Despite stumbling not once, but twice, Britain's Mo Farah still comfortably managed to qualify for the 5,000-metre final of the IAAF World Championships in Beijing's Bird's Nest National Stadium on Wednesday.
With his dominance over the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres over the past five years, Farah is becoming the Usain Bolt of long-distance running. And like the Jamaican sprinter who stumbled over the weekend in the 100-metre semi-finals, Farah survived a couple of scares on Wednesday. "Nearly went down, that's twice. I hope it doesn't become third time bad luck," Farah said after he qualified second from his heat for Saturday's final. "I just have to recover now and get ready."
For the top distance racers, getting through the heats usually means keeping out of trouble among the web of legs from competitors jockeying for position.
Farah first lost his balance with six laps to go, but 150 metres from the finish he came much closer to actually crashing in a tangle with Mohmmed Ahmed of Canada and Galen Rupp of the United States, Farah's training partner. It broke Farah's stride and he had to work some to recover and cross second behind Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia. Rupp fell so far back he finished outside the automatic qualifying spots but still advanced to the final by time.
"Somebody just caught my legs. The way I run, I've got long strides. I don't blame anyone," said Farah, who had a little cut on his leg but was fine otherwise. "It just happens, that's why I have to be at the front or the back and just stay on the outside."
After getting silver in the 10,000 at the 2011 World Championships, Farah bounced back with gold in the 5,000 and hasn't lost a big race since, one of the most impressive runs in the sport.
There was also excitement in the 110-metre hurdles when Ronnie Ash was disqualified for a false start and then refused to leave the track for several minutes, protesting he should still be in the race. Once he had left, there was another false start for Czech hurdler Petr Svoboda before Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France finally won the heat in a slow 13.35 seconds. Svoboda was later reinstated after a protest and will run in the semi-finals.
David Oliver, the best American hope for gold in the event, advanced easily in 13.16, as did world-record holder Aries Merritt in 13.25. The top performer of the year, Cuban-born Orlando Ortega, could not compete since he only recently became a Spanish citizen.
Later on Wednesday, Bolt will be back in action, seeking to reach the final of the 200 metres. The evening program also includes finals in the men's javelin and the 400 metres, and women's pole vault, 400-metre hurdles and steeplechase.