Anybody who watched the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games knows Mo Farah, the Somali-British runner who captured the public’s attention when he won gold in both the 5,000 meter and 10,000 meter events. Named one of Britain’s greatest sporting heroes, Mohammed “Mo” Farah has become a running icon across the globe, including in his birthplace of Somalia. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Mo Farah.
Sources: LifeTimeTV.co.uk, PrimaryFacts.com, BBC Sport, TheGuardian.com, The Independent, Telegraph.co.uk, BBC.com, All-Athletics.com, MoFarahFoundation.org.uk
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and raised for much of his childhood in Djibouti, Farah made the move to Britain at the age of 8 to live with his father, a British citizen who was born in London and raised in Hounslow. Farah barely spoke a word of English, making for a difficult transition.
When Mo and his family were set to fly to England to be with his father, twin brother Hassan fell ill and was unable to travel. He stayed behind with extended family, while Mo, his mother, and other brothers, headed on. Farah’s father returned to Djibouti several months later to retrieve Hassan and bring him back to London, but the extended family had returned to Somaliland by that time. He was unable to locate Hassan. It would be another 12 years before Mo was able to save up the money to return to Somalia to see Hassan on his wedding day.
While attending Feltham Community College in London, Farah’s physical education teacher, Alan Watkinson, was one of the first to see Farah’s incredible running ability. Watkinson said, “When I first met him, he was struggling academically and suffering from the language barrier. He needed focus and I sort of took him under my wing.”
On the football pitch, Farah became known for his incredible turn of speed, showing his real talent in running. But since he was young, the athlete had dreams of joining Arsenal’s Football Club – although he also expressed interest in becoming a car mechanic.
Farah is very open about the importance of Islam in his life, and prays before every race. He said, “I normally pray before a race, I read dua [Islamic prayers or invocations], think about how hard I’ve worked and just go for it…You must work hard in whatever you do, so I work hard in training and that’s got a lot to do with being successful.”
Source: The Independent
In 2005, Farah moved into senior competitions and began training as a full-time athlete. He moved into a training program where he roomed with several Kenyan runners, including 10,000-meter champion Micah Kogo, as well as Australian running legend Craig Mottram. They has no social life and focused only on training. Reflecting on that time, Farah said, “They sleep, eat, train and rest. That’s all they do but as an athlete you have to do all those things…If I ever want to be as good as these athletes I’ve got to work harder. I don’t just want to be British No. 1. I want to be up there with the best.”
Source: BBC Sport
In April 2010 in Richmond, London, Farah married Tania Nell, his longtime girlfriend, in front of family and friends that included a long list of athletes such as Paula Radcliffe, Steve Cram, Hayley Yelling, Jo Pavey, Mustafa Mohamed, and Scott Overall. Farah and Nell have three children — stepdaughter Rihanna and twin daughters Aisha and Amani, born in August 2012, shortly after the London Games.
It has been reported that Farah’s left leg is more than an inch longer than his right leg. This has been the cause of several injuries in the past, as Farah has to compensate for this in his running style.
After his incredible victory in the 5000-meter race at the 2012 Olympics in London, the iconic image of Farah holding his arms on top of his head looking astounded went viral. The pose was quickly dubbed the “Mobot” celebration, and politicians and celebrities, along with everyday fans, began sharing pictures of themselves doing the same pose in honor of Farah’s success.
The Mo Farah Foundation works to provide aid to Farah’s birth country, Somalia, and the surrounding region in the horn of Africa, as well as in his adopted home in the U.K. The organization focuses on health improvement including access to safe drinking water and adequate healthcare, education, and the alleviation of poverty. In addition, the Mo Farah Foundation helps to “identify, nurture and harness the sporting talent of young adults as part of the Olympic legacy.”