazing down his leg in the final 400m could not knock the Briton off his stride and rob the public of the much-welcome sight of Farah’s outstretched arms crossing the finish line for gold.
However, from the top 10 in that field, only Farah and eighth-placed Canadian Mohammad Ahmed will line up tonight.
In Cyrus Rutto, Kenya – historically excellent over the distance – only have one qualifier for the final despite having three of the top six finishers in the 10,000m.
The main challenge will surface from Ethiopian trio Muktar Edris, Yomif Kejelcha and Selemon Barega, who are the only other runners in the field to have broken 13 minutes in the past.Furthermore, Barega and Edris are the only runners to have gone under that barrier this year.
How the trio work together will define the race.
However, Farah has proven he can adapt to all types of races, whether slow, quick or attritional.
One question mark arose from the 10,000m as Farah hobbled from the bumps and bruises.
But Wednesday’s comfortable progression in the heats – which saw Northallerton’s Marc Scott miss out on the final after finishing 18th in 13.22.37 – showed there was nothing to answer.
An 11th global title would take Farah past the feat of legendary Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebrselassie – with indoor titles included – and send him into road running as undoubtedly the most successful distance track athlete of all time.
“It would be pretty amazing,” added Farah. “It would mean the world to me.
“But at the same time I am not taking anything for granted. Those boys are coming for me. You can see it in the heat, to prove a point last night and show me.”
Following Farah, the baton for British success over the longer distances will pass to new hope Laura Muir as she aims to transfer middle distance speed over 5,000m. Muir was agonisingly caught on the line by South Africa’s Caster Semenya in Monday night’s 1,500m final as she saw a bronze medal flash by her.
The toll of those exploits showed during the 5,000m heats as Muir (14.59.34) finished in seventh place and was made to sweat on a fastest loser’s place.
“The most pressure I get is from myself. I know I’m better than what I ran out there and hopefully I can show it in the final,” the 24-year-old said.
Muir will be joined by fellow Scot Eilish McColgan, daughter of former 10,000m champion Liz, in the final after she set a personal best of 15.00.38 to qualify automatically out of heat two.
“It’ll be great to race alongside Laura; we are the two Dundee Hawks,” said McColgan, after setting a personal best in the heat.
“At London 2012 I was really scared of the noise but today it really pumped me up.
“I’m older and more mature now and that experience has really grounded me. I’d love to run another PB but a big one; something around 14:40.”