Andy Vernon Calls Out Mo Farah On Twitter: “I would just rather watch a race than the Mo Show.”

  • submit to reddit

Farah Fires Back: “ … You’re an embarrassment.”

By LetsRun.com
February 17, 2015

In the past, we at LetsRun.com have been critical of Mo Farah for his race selection. In particular, we were upset last summer when Farah chose to race an uncompetitive 2-mile in Birmingham, a meet sandwiched between two world-class Diamond League 5,000s in Stockholm and Zurich.

Well Farah’s 2015 debut — also in Birmingham — has also drawn ire, but this time it’s from one of his competitors. British pro Andy Vernon, who took silver behind Farah in the 10,000 at last year’s European Championships, took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to call out Farah ahead of Saturday’s Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham.

Farah, who has been training in Ethiopia recently, fired back a few hours later:

The two then argued back and forth (Vernon made a reference to Farah’s defeat to a one-shoed Dejen Gebremeskel in 2011), even dragging Taylor Swift into the feud.

As in most Twitter wars, neither participant came out looking good after this one, though it’s surprising Farah chose to take Vernon’s bait rather than remain silent.

While we have criticized Farah in the past (Farah also skipped a showdown with Caleb Ndiku at last year’s Commonwealth Games and some suspected that year’s Great North Run was fixed), Vernon’s comments seem a bit harsh in this instance. Below, you can see the field for the 2-mile at the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday.

NameStatus
Florian Carvalho (FRA)Invited
Dale Clutterbuck (GBR)Invited
Mo Farah (GBR)Invited
Thomas Farrell (GBR)Invited
Jonny Hay (GBR)Invited
Philip Hurst (GBR)Invited
Yomif Kejelcha (ETH)Invited
Paul K Koech (KEN)Invited
Bernard Lagat (USA)Invited
Tom Lancashire (GBR)Invited
Suguru Osako (JPN)Invited

To call that field “loaded” would be inaccurate, but outside of the World Indoor Championships, it’s hard to find high-quality indoor fields in Farah’s best events (anything above 3000 meters), particularly this year as it’s a World XC Championship year.

Vernon and Farah last summer

Farah has certainly historically dodged the top African talent when racing non-championship track events on home soil (he certainly didn’t dodge anyone in his marathon debut in London), but in 2015, there doesn’t seem to be any top African talent to dodge – other than 2012 Olympic 5000 silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel who is the one obvious name missing from the start list. The world leader so far in 2015 in the 3,000 is just [7:44].72 (Eric Jenkins is #2 at [7:44].91). That time belongs to Nixon Chepseba, the 4th placer at the 2013 Worlds in the 1,500 but Chepseba is racing the 1500 this weekend. Top African times just have been totally absent so far this year, either because they are focused on the roads or World XC. The #2 African in the world for 2015 at 3,000, Paul Kipsiele Koech, is in the field.

The field also does include 40-year-old Bernard Lagat, who almost beat Gebremeskel two weeks ago in Boston, but the one we see most likely to upset Farah would be World Junior 5k champ Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia. At age 16 last year, he ran [7:36] and [13:25]. Indoors, he put up a [7:42] last year.

In terms of distance races, last week’s 5000 at the Millrose Games was probably a better field overall, but if you’re going to call out Farah for dodging that race, you have to call out the rest of the world’s top 5000 runners for basically skipping indoors. That’s not fair to Farah. So no, it’s not that easy to say that Farah is dodging the competition in this meet because other than the biggie — Gebremeskel — there aren’t a whole lot of obvious rivals who’ve been racing indoors this year that are missing. Now maybe that’s because meet directors don’t offer much appearance money for the top Africans so they just decide to blow off indoors completely.

But Vernon’s comments have some truth to them too — evidence that there are those within the sport who notice when the aim of a race is to achieve a victory for the biggest star, rather than testing that star against the best competition. Races like the 2014 Birmingham DL meet may be nice for the fans in attendance, who want to see the home-nation favorite prevail, but for fans of the sport — fans of competition — those races are boring, a glorified workout for a big star.

Farah takes the most heat for it because he’s the biggest name, but he’s hardly the only runner to do it. Just two weeks ago, Jenny Simpson dominated a five-woman field in the 2-mile at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix while the two biggest threats to her at that meet — Dawit Seyaum and Sally Kipyego — ran the 2000 instead, a race with just four finishers. For fans of racing, the best solution would have been to combine the two fields into a single race, but it’s not as simple as that. Simpson is a New Balance athlete, and her sponsor surely wanted to showcase her with a victory in the final race of the night. And for anyone in attendance that night, the decision was hard to argue with: Simpson set an American record in the 2-mile, to the delight of the crowd. If she set an American record but was smoked by Seyaum, it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable for the fans.

Did Simpson dodge the 2000 field? Or was she pressured to run the 2-mile, an event the meet directors knew Simpson would have no trouble winning? There’s no easy answer; both athletes and meet directors must share the blame.

In an ideal world, every race would feature top competition, but in reality that’s simply not possible; meets have a finite amount of cash to spend on elite talent and meet directors must find a balance choose between individual stars and the overall quality of the field. They must also decide how best to promote their meets, and they know that crowds like to see athletes from their own country win.

Will Vernon’s comments cause Farah to re-think his competition schedule? We’ll find out this summer. But if Farah continues to eschew big Diamond League races in lieu of guaranteed wins on home soil, we doubt Vernon will be the only athlete to call out Farah this year.

What do you think? Discuss this topic on our running messageboard: Mo Farah and Andy Vernon go at it in Twitter.


Like LetsRun.com on Facebook!