LONDON • If defeat is the making of a true champion, then Mo Farah left the track at London's Olympic Stadium on Saturday as the greatest champion of all.
The record books will confirm the British athlete's status but they will not speak of the courage with which he took on the rest of the world one last time.
That he failed to win for the first time at a major championships since 2011, by Muktar Edris of Ethiopia in the 5,000m, stripped nothing away from him.
Farah was tested first by a lone breakaway by the Australian Patrick Tiernan, and then by a combination of Paul Chelimo, Yomif Kejelcha and Edris off the final bend.
Momentarily, the kilometres, the tough 10,000m gold win a week ago which had left him, in his own words "beaten up", and the pressure of giving his faithful home crowd one last hurrah took their toll on Farah's slender frame.
Hard though he tried, he could not find the final kick that had turned every race at the world championships or the Olympics for six years into thrilling victory.
At the age of 34, he simply had nothing left to give and the London crowd, who leapt to their feet to cheer him round every lap, acknowledged the inevitability of the defeat and saluted their champion with even greater abandon.
"I gave it my all," he said. "I was beaten by the better man on the day. I'm not sure there was any more I could have done."
At the line, he collapsed to the floor and curled into the foetal position - not in his usual pose of triumph but overwhelmed by exhaustion and disappointment.
Edris, the 23-year-old who had been disqualified for stepping inside the track after finishing fourth behind Farah at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last year, celebrated by copying his trademark Mobot sign after winning in 13min 32.79sec.
But the rest of the field formed an orderly queue to give their fallen champion, who finished in 13:33.22, a hug.
Farah, who had to push and battle his way through the race, did not know he had so many friends.
American Paul Chelimo took bronze in 13.33.30.
Farah, who will now concentrate on running road races, moves alongside Michael Johnson in the list of multiple world champions with eight medals, behind Usain Bolt, LaShawn Merritt and Carl Lewis.
Johnson's eight medals were all golds. Farah has six golds and two silvers, a haul the eight-year-old - who arrived in England from Somalia with no grasp of the English language or culture - could hardly have imagined.
"Anything is possible," he told the crowd before a lap of honour.
It's been amazing. It's been a long journey but it's been incredible. It doesn't quite sink in until you compete here and cross the line."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE