26 July, 2014 / Ramazan 27, 1435

Out of Africa - Farah, Britain's golden boy

Published Aug 06, 2012 01:06pm

“I'm an Olympic champion today but it's been years and years of hard work,” said Farah. -Photo by AP

LONDON: Briton Mo Farah could become only the sixth man to achieve the Olympic 5,000-10,000m Olympic double this week, completing a remarkable journey which began in war-torn Somalia.

Whatever happens in the 5,000 metres, Farah, who came to England aged eight after being brought up in Djibouti, has already won his place among the greats of British athletics.

The engaging 28-year-old long distance runner ended African dominance in the 10,000 metres on Saturday's historic night for the hosts where they won three athletics gold medals in a day for the first time.

Farah, who became the first British male athlete to win a world distance title when he landed the 5,000m in Daegu last year, has made significant sacrifices to ensure he reaped a gold medal.

He has had to spend long spells away from his wife Tania, who despite being seven months pregnant with twins, stepped on to the track on Saturday to be hugged by Farah, who also embraced his step-daughter.

“I'm an Olympic champion today but it's been years and years of hard work,” said Farah, who was so focussed on winning he opted not to observe Ramadan.

“That's what I was thinking when I crossed the line and saw my wife and daughter because only they know what I have been through to be here.”

It is questionable whether Farah would have got this far but for two major influences on his life once he was in England – his school sports 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 in the country – Farah had a hard introduction on his first day at school.

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 newspaper, using the slang phrase for being punched.

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

“I remember seeing him in a cross-country race for the first time,” said Watkinson.

“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 had 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,” said Farah.

“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 in 2011 so he could spend more time with his coach, marathon legend Alberto Salazar.

Farah may have won gold for Britain, having trained in the USA and Kenya, but he has not forgotten his birthplace.

He retains happy memories of Somalia where he was born in a comfortable house, surrounded by family, some of whom remain there.

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.

He has also set aside the 250,000 pounds ($389,000) he won in a TV show earlier this year for the project.

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