Olympic champion comes up short in 10,000m qualifying bid while Scot has a night to savour as Britain take European Cup honours
An eventful night in Birmingham saw Eilish McColgan storm to victory and a Tokyo place but ended with Sir Mo Farah’s hopes of being able to defend his 10,000m Olympic title this summer left in disarray after he finished outside of the qualifying standard at the Müller British 10,000m Championships and European 10,000m Cup on Saturday (June 5).
The 10-time global gold medallist insisted he was hampered by an ankle injury as he could only clock 27:50.64 (the standard is 27:28.00) for eighth place and was outsprinted in the closing metres by Marc Scott, who was crowned British champion and booked his Olympic place in the process, having already had the standard.
In truth, Farah looked to be toiling badly for much of the race which brought a climax to the championships that also incorporated the European Cup and the British Olympic trials.
The men’s A race was won by French European champion Morhad Amdouni in 27:23.29 ahead of Farah’s training partner, Belgium’s Bashir Abdi (27:24.41), and Spaniard Carlos Mayo (27:25.00). The top three all clocked personal bests.
With the British Olympic team to be announced at the end of this month, Farah will now have to decide whether to chase the qualifying time in the next three weeks or to come up with a plan B.
In an interview before the event, Scott had claimed the British record-holder had lost his “aura” of invincibility. On this evidence, that much appears to be true.
“It is what it is,” said Farah following his first 10,000m track defeat since the world championships of 2011. “The last 10 days hasn’t been great but, no matter what I’ve achieved in my career, it was important that I come to the trials. It would have been easy not to show but I did show and I dug in deep.
“With 15 laps to go I was hurting hard. I just had to keep fighting, keep digging in and finish in the top two.”
Scott will be feeling considerably more positive, as his fine year continued. After his run of 27:49.94 for seventh overall, the US-based Yorkshireman who moved to second on the UK all-time 10,000m lists in February, said: “It’s a shame not to win the race overall but I just wanted to get the job done against the British guys.”
The third Briton home was Emile Cairess who had the race of his life in 10th place. Having had Covid-19 just 10 weeks ago, his PB performance of 27:53.19, which is also inside the Team England Commonwealth Games qualifying standard, was remarkable.
Matt Leach was 13th in 28:22.33, while there was a PB for Kristian Jones one place further back in 28:23.50.
The other member of the British team, Jake Smith, did not finish as the line-up came second in the team standings behind France and ahead of Spain.
There were fireworks in the women’s A race as McColgan produced a brilliantly timed late charge to clock 31:19.21 and beat Israel’s Selamawit Teferi (31:19.35 PB), who had led for much of the race, right on the line.
Jess Judd produced a similarly powerful closing surge to clock a PB of 31:20.84 and also finish under the Olympic qualifying standard of 31:25.00. The fact that she was second Briton meant she also automatically booked her ticket to Japan.
Verity Ockenden was in PB form for fourth in 31:43.57, with European indoor 3000m champion Amy-Eloise Markovc fifth in 32:04.19. The six-strong British side was completed by Samantha Harrison in ninth with 32:38.99 and Jenny Nesbitt 12th in 32:48.48.
Charlotte Arter clocked 32:17.40 for seventh place, a time which was inside the Wales qualifying standard for next year’s Commonwealth Games.
McColgan, the only member of the team to have achieved the Olympic standard going into this event, simply wanted to make sure of a place on the team for what will be her third Games, which will come 30 years after her mother and coach Liz won world 10,000m gold in the Japanese capital.
The European 5000m silver medallist had been warned not to let the contest descend into a last-lap shootout but that is exactly the scenario which played out.
McColgan, Judd, Markovc and Ockenden had seemed content to let Teferi pull away in the opening stages and the Israeli held a four-second advantage over the British quartet at halfway, which was reached in 15:40.06.
That lead would only grow and, with Markovc and Ockenden having fallen away, Judd decided to up the pace at the 9000m mark and attempt to close the 15-second gap to Teferi.
McColgan went, too, and covered that final kilometre in 2:50, overtaking the tiring leader with a metre or so to spare after a closing 400m in 64 seconds and 200m of just under 31 seconds. She admitted to having her mother’s words very much at the forefront of her mind.
“She said don’t leave it to the last lap because you don’t want to miss out and it turns into a 400m race rather than a 10,000m,” said Eilish. “I did have that in the back of my mind so I just kept reminding myself to keep calm over the last couple of laps.
“Training is going better than ever and then there’s a lot of pressure coming into this because you are training so well. You have one opportunity to try and knit it together on the day so I suppose there was a part of me that was like ‘don’t mess this up’. I’m absolutely buzzing.”
To cap off a fine day’s work, Britain topped the European Cup team standings, with Italy taking silver and Poland bronze.
Italy’s Pietro Riva produced a dominant performance in the Men’s European Cup B Race to win in 28:25.70, with Iceland’s Hlynur Andrésson second in 28:36.64 as he beat Estonia’s Tiidrek Nurme (28:37.61) to the line. The top four all clocked personal bests.
Ellis Cross was the top Briton thanks to his ninth-place finish in 29:10.64.
In the European Cup women’s B race, victory went to Tereza Hrochová as the Czech lowered her personal best by 53 seconds to clock 33 minutes exactly and take victory after an entertaining battle with Italy’s Anna Arnaudo (33:02.70). Poland’s Angelica Mach was third in 33:26.29 as the top seven finishers all recorded PBs.
Sally Ratcliffe of Aldershot, Farnham & District was the first British athlete home, coming eighth in 34:39.53.
In the first 10,000m contest of the meeting, the Men’s Domestic C Race, Victoria Park’s Max Milarvie enjoyed a victorious track debut over the distance as he clocked 29:22.78 to win a keenly fought race with Thames Valley’s Paulo Surafel (29:25.62). Jonathan Escalante-Phillips of Cambridge & Coleridge was third in 29:32.51.
The evening’s schedule began with a men’s 1500m Para contest, which was won convincingly by Owen Miller in 3:58.68. The 2019 WPA World Championships sixth placer came home ahead of his fellow Scot Steven Bryce, who clocked 4:07.16, and the 4:07.43 of James Hamilton.