Men's long distance & road running | 29.12.2012
|Mo Farah won Helsinki 2012 gold before claiming gold in the 5000m and
10,000m at London 2012.
What more can be said about Great Britain's Mo Farah, whose double victories at the London 2012 Olympic Games not only earned him domestic and international acclaim but at the honour of being voted the 2012 European Athlete of the Year?
Not only did Farah add the Olympic 5000m title to the gold medal over the same distance he won at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, he also became only the second man to win the continent's most prestigious honour for two consecutive years.
Farah raced over 5000m five times this summer, not including his heat at the Olympics and won every single outing with aplomb.
He started off with a win at Eagle Rock, California, in mid-May when he clocked 13:12.87. In fact, this race was only supposed to be a training outing after Farah had clocked a 1500m 3:34.66 season’s best barely an hour before and was planning to just pace training partners and drop out late in the race, but he felt so good that he finished anyway and it was still a time beaten by only two other European runners in 2012.
His 2012 European-leading time of 12:56.98 came at the Samsung Diamond League in Eugene on 2 June and was followed at the end of that month by his second straight European Athletic Championships 5000m title.
In Helsinki, after a relatively sedate first 4km, Farah threw in a final kilometre of 2:26.76 and his winning time of 13:29.81 was the quickest at the Championships since 1990. Germany's Arne Gabius was his nearest rival, taking the silver medal in 13:31.83.
He finished his Olympic preparations with a win in 13:06.04 in London Diamond League meeting in July.
After cruising through to the final by finishing third in his Olympic 5000m heat, which came four days after his 10000m win, Farah had three days to rest before sprinting to victory in a tactical race on the last day of athletics in the Olympic Stadium.
His time of 13:41.66 was the slowest winning mark at the Olympics since 1968 but it was the gold medal that counted as the 80,000 capacity crowd sent the decibel count soaring.
Behind Farah, there was a yawning gap to the next best Europeans over the distance.
France's Hassan Hirt was the next fastest with 13:10.68 at the Paris Diamond League meeting while Azerbaijan's Hayle Ibrahimov clocked a national record 13:11.34 to win in the Italian town of Rovereto at the at the final European Athletics Outdoor Premium Meeting of 2012 on 4 September.
Ibrahimov, the 2009 5000m and 10000m champion at the 2009 European Athletics Junior Championships and still only 22, was the only other European in the Olympic final and finished ninth.
Farah did no race over 25 laps of the track prior to the Olympics but showed no signs of being out of practice to win the first of his two gold medals on what has been termed Super Saturday, when his triumph was the climax to a stunning 45 minutes which also saw gold medals won by his compatriots Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford.
After a relatively modest 5000m split of 14:05.79, Farah started to wind up the pace in the last kilometre and uncorked a stunning last lap of 53.48 to go through the line in 27:30.42 for the fastest time by a European in 2012.
Second fastest European over the distance was Italy's Daniele Meucci, who ran a personal best of 27:32.86 early in the year in California at the end of April.
Meucci then went on to take a silver medal at the European Athletics Championships, behind Turkey's Polat Kemboi Arikan, and got a bronze at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships earlier this month.
Arikan made an impressive 10000m debut when he won at the European Cup 10000m in Bilbao, Spain, in 27:56.28 and he then took the European title in 28:22.27, pulling away from the other seven men who were still in contention at the bell with a great turn of speed on the last lap.
He was also the next best European in the Olympic final, finishing ninth behind Farah in a personal best of 27:38.81.
The fourth European under 28 minutes this year was Great Britain's Andy Vernon, who clocked 27:53.65 in California in April. Unfortunately, injury was to bring his summer to a premature end shortly afterwards.
There no way to sugar-coat the next statement: while standards rise across the world, overall European men's marathon running is in the doldrums at the moment with only five men going faster than two hours 10 minutes in 2012.
Nevertheless, there were some good individual performances.
Leading this year's list European list is France's Patrick Tambwe, who ran a personal best of 2:07:30 to win the Tiberias Marathon in Israel at the start of the year on 12 January.
Poland's Henryk Szost ran an impressive national record of 2:07:39 to finish second in a strong international field at the Lake Biwa marathon in Japan back in March and then went on to be the leading European at the Olympic Games in ninth place.
Switzerland's 2010 European Athletics Championships gold medallist Viktor Röthlin is also still going strong, despite having turning 38 in October.
The evergreen Röthlin ends the year third on the European list after having finished fifth in 2:08:32 at the Tokyo Marathon, the third fastest performance of his career and his best since 2008 when he won at the same race in his personal best of 2:07:23.
Röthlin also finished 11th at the Olympics, with Italy's Ruggero Pertile was sandwiched between himself and Szost in 10th.
Over the half marathon,with Mo Farah not running the distance this year, the fastest European was Great Britain's 2010 European Athletics Championships 10000m silver medallist Chris Thompson, who ran a personal best 61:00 on home soil at the Bupa Great North Run in the north east of England on 16 September.
At 10km, Italy's Daniele Meucci was the fastest and added to his excellent year with a win at the Healthy Kidney 10km in New York in 28:28.
The 2012 European top 30 lists can be found here.