A closer look at the male finalists for Golden Tracks

A closer look at the male finalists for Golden Tracks
European Athletics

It has been a wonderful year of success for Europe's men and ahead of this Saturday's European athlete of the year awards, we profile the three contenders for the male title - Mo Farah, Thomas Rohler and Gianmarco Tamberi.

MO FARAH

At 33, there is no stopping Farah and now he has the opportunity to become the first man to be European Athlete of the Year on three occasions after lifting the title in 2011 and 2012.

The Great Britain star became only the second athlete to retain both the 5000m and 10,000m at the Olympics as he followed the feats of Finland’s Lasse Viren in 1972 and 1976.

Incredibly, Farah has won 14 major outdoor distance titles, with this Olympic double-double following his world double-double from the previous summer.

But it was not all plain-sailing for Farah because in the 10,000m final, he had to overcame a fall - amazingly just as Viren did in Munich in 1972.

Farah picked himself up to progress to gold in 27:05.17 from Kenya's Paul Kipngetich Tanui (27:05.64) and Ethiopian Tamirat Tola (27:06.26) to maintain his record of not losing a major 10,000m race since 2011 and with this success, he became the first Briton to win three Olympic track and field titles.

"It is never an easy thing when you know you have a target on your back. When I fell down, for a moment I thought my race was over, my dream was over but then I managed to dig deep," he said.

A week later, it was the 5000m final and this time he was falling for a different reason - to his knees at the realisation of what he had achieved as he completed his fifth successive summer of winning this double.

"It means so much to me, I cannot believe I did it," said Farah, who triumphed in 13:03.30 from American Paul Chelimo (13:03.90) and Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet (13:04.35). "I did it in London and that was incredible and now four years later to do it again – there are no words to describe it."

Along with this glorious success, he was also Europe’s fastest man in 2016 over the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, 10,000m and half marathon.

THOMAS ROHLER

No German has ever won the male European Athlete of the Year award and what a summer of contrasts it has been for Röhler - the glorious Olympic javelin champion.

And what a way to turn things around when your body was not allowing you to be at your best.

Ahead of the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam in July, Rohler was the man to beat.

The reason? He was the world no. 1, an athlete top of the rankings with a distance of 91.28m from the end of June in Turku and the only man to have broken 90 metres this summer. And a few weeks before that in Oslo, he had also achieved 89.30m.

But by the time of this European final, Röhler, 25, was suffering from the effects of a back problem and managed a best throw of only 80.78m to finish fifth, leaving the Netherlands to prepare for a new assault, and be fully fit, for the Olympic Games in Rio.

He qualified for the final in ninth, with 83.01m his best effort in the last of the three rounds, but he was facing the world champion, Kenya’s Julius Yego, and the defending Olympic champion, Trinidad & Tobago's Keshorn Walcott.

Röhler made a good start, with 87.40m in the opening round, showing the problems from Amsterdam were behind him. But Yego led with 88.24m, though was then forced to retire with two rounds left.

And then round five changed Röhler’s life.

Looking smooth in his run up, he launched the javelin high into the Brazilian night and it landed at 90.30m. A stunning effort, just 27 centimetres short of the Olympic record and the gold medal was his.

And there was such symmetry in the success.

It was the first time a German man won the Olympic javelin since West Germany’s Klaus Wolfermann who threw 90.48m in Munich in 1972 - and that was in the fifth round too.

Here was the confirmation of why Röhler was world no. 1 and how well he had recovered from his injury.

"It is just awesome," he said. "My family is super proud and I am just happy for the whole of track and field in Germany."

GIANMARCO TAMBERI

Italian Tamberi is a glorious exception to the rule that a showman can make his mark but cannot always make the podium.

Tamberi has had an extraordinary 12 months of highs (which is perfect, considering his event) and lows. He will never forget 2016 and it could now end with this prestigious title.

Deciding to compete by sporting a beard on just the left hand side of your face will make you stand out whatever happens but high jumper Tamberi, 24, proved he has the substance to go with the stubble, first winning world indoor gold in March and then becoming European champion in July.

It is a brilliant double, and with it too came a national record of 2.39m in Monaco in July, but that evening ended in tears and despair.

As he looked to clear 2.41m, he landed badly and suffered an ankle injury which ruled him out of the Olympic Games in Rio, where a third gold was on the table.

As he said: “Please wake me from this nightmare. I would like to say I will come back even stronger but at the moment I can only cry.”

If nothing else, this year showed what determination and mental resilience Tamberi has as he battles to return.

That was first evident in Portland in March when he needed his third jump to clear heights of 2.29m and 2.33m before going over first time at 2.36m to win gold at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

"What changed more was in the mind," said Tamberi, speaking to Reuters. "After I was going for my third attempt, I told myself ‘ok technically you are ok but you have to jump it, so jump please. You have to push, fight, jump'."

It was an attitude he then took into the summer where Tamberi cleared 2.19m, 2.24m, 2.29m and 2.32m with no trouble at the European Athletics Championships. He was in control of the competition and gold became his once Britain's 2012 European champion Robbie Grabarz failed with his last go at 2.32m.

Like Röhler, Tamberi could become the first man to win this award for his country.