23rd April 2020


One of the most internationally revered household names in athletics, Sir Mo Farah, claimed his first British medal on the track back in 2001 in the men’s 5000m at the European Under-20 Championships in Grosseto, Italy, a Championships that will live long in the memory.

Already a medallist for the British team at the European Cross Country Championships in 1999 and 2000, winning team gold and silver respectively, Farah’s first opportunity for a medal on the track came at the European Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 1999, coming home in sixth position in the 3000m.

He made the step up to 5000m the following season for the World Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile, clocking the second-fastest time of his fledgling career in 14:12.21, good enough for 10th on the day.

In 2001, the stars aligned for the then Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow man as he measured his charge to the front to perfection.

Farah had been made to wait until the final day of the competition to finally make his entrance on the track and had already seen some epic performance precede him from the British team.

Mark Lewis-Francis had added the European U20 crown to his ever-growing collection of medals as he clocked 10.09s in the final, but a 2.4m/s wind reading denied his mark from being legal, while Vernicha James was busy moving herself up to second on the all-time British junior rankings courtesy of a 22.93s showing in the final. Both would take the male and female athlete of the championships accolades.

Timothy Benjamin had ensured he would return to the UK with a 400m gold medal having pipped Johan Wissman of Sweden to the title in 46.43s, but in the field, Goldie Sayers was the athlete attracting all the attention in a stunning competition.

Sayers was one of only two British athletes to win a medal in the field, with Jonathan Moore taking silver in the triple jump, but Sayers’ 55.40m effort that propelled her into the podium places was matched by Belarus’ Halina Kakhava and saw the Briton lose out on top spot on countback.

None the less, Sayers’ effort saw her move up to second on the all-time British junior rankings, where she remains to this day.

For Farah, he was to become the first British man since 1987 to win the men’s 5000m title, following in the footsteps Simon Mugglestone in taking gold in the race.

Having ensured he was in the mix throughout, he surged to the front of the field and kicked hard to get away from Portugal’s Bruno Saramago and Spain’s Noel Cutillas, who took silver and bronze respectively, and ensure that there would be another Briton atop the podium on the final day of action in Italy.

Farah cut the tape in 14:09.91 to wrap up his maiden gold medal on the track for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team, but they weren’t done there in the championship stakes.

Another 4x100m relay gold followed as Tyrone Edgar, Dwayne Grant, Timothy Benjamin and Lewis-Francis raced to the title in a championship record 39.24s, with the 4x400m women following suit, winning gold in 3:34.63.

The British team ended the championships on 17 medals, including six golds as they finished second on the medal table to Russia, who also amassed 17 medals, with eight golds.