If Rudyard Kipling’s adage about treating triumph and disaster the same is a standard trope for Olympians, then for the three-time champion Mo Farah it now might be rewritten to include elation and suspicion.
The morning after the night on which he became Olympic 10,000m champion for the second time, Farah said defending his 5,000m title would be a lot harder than it was in London four years ago.
Farah, who survived a tumble on the 10th lap and a punishing 13.11 pace in the final half of the race, also admitted he found it harder still dealing with the air of constant suspicion that hangs over his sport. Since that golden night in London, the mood has darkened.
“I totally understand, but I sometimes feel like you guys hate me. I just do what I do,” he said. What he does is undoubtedly extraordinary, blowing apart the best laid plans of his Kenyan and Ethiopian rivals as regularly as clockwork when major championships roll around.
Against the backdrop of a year in which his former coach and mentor Alberto Salazar has been accused of flouting doping rules and the sport in general has been forced to its knees, Farah admitted the emotion had got to him as he crossed the line in triumph.
Salazar, who denies all the allegations, is in Rio with the US team. He no longer works directly with Farah, but still sets sessions for him.
“In the last year you’ve made it hard for me in everything I do. I hope you can get behind me now, seeing what I do,” he said. “You guys haven’t taken it easy on me. Nailing me for everything I do. It’s been really tough on me. I do what I do and I enjoy what I do, and I work hard for what I do.”
He would understandably prefer to enjoy the fruits of his jaw-dropping labours. “We should be able to enjoy our sport and enjoy this moment because my career is short,” he said.
However, if Farah is understandably frustrated at the focus again being on the dark underbelly of his sport in the wake of arguably his greatest triumph, he does not always help himself.
For example, he was asked in the wake of his victory about a photo that emerged of him with Jama Aden, the coach who hit the headlines when EPO was found at the Spanish hotel he and his athletes were staying at in June.
British Athletics had admitted it used Aden as a “facilitator”, claiming he did little more than hold a stopwatch. Yet Farah appeared to claim that the picture of him with Aden at a training camp in February was equivalent to a fan snapping a selfie in the Olympic Village, an explanation that invites incredulity.
“It is frustrating because if I walk through the village now I don’t know who’s been done and who hasn’t but people will ask for photos.” he said. “People ask for them at the training ground because it’s me.
“I can’t say no to everyone. And the public don’t always know that. And it gets to me because it’s not something I chose. If I chose something and did it deliberately you’ve got me. Fair enough.”
Farah believes he has to operate under an unrelenting microscope compared to athletes from other parts of the world. “It is difficult for me because I am an honest guy. I try to be honest in what I do and in everything I do, I try to be honest with my family. It’s hard because it is not what you see in the UK, it’s a lot harder than in any other country. In America it’s not the same,” he said.
The British runner, who will solidify his claim to be among the greatest distance runners of all time if he wins the 5,000m next weekend, was also unusually direct in assessing his relationship with the media and the public.
“The public do get behind me and I love the crowd when I’m ever in London they give me massive support – the Anniversary Games, the cheers, they are always nice to me,” he said, while in the same breath predicting he again would not make the final three in the BBC’s annual sporting popularity poll.
“It’s just a bit the media. It gets me down because I am honest with you guys. I try and be honest with you.”
Yet all that will be put to bed for the next few days as Farah concentrates on becoming only the second man in history, after “the Flying Finn”, Lasse Virén, in 1972 and 1976, to win both Olympic distance titles twice.
Farah, no great student of track and field history, is firmly focused on the future. “I just have to recover well,” he said. “I know I’ve done everything in training. Last year I did the 10,000m in a reasonably fast time and then came back for the 5,000m. So hopefully it won’t take too much out of me. I just have to save as much energy as I can and not get distracted.”
He will draw inspiration from his feats in the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing last summer, where he recovered from a similar race tactically in the 10,000m to triumph in the 5,000m.
“I wouldn’t be devastated but I would love to have another medal for my son,” said Farah, aiming to claim one Olympic gold for each of his offspring.
“The twins have got their names on the ones from London and I promised my daughter I would get her one here, which is probably what drove me to the line. Now I just want to see if I can go out there and win one for Hussein.”
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