Thursday 14 December 2017

Mo Farah claims rival Andy Vernon said he was 'not European' as bitter row escalates

Row: Mo Farah has become engaged in a war of words with his Team GB teammate Andy Vernon Photo: GETTY
Row: Mo Farah has become engaged in a war of words with his Team GB teammate Andy Vernon Photo: GETTY

Ben Bloom

Mo Farah has escalated his public row with Andy Vernon by claiming the bad blood between the pair dates back to an accusation his British team-mate made that Farah was not European.

Britain’s two leading long-distance runners were involved in a heated exchange on Twitter earlier this week when Farah labelled Vernon an “embarrassment” as the pair traded verbal blows.

Admitting that they are “not best friends and never will be”, Somali-born Farah revealed on Friday that the animosity dates back to a dig Vernon made about his nationality after the pair had completed a 10,000m British one-two at the European Championships in 2014.

“He came second in the race I won, we were sitting down together and there were a number of staff and athletes there too,” said Farah.

“One comment he made, which I didn't really like, was to say that he should have won the gold. I was like, what, the gold should have been given to you? And I was like, ‘because he was the only European guy’?

You can't say something like that. I was just biting my tongue at the time. That hurt me.”

Farah, who has won two Olympic and three world titles since moving to Britain aged eight, completed a 5,000m and 10,000m European double in Zurich with Vernon picking up medals behind him on both occasions.

Admitting he did make a comment about Farah’s nationality, Vernon explained: “I said it on a table full of people and we were all having a joke at the time.

“We had just raced and the team was all in high spirits. The whole table was having a joke and a laugh and it was just a comment to carry on the jokes. He laughed at the time.

“If he did take it out of context it wasn’t meant that way and I apologise.”

The latest revelations will ensure the animosity between the pair is sure to continue after a week of insults and counter-insults.

The spat began on Tuesday when Vernon criticised the lack of competition Farah will face when he makes his seasonal bow at the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham on Saturday.

Farah then hit back, calling Vernon an “embarrassment” and saying he wished his rival was also competing in Birmingham so he could “leave you in my dust like ALWAYS!!”

Speaking to Telegraph Sport on Wednesday, Vernon said Farah’s comments were “arrogant” and he had been shocked by the personal nature of the insults.

Despite fueling the hostility between the pair with his latest revelations, Farah did admit he was sorry for how he initially reacted to Vernon's criticism on Twitter.

“I do apologise for the way I reacted and I shouldn’t have reacted that way,” he said.

“We do have some history in the past, me and Andy. He has said some not great things but in terms of making it public, that was never the right thing to do.

“My frustration just got the better of me, for sure. Someone like me should never have reacted. I put my hand up. But Andy has a history of disrespecting athletes.”

 Discussing the difficulties of not responding to abuse on Twitter, Farah added: “You get a lot of stuff but that comes with Twitter. I you're not willing to accept things come with Twitter you never should sign up.

“You just have to deal with it and let your running do the talking. But with an athlete like [Vernon], one I've been on the podium with, it was difficult to bite my tongue.

“Probably the best thing to do at the time was to bite my tongue, but I couldn't do it.”

Farah is the headline act in Birmingham on Saturday where his main competition is expected to come from 40-year-old Olympic medallist Bernard Lagat as the Briton looks to break his own national two-mile record and Kenenisa Bekele’s world record.

Admitting that the whole episode with Vernon has made him more eager to set a new record, Farah said: “It definitely has fired me up and I just want to be able to do what I do best, go out there, represent my country and continue to win medals.”

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