The Mobot; or Why it’s Important sometimes not to believe your own Hype

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The Olympic celebrity Mo Farah has had a good week: he ran 3.47.50 in a heat at the 1500 metres at the GM Olympic trials (nearly half a second faster than the eventual winner of the final, Andy Baddeley).  Farah had already been selected for the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres. His main rival in the latter distance is likely to be Kenya’s Kenenisha Bekele. The Kenyan athlete has a much faster 1500 metres PB – 3.32.35, but the time is five years stale, and Bekele has won only once in five track outings this year. Farah showed that he has had a good winter’s training and is in fine form. Indeed, so happy was he with his race, that he Farah slowed down 80 metres from the lines to perform the “mobot”, his now customary victory celebration (as in the example above). Farah then followed up his 1500 metre time with a victory in the 5000 metres at the European Championships in Helsinki, including a blistering last lap of just 53.69 seconds.

The athlete Mo Farah has had a poor week. Anthony Whiteman, fifth in Farah’s heat, accused him of “showboating” by making the mobot such a long way before the end. Now Whiteman is an interesting athlete: he was recently the first runner in his 40s to run a sub 4-minute mile (his mile time of 3.58.79 is three seconds faster, for example, than Bekele has ever run over that distance). This is what Whiteman wrote on his twitter account: “Was in 2nd coming off the bend when @Mo_Farah pulled out the F’ing Mo-Bot#notcricket#ifonlyiwas 15yearsyounger”.

Andy Baddeley, on winning the 1500 metre final, made his own Mobot – teasing Farah affectionately.

But the worst thing Farah did was to say in the run-up to the Birmingham event that he would run both the 1500 metre heats and final. As the brightest star of UK men’s athletics, the announcement was likely to cause extra ticket sales for the Saturday final. But Farah pulled out from the race on Saturday morning, in a move which was almost certainly planned long in advance with his coach. (I’m sure I wasn’t the only athletics watcher to spot this likelihood in advance – after all, what sort of athlete sets out to run three fast races in five days – four weeks before a major finals?).

Farah’s late pull-out was also announced after the fastest loser Ricky Stevenson had gone home, meaning that he was deprived of a chance to run. That’s just how it sometimes happens you might say – save that Stevenson has twice run under 3.42 this year, and would surely have fancied his chances of keeping up with what was eventually a relatively slow final. Given that Farah went on to pull out, it wouldn’t have cost him anything to tip Stevenson off that he was thinking about dropping out.

Farah is one of the good guys of British athletic: a fantastic runner, and a decent, humble person. I’m sure with a bit of thought he wouldn’t have done anything this daft.

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