MOSCOW: Mo Farah and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce secured dramatic doubles at the World Athletics Championships on Friday as Usain Bolt safely advanced to the finals of the 200m in his bid for a third successive title.
Action on the track and in the field had earlier been overshadowed by Russian athletics icon Yelena Isinbayeva’s controversial comments over her apparent support of Russia’s anti-gay law.
But Farah was on hand to dispel any lingering fall-out at the Luzhniki Stadium, outfoxing the fast-paced Kenyan team tactics to become the second man to achieve the double of world and Olympics 5,000 and 10,000 meters titles.
The Somalia-born Farah, who won an emotional double gold at the Olympics last year in his adopted home city of London, clocked 13min 26.98sec to emulate Kenenisa Bekele’s double-double at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 Berlin worlds.
“It’s something I have worked very hard for. I was thinking about the kids and being away from them for so long,” said Farah, who trains under Alberto Salazar in Portland, Oregon, and admitted to having a stitch early on in the race.
“There was a lot of pressure but I enjoyed it and I am proud to hold the Union Jack.”
As expected, the Kenyans adopted a different race strategy in a bid to disrupt the Briton’s rhythm.
But Farah kept his nerve and his place towards the front of the pack all the way through to the final 650 meters when he accelerated away, fending off the attention of Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet, who won silver in a photo-finish from Kenyan Isiah Koech.
Jamaica’s Fraser-Pryce threw down the gauntlet for teammate Bolt by becoming the third athlete to achieve the women’s world sprint double.
The 26-year-old, who had reclaimed her 100m title on Monday, again dominated the race, with three-time champion Allyson Felix of the United States pulling up injured not even halfway through.
“This is hard work, a lot of hard work,” the Jamaican said. “I did the 100m and then I still had to prepare for the 200m. It’s about re-focusing.”
In another first, African athletes claimed medals in the event, Ivorian Murielle Ahoure adding silver to her 100m silver and Nigerian Blessing Okagbare taking bronze, having already won long jump silver.
Two-time defending champion Usain Bolt’s bid to seal a third successive world 200m title advanced smoothly as he coasted to victory in his semifinals in a comfortable 20.13sec.
Bolt, who admitted earlier on Friday that he had been nursing a sore foot after regaining his 100m title on Sunday, will be joined in the final by teammates Warren Weir, the Olympic bronze medalist, and Nickel Ashmeade.
“I will have a good day’s rest and go into the final and get it done,” said Bolt, another gold for whom would push him one step further to equalling the present mark of eight world gold medals won by retired American duo Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson.
Off the track, Russian pole vault star Isinbayeva was the center of a backlash from activists and fellow track and field legends after appearing to back Russia’s controversial new anti-gay law and saying competitors at the Sochi Winter Olympics next year should respect it.
Isinbayeva on Thursday came out in support of the law signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, which punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors.
Activists argue it could be used for a broad crackdown against gays, although Russian authorities have said all athletes will be free and safe to compete at the Winter Olympics regardless of their sexual orientation, as long as they obey Russian law.
But Isinbayeva issued a statement Friday clarifying her comments, although falling short of a full apology, saying: “English is not my first language and I think I may have been misunderstood when I spoke yesterday.
“What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries, particularly when they are guests.
“But let me make it clear I respect the views of my fellow athletes and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality (which is against the Olympic charter).”
In other finals in the field on Friday, Germany’s Christian Storl retained his shot put title, and Russia sealed two more golds, Tatyana Lysenko retaining her hammer throw title with a best of 78.80m and Aleksandr Menkov claiming the men’s long jump crown with a best of 8.56m.
The US men’s quartet, for whom 400m individual world champion Lashawn Merritt ran the final leg, won the 4x400m relay in 2:58.71, stretching their winning streak that dates back to the 2005 worlds in Helsinki.