SportsAid alumnus Mo Farah signed off from his career on the track by winning gold and silver medals at the IAAF World Championships in London. Mo, 34, set the London Stadium alight on the opening evening as he retained his 10,000m title before being edged out into second position in the 5,000m on the penultimate day by Ethiopian runner Muktar Edris.
Mo, who received a SportsAid award as a 16 year old in 1999, will now turn his focus to road running. His track career concludes with four Olympic golds, five European Championship titles and six World Championship victories. The London Stadium holds special significance for Mo after he became double Olympic champion for the first time five years ago in front of a home crowd.
“[I] had tears in my eyes,” said Mo – who announced a £50,000 donation made by the Mo Farah Foundation to SportsAid at last year’s 40th anniversary SportsBall. “Never had that before. I felt, ‘Wow’. It’s been an amazing journey. To achieve what I have achieved through the years has been incredible. And to end it in London, what a way. It's been a long journey but it's been incredible.
“This is where it all started and I got little emotional because I look at my family, I look at what I’ve done and it gets to you because, at the end of the day, I’m just a human. If you look at the history, history doesn’t lie. What I’ve achieved for the last six, seven years has been incredible and it just shows what kind of person I am and what it takes to be champion.”
In addition to Mo’s gold and silver success, four further medals were won by Great Britain in the relays with SportsAid athletes helping contribute towards three. SportsAid alumni CJ Ujah and Danny Talbot were part of the 4x100m relay team that won gold ahead of the United States, who finished in second, and Japan in the bronze position. Jamaica failed to finish the race as Usain Bolt pulled up injured.
All of the members of the women’s 4x400m and 4x100m relay teams were supported by SportsAid during the early stages of their careers. Eilidh Doyle, Laviai Nielsen, Emily Diamond and Zoey Clark won silver in 4x400m while Asha Phillip, Desiree Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita also claimed silver in the 4x100m. Laviai and Daryll were both helped by the charity as recently as 2015.
“We have worked so hard for this,” said Daryll. “I tried my best down that last stretch and I’m ecstatic to bring the team a silver.” Dina, who only recovered from a fracture to her right foot shortly before the Championships, added: “To upgrade from Olympic bronze to world silver with these girls has been incredible, and to do it at home means so much. We are so proud to win the medal in London.”
Dina also finished fourth in the final of the 200m in an extremely impressive Championships for her. There was further near misses for SportsAid alumni Callum Hawkins in the marathon and Lorraine Ugen in the long jump, while 1500m runner Laura Weightman, pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw, and high jumpers Morgan Lake and Robbie Grabarz all finished sixth in their respective finals.
Reece Prescod made a huge impact in London as he progressed through his 100m heat with a personal best of 10.03 seconds before finishing second in his semi-final behind Jamaica’s Yohan Blake. This guaranteed him a spot in the final where he came seventh in a line-up containing legendary figure Bolt, who took bronze, winner Justin Gatlin and runner-up Christian Coleman.
“Usain has put athletics on the map. He’s taken it to another level and has done amazing things over the years,” said Reece – who was supported by SportsAid in 2016. “He’s been everyone’s inspiration at some point, I used to look up to him as a kid and it’s nice to finally meet him and race against him before he goes out. That’s one thing I’ll be able to tell my kids in the future, I raced Bolt.
“Hopefully now I can start my own legacy. I don’t feel the pressure, I just take it step-by-step. I train hard, work hard, and do all the right things. I come out here and do my best, and that’s all I can do for the British public. I ran a PB in the first round, the second fastest time this season in the semi-final, so I can’t ask for much more than that. Hopefully over the coming years, it will just get better and better.”
Currently supported SportsAid athlete Shannon Hylton, Jessica Turner and Zak Seddon all gained invaluable experience but missed out on qualification from their heats. Shannon ran a time of 23.39 seconds but was just short of proceeding to the semi-finals while Jessica and Zak ranked outside of the qualification positions for the 400m hurdles and the steeplechase respectively.
“The atmosphere was amazing, the reception I got was unbelievable but that makes me more disappointed that the race didn’t go like I wanted it to,” said Jess Turner. “I hit a few too many hurdles and made too many mistakes and that really cost me with the time. I’m in between my stride patterns and still working on finding my rhythm and I just didn’t get it quite right and that altered the entire race.
“I had a race plan but I just didn’t execute it. I hit one hurdle and it all went wrong from there. I can’t be too disappointed. I’ve made my first senior championships and I’ve had the amazing experience of competing in front of a home crowd. I’ve learned lots of lessons being here, especially about what it takes to be an elite athlete at this level. I’ve got a thirst for competing at this level.”
Jess, who has been helped by SportsAid for the last four years, said: “This is nothing like competing at the juniors or Under-23s – this is a whole new world, it’s like a new sport, really. This just makes me want to be back at every big event and that will be driving me on in training. I’ve got to be looking at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships next year as my targets.”
Here’s the list of medals won by SportsAid athletes competing at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships....
Mo Farah – 10,000m
CJ Ujah, Danny Talbot – 4x100m
Mo Farah – 5,000m
Eilidh Doyle, Laviai Nielsen, Emily Diamond, Zoey Clark - 4x400m
Asha Phillip, Desiree Henry, Dina Asher-Smith, Daryll Neita – 4x100m