Saturday 17 August 2013

Is Mo Farah our greatest ever athlete?

This is the question being asked after Mo won the 5,000m yesterday at the World Championships in Moscow.

He's now the double Olympic and World Champion at 5 and 10,000m. There's no question he's a true legend of the sport. One of the greatest long distance runners in history and one of this country's greatest ever athletes.

But is he Britain's greatest ever athlete? According to former distance runner and BBC commentator Brendan Foster he is.

He's in the top three for me. I think there's only two British athletes you could argue have a greater case and that's Sebastian Coe and Daley Thompson.

Before orgainising London 2012, Coe was a brilliant athlete; double Olympic 1500m Champion and one of the greatest 800m runners athletics has ever seen.

I'd put Mo just ahead of Coe which feels such a significant thing to say, I almost feel guilty but he is.

As for Daley Thompson, as an 80s child he was a true legend. I don't believe there was a bigger sports start in British sport when Thompson was at his best.

I'm going to say that for now Thompson remains Britain's greatest ever athlete, purely for the reason that he was a Decathlete.

He did 10 events and was brilliant at most of them. He was a double Olympic Champion in 1980 and 1984, the first World Champion in 1983 and a former world record holder.

All this could change though depending on how Farah's career develops over the next few years. By the time Mo retires there's a strong chance that I'd place him as the very best athlete Britain has ever produced.

What does he need to do?

There's a number of things he can do to become our greatest athlete. Firstly, Mo wins titles he doesn't run fast times. There's the target of breaking the world record in the 5 and 10,000m.

Secondly, it's widely known he will attempt more marathons, possibly the Marathon at the Rio Olympics in 2016, winning this would be a significant achievement.

Finally, and more intriguingly Mo could drop down to 1500m now that he holds the British record after breaking Steve Cram's record which stood for 28 years! This is something I'd love to see, as we've struggled to recapture the glory days of British middle distance running.

Why I love Mo

I have to say Mo is one of my favourite sports stars. What I love about him is that with all due respect he was a bit middling for many years. He was always our best long distance runner but you never felt he could truly challenge the very best Kenyans and Ethiopians.

It all began to change when he did the 5,000 and 10,000m double at the Barcelona European Championships in 2010. That was the starting point.

Ok the standard wasn't as high, but it was the first steps on the journey that's taken him to being one of the greats of track and field.

It continued in the 2011 World Championships in Daegu when he won the 5,000m and came second in the 10,000, before going on to triumph at last year's Olympics.

There's been a gradual progression with Mo, he knew he wasn't good enough and went to Kenya to train with the Kenyans, did altitude training in the Pyrenees, teamed up with his coach Alberto Salazar and relocated to the States.

Mo's put the work in and made the sacrifices to reach the top and this is what I love and respect about him.

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