HELSINKI – Britain’s Mo Farah became the first man to defend his European 5,000 meters title here Wednesday on the opening day of the 2012 championships.
The London Olympic hope and reigning world 5,000m champion comfortably took gold for the second successive European championships in a time of 13min 29.91sec.
The 29-year-old beat home Germany’s Arne Gabius and Polat Kemboi Arikan of Turkey.
Farah, who is also the defending European 10,000m champion, hit the front with five laps remaining.
At the bell signalling the last lap Farah pulled away to win by almost two seconds in what was his last 5000m appearance before the Olympics.
Gabius took second in a time of 13:31.83.
“The race went well, the reason I went to the front early on was because there were too many guys there, we were running very slow and off that anybody could kick,” Farah said.
“I wanted to run fast (for the last lap), someone told me it was 53 seconds, but my aim was to run hard without pulling anything.”
Farah, who had been accused of being “disrespectful” to his fellow competitors in the 1,500m heats at last weekend’s trials for celebrating 100m from the line and then withdrawing from the following day’s final, defended his behavior.
“I got a little bit of stick for it but I didn’t intend to disrespect anyone,” Farah said after his Helsinki win. “Sometimes you get carried away and do a celebration.
“I didn’t do the 1,500m final but it was just to save my legs and to come out here and get a good race and see where I am.
“I apologize to everyone who bought tickets (for the final) but this medal means more to me than doing the final and getting a medal there.”
The Somali-born Farah won double gold in the 5,000 and 10,000m at the European championships in Barcelona in 2010 but is opting out of defending his 10,000m title Saturday although he is targeting both in London 2012.
Elsewhere on the opening day European sprinting hope Christophe Lemaitre cruised into the 100m final where he will come up against fellow Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut.
Lemaitre won his semifinal in 10:14s, pulling away in the second part of the race after a modest getaway.
In Thursday’s final he and Vicaut will meet Norway’s Jaysuma Saidy Ndure, who won his smeifinal easily enough in 10:13, his best time of the season.
Lemaitre, the defending double European sprint champion, is seen as one of the biggest hopes of breaking Jamaican and US sprinting dominance at this summer’s Olympics. — AFP