Mo Farah is facing a desperate struggle to make the Olympics after failing to post the qualifying time for Tokyo and finishing a shock eighth at the European Athletics 10,000m Cup in Birmingham.
Despite it being his first 10,000m race for nearly four years, Farah was expecting to run easily the 27min 28sec needed to make it on the plane to Japan. Instead the 38-year-old was toiling and grimacing by halfway – the result, he said, of a niggle to his left ankle sustained 10 days ago.
Incredibly it was Farah’s first defeat over the distance for nearly 10 years, since coming second at the world championships in Daegu in 2011. His finishing time, 27:50:54, was also his slowest since 2014. To add insult to injury he was also beaten by his fellow Briton Marc Scott.
“I am obviously disappointed with the result but it is what it is,” said Farah. “Without making any excuses, the last 10 days haven’t been great as I’ve been carrying a niggle since I got back from training.”
Farah was one of 12 British athletes competing at the European 10,000m Cup, which doubled up as the British trials for the Tokyo Olympics. The word from Farah’s camp was that he was in excellent shape after a training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, and he made an early point to his rivals by taking the lead on the opening lap, which was run in a fast 62 seconds. From then on, though, he slipped back, and was struggling long before he began to grit his teeth over the closing laps.
“With 15 laps to go you know my face but I was hurting hard,” he added. “I just had to keep fighting, keep digging. Keep digging in and finish within the top two. I honestly thought with five laps to go I had the time.”
Farah will have another three weeks to run the qualifying standard but the chances of him making it to Tokyo, let alone defending his 10,000m title, now look slim. “This is the first bit I have done of track in the last two weeks,” he added. “It is not ideal. But it is what it is, it is part of sport.”
However Scott, who was seventh in 27.49:83 in a race won by France’s Morhad Amdouni in 27:23:27, will be there. “The race wasn’t perfect by any means,” he said. “But I won the British race and that’s the main thing – to get on the plane.”
Inevitably all the focus is on Farah, who came into this race still believing he could win a third Olympic 10,000m title. The last time he had raced the distance he won gold in front of adoring 54,000 home fans at the 2017 London world championships. This time, because of Covid, there were barely a few hundred people – mostly volunteers and officials – watching. It soon became apparent that much changed in the last four years.
Earlier in the evening, Britain’s Eilish McColgan produced a thrilling last lap to chase down the Israeli athlete Selamawit Teferi to win the European Cup and also qualify for Tokyo. McColgan, the daughter of the 1991 10,000m world champion, Liz, came through in 31:19:21. Not far behind in third was Britain’s Jess Judd, who ran a personal best of 31:20.84 to also book her place at the Olympics.
Meanwhile in Jamaica, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran 10.63sec for 100m – to become the second-fastest woman in history.
Fraser-Pryce, who won 100m gold at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and at the 2019 world championships, was well beaten by Britain’s Dina Asher‑Smith a fortnight ago on a cold, wet night in Gateshead a fortnight ago. But she found racing in perfect conditions at the National Stadium in Kingston much more to her liking.
She blasted out the blocks and was well clear by halfway before coming home to beat her own national record of 10.70, which she shared with Elaine Thompson-Herah. Only the American Florence Griffith Joyner, who ran 10.49 in 1988 but died a decade later, has ever gone faster.
“Honestly I never expected I would run 10.6 and think it’s a good thing because there was no pressure,” Fraser-Pryce told reporters as she screamed with excitement. “I’m lost for words because 10.6 has been a dream, a goal, I’ve been working so hard, being so patient to see it finally unfold. I’m so ecstatic.”