The blink of an eye… that’s all it took. In two finals, spread across 37 and a half laps of the track, Mo Farah’s total winning margin was eight-tenths of a second. After clocking up thousands of miles in training, on roads, tracks and trails from Kenya to Oregon, it all came down to less than a single tick of the clock. Such are the margins separating heroes and also-rans in the unforgiving cauldron of the Olympic Games.
No British athlete had ever won gold in races over 5,000 or 10,000 metres at the Games and his remarkable double capped the most special night in this country’s sporting history since England won the World Cup in 1966. “It was a great feeling,” he says, “and I’m happy that I was able to do it on home soil in London with so many people watching.”
After Greg Rutherford had taken the long jump title and Jessica Ennis dominated the heptathlon, Farah produced a tactical masterpiece in the 10,000m final and, together, the trio transformed 4 August 2012 into Super Saturday. The mesmeric 44-minute drama started just after 9pm and by the time Farah answered the sound of the starter’s pistol, the crowd were ready to lift him over the barriers of pain.
“It was amazing. I could feel them willing me to run faster and faster. It will be hard to beat that atmosphere.”
His rivals were beaten too. "I remember the guys were all lining up trying to pass me, but I had to dig hard and the crowd just gave me a boost and it gave me that bit more – crossing the line first was the best thing ever. I still can’t believe how I won it. Looking back it’s, ‘Wow, I did it!’ and it hasn’t sunk in.”
At that stage, though, his job was only half done and the claustrophobic attention came to threaten his chances of completing the longdistance double just three days later.
Farah’s performance in the heats of the 5,000m hardly inspired confidence. To conserve energy he went into hiding, having meals delivered to his room in the Olympic Village instead of going to the restaurant each day. The decision proved to be significant, as the 5,000m final went perfectly.
“The pace was slow and there were some fast finishers in the field so the timing of my sprint on the last lap was crucial,” says Mo, whose perfect burst produced a second gold. With it he sealed his position as the home star of the Games – and found himself striking a pose next to Usain Bolt on his return trip to the podium. “What a year I have had,” he marvels. “It will never be the same again.”
Gold medal at 5,000m and 10,000m, London Olympics
What the commentator said
“He’s kicking again. Mo Farah is going for it. It’s going to be a glorious, glorious win. Mo Farah for Great Britain — it’s gold! Oh yes! Oh yes! The stadium erupts. Victorious. Happy. Glorious.”
Who would be your Sports Personality?
“I want to win it myself.”
Sports Personality of the Year 2012 begins on Sunday at 7:30pm on BBC1