On Saturday (17th of August) Mo Farrah won the 5,000 metres at the World Athletics (Track & Field) Championships. In doing so he became the double double champion, holding both the 5,000 m and 10,000m titles at the Olympics and World Championships at the same time, only the second male athlete in history to do so, after Kenenise Bekele.
Does this make him the greatest British athlete ever? The BBC commentator, and ex-long distance runner Brendan Foster,,, seems to think so. As you can see in the image below, in the commentary section I have highlighted what “Big Bren”, as he is sometimes known, had to say about Mo Farrah.
Britain has never had an athlete, male or female, who has held two titles at both the Olympics and the World Championships at the same time. So in that sense, certainly Mo has achieved more than any previous British athlete. But, Mo has never held a World record. So can we say he is better than Paula Radcliffe, who set the World marathon record in 2005 and still holds it? Or Sebastian Coe, who won Olympic gold in the 1500m in 1980 and 1984, and set the World 800m record in 1981, which was not beaten until 1997? Or Daley Thompson, who won back-to-back Olympic golds in the decathlon (1980 and 1984)?
Mo made an interesting point in an interview the day after his 5,000m triumph. He said he was planning to try and break a few World records next year, but that whereas records are broken no one can ever take away from you winning the gold in a major championships. He said that is how people tend to be remembered, for winning golds rather than for setting World records. Personally, I think it can be either. Colin Jackson, of Wales, held the 110m hurdles World record from 1993 to 2006, but he never won an Olympic gold. Yet he is still considered a great athlete.
All I can say for sure is how impressed I was with Mo Farrah’s two victories in these championships. And how pleased I was for him and his family, for all the sacrifices he and they have made for him to accomplish this remarkable feat. I was so delighted to hear him thanking the public for all their support in his post-race interview. Great athletes can sometimes become arrogant, but Mo Farrah remains humble and thankful to the people who support him and cheer him on. I hope his winning ways continue for many more years.