Mo Farah's hopes of winning an historic fifth Olympic gold medal are in serious doubt after failing to run inside the required 10,000m qualifying time for Tokyo 2020.
Britain's four-time Olympic champion finished a surprise eighth, 22 seconds outside of what was needed at the European Athletics 10,000m Cup in Birmingham, an event which doubled up as the trial for the Games.
The race was won by France’s European gold medallist Morhad Amdouni 27:23.29, ahead of Belgium’s Bashi Abdi (27:24.41), a training partner of Farah's.
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Afterwards, Farah said he had been struggling with an ankle injury he picked up almost two weeks ago, despite telling Eurosport this week he felt in "decent" shape, although he was at pains to emphasise that he was concentrating on the Birmingham event and was not looking as far ahead as Tokyo.
To make matters worse for Farah, he was also beaten by fellow British runner Marc Scott - who did finish inside the qualifying standard.
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He will now have three weeks - until June 27 - to find a race to run the required time to seal a place on the plane to Tokyo, but there will be concerns about the extent of his injury and having run his slowest 10,000m since 2014.
“It is what it is," Farah said after the race.
The last 10 days hasn’t been great but, no matter what I’ve achieved in my career, it was important that I come to the trials. It would have been easy not to show up but I did show up and I dug in deep.
“With 15 laps to go I was hurting hard. I just had to keep fighting, keep digging in and finish in the top two.”
Eilish McColgan won the women's race in 31:19.21 to make sure of qualification, while Jess Judd was visibly emotional after running inside the required time to join her in Team GB's athletics squad for Japan.
Sprinters set frightening times
Elsewhere, there were some stunning 100m performances by some of the leading contenders for gold in Tokyo.
Reigning world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who looked well short of form in Gateshead recently, became the second fastest woman of all time over the straight in 10.63 seconds at a race in her home country of Jamaica. The 34-year-old now looks in superb shape to take her first Olympic gold since London 2012, although Britain's Dina Asher-Smith is one of the athletes who will have something to say about that.
Elsewhere, American Trayvon Bromell became just the ninth man ever to go under 9.80 seconds and is now the seventh fastest male athlete over 100m ever having run a personal best of 9.77 seconds in the US.
Our view on Farah
Saturday night in Birmingham was a real shock. Speaking to Farah this week, he sounded confident, excited and said he was happiest back on the track, after dabbling in the marathon after Rio 2016.
We are used to seeing a smooth style, followed by his signature all-out sprint and kick over the final lap, coupled with a pained expression of serious effort. But this time, in his first defeat over the distance in 10 years, he was struggling at the halfway mark and he was well short of achieving victory.
This was Farah's first 10,000m since winning World Championship gold in 2017. It is easy to suggest he has left it too late, but he looked in good shape in his only other race this season, a half marathon victory in Djibouti in March.
The real concern is the ankle injury - just how bad is it? It is clear now that Farah was trying to convince himself that he was in good shape and was hoping for the best. Any amateur or recreational runner will know that the slightest knock can hit you for weeks.
Farah will have access to the best in sports rehabilitation and has three weeks to get into good enough shape to recover, find a race to run the qualifying time and then if that goes well, he will presumably have time to get into peak condition for Tokyo.
The other option - could he drop down to the 5,000m? He has said he won't run the double, but maybe the 5k is now more doable given his injury status. If he does choose to do that, he could run on Saturday 26 June at the British Athletics Championships in Manchester, the full Olympic trial. Could a special 10,000m even be put on for him? It'll be a fascinating few weeks as Farah looks to keep his Tokyo dream alive.
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