Steel City's rising star Mukhtar Mohammed follows in footsteps of Sebastian Coe


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The Independent Online

We have been this way before: at the start of a post-Olympic year a bright new 800m runner emerges from Sheffield to make the podium at the European Indoor Championships. Back in 1977, on the boards in San Sebastian, it was Sebastian Coe of Hallamshire Harriers winning the half-mile in stunning style. Here in Sweden's second city yesterday, it was Mukhtar Mohammed of Sheffield Running Club – a former Sheffield Wednesday youth-team midfielder – showing his Steel City mettle to claim a breakthrough bronze medal from a bruising, boxing match of an 800m final.

Had he been blessed with a similar flyweight build to Lord Seb, the 22-year-old might have muscled his way to the title once held by his celebrated predecessor. As it was, after getting bumped and barged out of contention for the main prize by Adam Kszczot of Poland and Spaniard Kevin Lopez – who proceeded to finish one and two – Mohammed had to dig deep and fight for the bronze, resisting a dig in the ribs and some attempted obstruction from Anis Ananenka of Belarus to claim third place in 1min 49.60sec.

"That was a tough race for me, " he reflected. "The other guys gave me a hard time on that last lap. I lost the first two positions to them and had to really fight to get a medal. It's all a learning experience for me."

As it happens, Mohammed did his learning at Abbeydale Grange School in Sheffield. So did Sebastian Coe. "Really!" Mohammed exclaimed. "I didn't know that."

Having been born in Somalia, moving to Britain at the age of 11, it is perhaps only natural that his role model is not the double Olympic 1500m champion of the 1980s but Britain's double Olympic champion of London 2012, a fellow Mohammed.

"Yeah, I've been really inspired by what Mo Farah has done," he said. "I've got to know him quite well. We've been to Kenya training together. We speak to each other in Somali. It's funny, but when I was out in Kenya this winter I kept getting mistaken for Mo. When I went out for my run I could hear everyone shouting, 'Mo, Mo, Mo.' All these kids were coming up to me, trying to run with me. It was really, really funny."

Mo Mark Two has not been quite so amused by news from home that the Don Valley Stadium is to close, as a cost-cutting exercise by Sheffield City Council. "It's a blow for everyone in Sheffield," Mohammed said. "I'll be moving to Loughborough."

Which just happens to be where the future Lord Coe moved from Sheffield on his way to becoming a world-beater.