DAEGU, South Korea (AP) — With four-time defending champion Kenenisa Bekele dropping out of the race early, Ethiopian teammate Ibrahim Jeilan seized his moment to shine.
Jeilan ran down Mo Farah in the final meters and beat the Briton by less than a second Sunday to win the 10,000-meter title at the world championships, finishing in 27 minutes, 13.81 seconds.
"I did not notice when Bekele pulled out," Jeilan said before detailing his strategy at the end of the race. "I am a very good sprinter. I have always very fast last laps. So when Farah was in front and started to sprint his last 400 meters, I knew that if I follow him until 100, 200 meters to go, I can catch him."
Farah, the European 5,000 and 10,000 champion, had surged ahead with more than a lap to go, but Jeilan and Ethiopian teammate Imane Merga stayed with him. Jeilan then took the lead halfway down the final straight to claim gold. Farah was second in 27:14.07 and Merga took third in 27:19.14.
"I told myself to relax to finish quick, but my legs could not handle it," said Farah, who was born in Somalia but moved to Britain when he was a child. "I was almost cramping. There was nothing there."
Bekele, who had been looking to break a tie with Haile Gebrselassie for the most consecutive 10,000 world titles, pulled out of the race because of a right hip injury. He stepped off the track shortly after the midway point and made his way straight into the bowels of the stadium.
"For two years, I was injured. I didn't train enough," said Bekele, who won the 5,000-10,000 double at the 2009 worlds in Berlin and at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "I had to try."
The injury is likely to rule the Ethiopian great out of the 5,000 as well.
Without Bekele on the track, it looked to be a scramble between the Ethiopians and Kenyans. But Farah, who had stayed with the front-runners throughout the 25-lap race, emerged to take the lead just before the bell sounded to signal the last lap.
He picked up the pace, but couldn't shake Jeilan and Merga. Coming around the final corner, Farah still had a small lead, but looked over his shoulder to see just how much room he had.
Not enough, it turned out.
"With 800 meters to go, I forced the pace," Farah said. "To be honest, with 300 meters to go, I though I had it. I looked at him and tried to hold on."
Jeilan started to go into his final sprint, and slowly but surely caught up to Farah.
When the Ethiopian finally passed him, Farah turned and gave him a glance of despair while pumping his arms and screaming himself on. And when Farah finally crossed the finish line, he threw his hands onto his head to scold himself for letting his first major title slip away.