Block by block the crowd inside the London Stadium rose like an advancing Mexican wave as Mo Farah sprinted past in pursuit of the Ethiopian duo ahead. So often they have seen him win from this position but after 10 straight global titles and four double golds, finally, he could not find a way.
Body heaving with adrenaline and emotion, he curled into the foetal position at the finish, beaten in a major final for the first time in six years. Silver on this occasion stung like defeat and salt was rubbed into open wounds by his conqueror, Muktar Edris of Ethiopia, performing the iconic Mobot at the finish.
This 5,000m was billed as the 34-year-old’s perfect farewell. Those wearing “Go Mo!” face paint and waving “Run, Farah, Run!” banners were expecting one last gold on the track before he moves to the road next year. But his rivals set the tone even before the race began. Paul Chelimo of the USA, who pushed Farah all the way at the Rio Olympics, also did the Mobot and a throat-slitting gesture when the camera panned to him at the start. “It is what it is, I just meant that I was going to take Mo down,” said Chelimo.
They seemed empty threats as the race unfolded at a sluggish pace, apparently playing into the hands of Farah, who usually relishes a sprint finish. The 17-year-old Ethiopian Selemon Barega, an unknown quantity, briefly went to the front but soon fell back. The Australian Patrick Tiernan also stretched his legs at the head of the pack but was unable to continue the assault.
As the bell rang, the real contenders stood up. Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha accelerated to the front with Edris on his shoulder and Farah straining every sinew to stay with them. It took a 52-second final lap to overcome the Briton, as it had for Ibrahim Jeilan to beat Farah over 10,000m at the world championships in Daegu in 2011, his most recent major defeat before Saturday night.
“The better man won on the day but I gave it my all,” said Farah, “I didn’t…