Mo Farah said he had 80,000 ‘thank yous’ to make after a rapturous home crowd helped blast the Briton around the final lap of the 10,000 metres final and into the record books as his country’s first long-distance Olympic champion.
“It was unbelievable support today,” Farah told a packed news conference on Saturday.
“If it wasn’t for the crowd and their support, people shouting out my name, cheering and putting that Union Jack up I don’t think it would have happened.”
Farah’s profile has rocketed since swapping leafy west London for the United States in 2011 with a 5,000m world title and 10,000m world silver won in South Korea adding to a host nation’s expectations for Olympic success in London.
The 29-year-old did not disappoint, finishing half a second ahead of his American training partner Galen Rupp to take gold.
“When I crossed the line I just couldn’t believe it. I was like, did I really just finish first?,” he said.
The man who came to England as an eight-year-old from Somalia fell to his knees, elated, before running to embrace his young daughter and pregnant wife to the backdrop of huge cheers.
His dazzling smile spread like wildfire across the capacity crowd, whose cheers had earlier followed him around the track for 25 laps of rolling roars.
“As I came through the tunnel, the people shouting out my name, saying ‘Go Mo’, the atmosphere when you walk into that stadium was just something else,” Farah said.
“At that point, I knew that somehow I had to do something.
“This is my home, this is where I grew up in London, so to win the Olympics running where I grew up, where I went to school, where I started life just means so much to me,” he said.
With the pressure off, Farah is likely to go for a second gold in the 5,000m, but his return to the track was much swifter than that, doing a few circuits in an all important warm-down just moments after finishing his news conference.
Rupp, who with Farah sat post-race in front of the television cameras like beaming school friends, said he owed his training buddy a lot, including a moment during Saturday’s race where Farah told him to relax and not push too early for a lead. — Reuters
“He has been an unbelievable mentor to me, kind of like a big brother,” Rupp said.
“I owe a lot to him and I have definitely been the bigger beneficiary of our relationship because I am able to train with the best distance runner in the world. He has just been a great mentor and a great friend.”
Bashful in the presence of glowing praise, Farah returned the favour and reserved a special mention for his coaches over the years, including current trainer and three-times New York marathon winner Alberto Salazar.
“He is a great coach, not just a coach, he makes sure everything is going well… He’s just an unbelievable person and as an athlete he has been there and knows what we go through.”
Salazar was not surprised by the result.
“I’ll be honest I thought we were going to medal and I thought we were going to go 1-2,” he said.
“The emotion when they stepped over the line was overwhelming, greater than anything I did in my own athletics career.”
While the stadium had emptied and the lights were almost out when Farah returned for his warm-down the cheers were still coming, with shouts from volunteers of ‘well done Mo’ echoing around the ground.
There could well be many more when the 5,000 event gets underway on Wednesday. — Reuters