Preview - Men’s long distance: Farah set to defend his 5000m title
|Defending champion Mo Farah of Great Britain remains the
overwhelming favourite to defend his European 5000m gold in
Defending his European 5000m title but not the longer distance, Farah comes to Helsinki with the continent’s fastest time of 12:56.98, set when winning the Eugene Diamond League meeting at the beginning of the month. That is a full 16sec faster than anyone else has run in Europe this year.
But it is not only the time that suggests this will be a relatively easy title defence for the Briton, but the manner in which the Somalia-born Briton dispatches his rivals who have no answer to his withering last-lap kick. Fast or slow, Farah has the tools to deal with any eventuality and must be one of the hottest favourites in Helsinki.
His closest rival on times is Germany’s Arne Gabius who at the age of 31 reduced his 5000m best by over 13 seconds when he clocked 13:13.43 at the Bislett Games in Oslo recently. That time meant that Gabius qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time in his career and puts him sixth on the German all-time lists.
German champion indoors and out, Gabius made the final of the world indoor 3000m, established a PB over the distance in Karlsruhe and then set a national record over two miles in Birmingham when the man from Tübingen crossed the line in 8:10.78.
France’s Yohan Durand is another revelling in his best form to date. With three PBs under his belt from 1500m through 3000m and 5000m, this son of wine growers is maturing nicely. In Lille he lopped 18sec off his previous best, leaving it at a respectable 13:17.90.
|Italy's Daniele Meucci is among the favourites to take the 10,000m
gold in Helsinki.
Olympic year has also had a galvanising effect on Britain’s Nick McCormick. Now 30, the Morpeth Harrier’s career is once again on the up after his PB in Huelva when he dipped under 13:20 for the first time in his life, recording 13:18.81 for a fine third place from 23 starters, most of them from Africa.
Last time round, Azerbaijan’s Haile Ibrahimov took bronze in Barcelona before clinching 3000m silver at the Paris Bercy European Indoors. Ibrahimov has set two national records this year over 3000m and 5000m. Competing in the same Lille race as Durand he crossed the line in 13:20.09.
In what are often tactical races, there could be some surprises for the minor medals with Italy’s Stefano La Rosa and Ukraine’s Mykola Labovsky, who has improved his PB by over half a minute this year, capable of getting in the mix.
In Barcelona, Farah halted a run of three straight Spanish victories and it would be odd indeed if there were not a medal for Spain. Silver in 2010, Jesus España has only run one 10,000m and a few races over the country, but he can hardly be discounted. Sergio Sanchez and Manuel Angel Penas have not broken 13:30 this year, but may still make an impact in a tactical race.
Meucci the front runner in 10,000m
10,000m bronze medallist two years ago, Italy’s Daniele Meucci improved his PB in Stanford this year to 27:32.86 to lead the European rankings. That represents an 11sec advance over his previous best from last year.
The only other entrant to have broken 28min this season is Turkey’s Polat Kemboi Arikan, formerly Paul Kipkosgei Kemboi of Kenya until last year. Kemboi has set a flurry of PBs in 2012, including over 10,000m when he won the European Cup in Bilbao in 27:56.28. On that occasion he defeated his closest competitor on times, Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem, by a clear margin of seven seconds, not to mention one or two other potential rivals who are also entered for the longer distance: Carles Castillejo and Penas of Spain as well as La Rosa.
An intriguing entry, as in the 5000m, is Ukraine’s Labovskyy who set his second PB of the year in the Ukraine Cup in Yalta when he raced away for a 23sec win in 28:04.90. It is 10 years since the winner of this event broke 28min so Labovskyy and another relative unknown, Tasama Moogas (PB 28:12.87) of Israel might well make a name for themselves.