SJA Treasurer RANDALL NORTHAM lays his cards on the table as far as his personal choice for the 2011 Sportsman of the Year: he goes with Mo
How do you decide that a long distance runner is more worthy of an award than a championship golfer? Easy: you have followed and written about athletics for more than 40 years and you happen to think that golf is a game, not a sport.
Prejudice (mine) apart, I can’t see how even fans of Major winners Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke can deny that 5,000 metres world champion Mo Farah is worthy of being voted the SJA’s Sportsman of the Year.
Many other golfers from these shores have won major championships before, but no British distance runner has ever won a 5,000 metres gold medal at a global event – a world championships or an Olympics. It is self-evident, therefore, that no British distance runner has ever won a 5,000 gold and a 10,000m silver at the same global event.
Perhaps this is the time though to put people right on one fact that kept popping up on some airwaves and in newspapers. One national newspaper, for instance, said Farah was the first British runner to win a 10,000m medal at a global event. Patently untrue. Ask Mike McLeod and Brendan Foster. While Emil Voigt, long dead, won the 5 miles (staged instead of the 5,000 and 10,000m) at the original London Olympics in 1908.
The 10,000m came first at the world championships in Daegu and when Farah finished second I wondered whether he would be able to pick himself up and win the 5,000. That he did shows guts as well as ability.
When he beat Bernard Lagat in that thrilling finish in the 5,000, a cynical American journalist turned to a British counterpart and murmured “Your African beat our African.” Strictly true, but whereas Kenyan-born Lagat became a naturalised US citizen in 2004 when he was an established as a 30-year-old, world-class runner, Farah arrived in Britain, a refugee aged eight, in 1991. All he learned about running was learned in Britain until he went to train with Alberto Salazar in Oregon less than a year ago.
What a first year Farah, who had already made history last year when he won double European gold, has had under the guidance of the former marathon runner.
In Birmingham in February, he broke the European 5,000m indoor record. In Paris in March he won gold in the 3,000m at the European indoor championships.
Then he started outdoors. On June 11 he won the Prefontaine Classic 10,000m in 26min 46.57sec, setting a British and European record. “Set” is a bit mealy mouthed; Farah took more than half a minute off the old UK record held by Jon Brown.
In Monaco in July at another Diamond League meeting he set a second British record, this time in the 5,000m, 12:53.11. The margin wasn’t quite so large this time, 7.30sec off the previous best, but that record had lasted for 28 years.
Then came Daegu. My case rests. Who else can you vote for?
- Who to vote for? See Ian Cole’s overview of the leading candidates for the Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year by clicking here.
- SJA members can cast their votes by clicking here.
- The awards will be presented at our gala annual lunch in London on December 7. Don’t miss out on being there – click here for a ticket booking form, with SJA members entitled to buy two tickets at half the usual price.