Sat, Jul 21, 2012 - Page 19 News List

LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS: Mo Farah is Great Britain’s golden Somalian import


Britain’s Mo Farah, right, competes to win the men’s 5,000m at the Diamond League athletics meet at Crystal Palace in London, England, on July 13.

Photo: AFP

Mo Farah’s wife, Tania, is due to give birth to twins in September, but whether the Somalia-born athlete pursues his own dream of double Olympic gold will depend on how he fares first up in the 10,000m.

The 28-year-old — who came to England aged eight after being brought up in Djibouti — comes to the Games having become the first athlete to successfully defend his 5,000m European title in Helsinki last month.

Farah, who also became the first British male athlete to win a world distance title when he landed the 5,000m in Daegu last year after taking silver in the 10,000m, has made the 10,000m his priority for the simple reason it is first on the schedule.

“I am going to run the 10,000 for sure, because it is the first race,” Farah said after winning the 5,000m at the Diamond League’s Prefontaine Classic. “I will see how I feel after that. It depends how I come off in the 10,000. I would like to be fresh and not have any niggles.”

It is questionable whether Farah would have got this far, but for two seminal influences on his life once he was in England — his school physical education teacher Alan Watkinson and British great Paula Radcliffe.

Understandably speaking little English on his arrival in England — his family came because his English-born father lived and worked there — Farah had a hard introduction on his first day at school when he made the mistake of using one of the few phrases he knew, “C’mon then,” to the toughest guy in his class.

“He twatted me,” he told the Independent, using the slang phrase for being punched.

He was to come across Watkinson at his second school and the latter recognized he had an athlete of great potential on his hands, even if Farah professed a desire to go on and become a winger for soccer giants Arsenal.

“I remember seeing him in a cross-country race for the first time,” Watkinson said. “He didn’t win because he didn’t know the way. He kept turning round to see that the others had gone off in a different direction, but his running was so effortless.”

Radcliffe, who has known her fair share of Olympic disappointment in successive marathons in Athens and Beijing, also placed her faith in him and made it possible for Farah to get to training.

“She paid for me to take driving lessons,” Farah said. “I couldn’t drive, but I had to get out to Windsor to train, which was a difficult journey without a car. I look up to her a lot. She’s made me believe that anything is possible.”

Those days of driving to Windsor are long gone as he took the decision to move to Portland, Oregon, and train there last year so he could spend more time with his coach, marathon legend Alberto Salazar, and the results were immediate with his two medals in Daegu.

Now, with him confirmed as Europe’s finest over 5,000m — he did not bother to defend his 10,000m title — Farah is totally focused on the Olympics and said he believes that he will thrive on home support.

“It gives me a good advantage,” he said. “But everybody else will be showing up early to try and get used to everything.”

“I am more of a positive person than a negative one,” Farah said. “I like to have a crowd behind me.”

Should Farah win, he will end up having British national anthem God Save the Queen ring out, but Somalians will be forgiven for sharing in the glory.

Proud of his roots, Farah and Tania set up the Mo Farah Foundation, which aims to build 50 wells and to give a month’s supply of food to at least 20,000 people and medical support to 40,000 by the end of the year.

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