The herculean nature of Mo Farah's double gold bid at next month's Olympics was underlined at the most recent leg of the Diamond League in Paris last Friday. 11 participants in the 5,000m clocked under 13 minutes in what has been described as the highest-quality race of all-time. The event had been billed as a trial race for Ethiopian athletes and attracted some of the best athletes from that country, including Kenenisa Bekele and world bronze medallist Dejen Gebremeskel (pictured right with Mo Farah).
The clocked showed 7:43.53 as the runners went through the 3,000m mark indicating a fast time was on the cards. By the final lap Bekele had dropped out of contention, leaving a group of six to battle for the podium places. Gebremeskel and Hagos Gebrhiwet fought it out with Isiah Koech at the front of the pack before Gebremeskel moved ahead to win in a world-leading 12:46.81, making him the third-fastest Ethiopian in history behind Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie.
Gebrhiwet, one of the finds of the season, was second in 12:47.53 and Koech third in 12:48.64. Although Bekele ran 12:55.79, his fastest time for three years, he finished in ninth and conceded he was no longer in Olympic 5,000m contention. For the first time in history, six men dipped under 12:50 and the race set best marks-for-place from third down to thirteenth place.
Followers of Mo Farah will remember Paris winner Dejen Gebremeskel from his 5,000m third place at the world championships in Daegu last year. Farah won that world title in a time of 13:23.36 ahead of Bernard Lagat (13:23.64) and Gebremeskel (13: 23.92). Isiah Koech was fourth.
Farah's meticulous preparation has seen the Somalian-born Londoner relocate to Flagstaff, Arizona where under the guidance of Alberto Salazar he achieved silver in the 10,000m as well as gold in the 5,000m in Daegu last year. Mo's regime has included monastic spells in Kenya's Rift Valley, a Salazar-designed programme implemented in the company of US athlete Galen Rupp and a carefully structured 2012 race schedule.
Now the scene is set. The cast is arriving, their lines well-rehearsed. Soon we will all be glued to our tv sets as the drama unfolds. Can Farah follow in the footsteps of Zatopek, Kuts, Viren, Yifter and Bekele and enter the pantheon of Olympic greats?