As double Olympic champion Mo Farah knows he is there to be shot at. But such is his self-belief that it will take someone and something special to scupper the Briton’s bid to repeat the feat at the world championships in Moscow this month.
His London triumphs last year when the Somali-born runner stormed to 5,000 and 10,000 meters glory put Farah firmly among the sport’s superstars - his ‘Mobot’ now as recognisable as Usain Bolt’s ‘archer’ celebration.
After joining Emil Zatopek, Vladimir Kuts, Lasse Viren, Miruts Yifter and Kenenisa Bekele as the only athletes to complete the 5 and 10k double in the post-war period, Farah is at the peak of his powers.
“The hardest is being at the top because when you are at the top everybody wants to knock you down. So many guys want to get you,” Farah said recently.
“They are going to have to come up with something, it’s exciting, they are testing me out. The 10k is more exciting than the 5k... I have to keep my feet on the ground.
Farah credits his coach, former marathon world record holder Alberto Salazar, with turning him into a winner.
“I’ve definitely improved in terms of winning medals, but it’s only been one or two percent in terms of my times. I’ve learned to win races and I’ve learned to be confident when you approach a race,” he said.
“I’m a lot more confident than I was years ago, and that comes from learning from every race.
“Obviously Alberto is a great coach... and the whole team that supports me. Without the team I don’t think I could have achieved what I have achieved.”
Farah won the world 5,000 title in Daegu, South Korea in 2011 after having to settle for silver over twice the distance earlier in the championships behind unexpected winner Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia.
Farah later remarked he had barely heard of Jeilan but it is unlikely there will be a joker in the pack this time.
Depending on how quickly he recovers from the 10,000 – inLondon he admitted it had taken more out of him than he first thought – his versatility and incisive finishing kick should see him emulate Kenenisa Bekele who achieved the double at the world championships in Berlin in 2009.
Farah warmed up for Moscow last month by testing his speed to great effect when dropping down to 1,500 meters in Monaco.
While he never looked likely to catch impressive winner Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, his time of 3:28.81 not only broke the British record of former world champion Steve Cram but also placed him sixth on the world all-time list.
Farah was stunned.
“I couldn’t believe how fast I ran. It was crazy. If you had set to me six weeks ago that I would run 3.30 and break Steve Cram’s record I would never have believed you. It just shows, when you have that confidence...”
While he focuses on a Moscow double, his track future is uncertain with a first full marathon penciled in for London next year, having made a much-publicized bow by running half of the race in the capital earlier this year.
Asked before the Diamond League meeting in London last week if he planned to compete on the track in next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Farah replied: “It depends on how it fits in. Next year is quite a big challenge because I am moving up to the marathon. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
It is a measure of Farah’s relaxed state of mind that as he headed off this week to finalize his Moscow preparations at high altitude in St Moritz, Switzerland, the Briton was cheekily laying down the gauntlet to sprint king Bolt.
The pair share the same agent in Ricky Simms and Farah has challenged the Jamaican to a race over 600 meters, an invitation Bolt has readily accepted.