When Mo Farah reflects on what is already a distinguished career in distance running, he may consider his victory at last night’s European Championships as one of the most important, if not convincing. Plagued by injury and receiving much criticism after his withdrawal from the Commonwealths, Farah’s 2014 campaign has lacked momentum, while his public profile has been somewhat tarnished since the dizzying heights of becoming a double Olympic gold medallist.
Yet his reaction as he crossed the 10,000m line in Zurich was one of relief and release: a response to a tumultuous season that has yielded little in the way of success. Farah, after shaking off the attention of Turkey's Ali Kaya in the remaining 100m, eventually took a comfortable victory in 28:08.12, with fellow Brit Andy Vernon powering through over the last stretch to take a hard-fought second place.
In the lead-up to yesterday’s race, Farah revealed he was forced to spend four nights in hospital after falling unconscious in his bathroom, an incident only known to Alberto Salazar and his family: “Two weeks ago there was doubt I was going to compete here and I’ve still got four stitches in my ear from collapsing in the bathroom. It was hard but at the same time I got over it. I had been suffering with really bad stomach pain.”
Farah’s victory means he has now surpassed Colin Jackson and Steve Backley with five European Golds, two of which were won in Barcelona four years ago, and 9 in major championships: “Winning the European Championships again really does mean a lot to me. I didn't want to let people down after missing the Commonwealth Games - it hasn't been easy. Now I'm excited for the 5,000m and I hope to run well again."
Silver medal will be cause for similar relief for Vernon, who has been struggling with injury over the past six months. After his sixth place showing at the recent Commonwealth Games and a niggling hamstring worry, Vernon said he was hoping to stay with the pack until the remaining 2km: “I thought I might get to 8km and just fall apart because the endurance isn’t there but I just dug deep….I thought “I’ve just got to beat four of these guys and I’ve got the medal” and I managed to beat all but one.”
The field may not have been the strongest and his performance certainly nowhere near his full capability, but this contest may prove to be the turning point of Farah’s season as he prepares for the 5,000m on Sunday. Whether he manages to recapture the air of invincibility he established after London 2012, however, remains to be seen.