Glasgow’s loss is Zurich’s gain as Mo Farah, Great Britain’s Olympic and world champion at 5000m and 10,000m, targets a possible double at the European Athletics Championships having made a late decision not to contest at the Commonwealth Games after missing training time because of abdominal pains.
Among those surprised that Farah did not wait to see if he would have been fit at least for the longer distance in Glasgow, the second of the two events, was his former team-mate Paula Radcliffe, the world marathon record holder and a European champion over 10,000m in Munich 12 years ago.
‘It’s been a tough season for Mo because he hasn’t been injured, he’s been ill, and that’s when the doubts start to creep in,” said Radcliffe, now a BBC pundit. “But hopefully he will be fine for the Europeans.”
The 31-year-old naturalised Briton – who left his native Somalia at the age of eight – has remained at his training base in Font Romeu this month as he seeks, health allowing, to regain the 10,000m title he first won in 2010 before defending the 5000m title he won for a second time in Helsinki a month before his triumphs at the London 2012 Games.
While Farah has established himself as the dominant force in world 5000m and 10,000m running in the last three years, his breakthrough achievements took place within the European arena.
Farah's first major title was over 5000m at the European Athletics Junior Championships in 2001. In 2006, having spent a year living and training with Kenyan runners, he won 5000m silver at the European Championships in Gothenburg, and in December of that year he won the 2006 European Cross Country Championships in San Giorgio su Legnano,in Italy. On that day he looked like a runner coming into his own.
In March 2009 he took gold in the 3000m at the European Indoor Championships in Turin, clocking 7min 40.17sec, and the following summer he made his track breakthrough at the European Championships in Barcelona by winning his first major titles at 5000m and 10,000m.
In securing this European double he matched a feat already achieved by the great Czech runner Emil Zatopek in 1950, Poland’s Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak in 1958, Finland’s Juha Vaatainen in 1971 and Salvatore Antibo of Italy in 1990.
In 2011, having switched his training base to Portland, Oregon, to work under the supervision of Alberto Salazar, winner of the New York Marathon from 1980-1982, Farah won 10,000m silver followed by 5000m gold at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu.
Two years ago he warmed up for his London Olympic exploits by comfortably defending his European 5000m title in the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, finishing clear of Germany’s Arne Gabius.
This amiable athlete is always a welcome addition to any event, and if there is any lingering sense of frustration that he was not able to return victorious to a championship on British soil following his Olympic successes, then it will be all the better for everyone watching the forthcoming Championships in Switzerland.
If Farah is anywhere near his best in the Letzigrund Stadium, the fact is that no one in will be able to get near him. But his fitness remains to be proven. It is a compelling prospect.