Posts Tagged ‘Moscow 2013’

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.

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This morning, the news from the Athletics (Track & Field) World Championships in Moscow is all about Usain Bolt regaining his 100m World Title (he was disqualified for a false start two years ago in Daegu after winning and setting a World record in Berlin in 2009). The British newspapers are also waxing lyrically of Mo Farrah’s impressive win in the 10,000m on Saturday evening, beating Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan, the man who beat him two years ago into second place.

There is, sadly, almost no mention of what to me was the most impressive performance of the weekend, that of Tirunesh Dibaba. She won the women’s 10,000m in majestic style. There is nothing about her victory in the Disnunited Kingdom’s The Times, The Telegraph or The Guardian (the three quality British newspapers), The New York Times mentions her in passing in its summary of the weekend’s action, and France’s Le Monde also fails to mention her completely. The BBC sports website has a very short mention of her; not quite nothing but little more than nothing.

Why is this?


Admittedly it is difficult to compete for headlines with the showman of athletics, Usain Bolt. And in winning his fourth World Championships gold medal (100m and 200m in Berlin in 2009, 200m in Daegu in 2011 and now the 100m in Moscow), he is cementing his place as one of the all-time great sprinters. He is a larger than life character, and the cameras follow his every move when his is competing. Last night, Bolt was competing in the 3rd of the three semi-finals, a couple of hours before the final. The camera was panning down the starting line-up for the 2nd semi-final, but just before the runners went into their blocks the TV coverage cut away to show Bolt sitting watching the semi-final before his! We nearly missed seeing the start of the second semi-final just so we could see Bolt watching it.

In contrast, in very stark contrast, Tirunesh Dibaba virtually goes below the radar. Why is this? Last night she won her fifth World Championships Gold medal, adding to an already impressive tally of gold medals which also includes 3 Olympic Gold medals and 5 World Cross Country Championship Golds. She has never been beaten in a 10,000m race. Yet I suspect most people have never heard of her.


One possibility is that the 10,000m is not as “sexy” an event as the 100m. But the coverage given to Mo Farrah suggests that people are interested in the 10,000m. So I can only assume it is because Dibaba is a shy, unassuming athlete. Also, she does not speak English, so doesn’t give any interviews to the English-language media. She doesn’t seek the spotlight, she just gets on with winning, and winning to such an extent that she is probably the greatest women track athlete of all time.


At least Dirbaba is a heroin in her native Ethiopia. She probably would prefer that were not the case; unlike Bolt who relishes the attention of the World’s media, one gets the impression that Dibaba would hate that level of attention. So let us give her the privacy she prefers, but revel in the privilege of seeing such a remarkable athlete run, or should I say flow (as she has one of the most beautiful running styles I’ve ever seen) on the running track.

Do you think Dirbaba is the greatest woman athlete ever?

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