There is no better sight in sport than watching a truly world-class athlete at the peak of their powers and in full flow. They flick a mental switch and that’s it – they’re gone. There is no one who can stop them without resorting to foul deeds. That is what it means to be the best.
The thrill that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up is why you turned on the television for this event. It’s why you keep coming back for more. You pay your entry fee hoping for that one moment that gives you a rush that pulls you up from your seat without you even knowing. That moment doesn’t come at every sporting event but you watch with hope that it will happen this time because when it does happen, there is no greater feeling.
There is only one British sportsman who never fails to provide these moments and for that reason he is simply the greatest athlete that Great Britain has ever had: Sir Mo Farah.
He lines up tonight [Saturday], for the last time as a track athlete, looking to complete an unprecedented ‘treble-double’ of becoming the World Champion over 5,000 and 10,000 metres in three consecutive championships which would undoubtedly establish him as the greatest distance runner of all time.
Farah sets a fantastic example that we should all learn from. The early stages of his career were blighted by mediocrity. He competed but won little of importance. He was the typical British athlete of 10 years ago: good, not great, but could earn a living out of being the best out of a bad bunch of Brits. He didn’t let anyone down by not winning medals at this stage of his career; he simply wasn’t expected to win any. Then it all changed as he realised that being ordinary and confined to the same pages of British athletics history as Andy Baddeley would not satisfy him, especially as the 2012 Olympics were soon coming to his city.
He completely changed his training schedule in 2011 and moved to Oregon to work under Alberto Salazar for half a year while the other six months were spent preparing at altitude in Kenya. Farah had enough of finishing sixth in World Championships and went to live and train like the Kenyan champions. “Train hard and win easy,” say the Kenyans. He studied the opposition at close-quarters and then beat them easily at their own game.
A selfless man who dedicates every success to his family, whom he misses so much during the long training season, it would have been easy to retire after triumphing twice again at the Rio Olympics last year. But that’s the easy option – Farah doesn’t opt for that. He wanted to achieve sporting immortality and to do it in his home town. He talks about how much he owes London, but the truth is that his strides down the home straight have given us the most priceless sporting moments. Thank you, Sir Mo.