Mo Farah - the schoolboy who defied all odds to become a double Olympic gold medallist
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday, covering Sarah Cassidy’s maternity leave. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
The Olympic Stadium
Sunday 12 August 2012
As 80,000 spectators prayed last night that Mo Farah could make history, one – Alan Watkinson – was certain. He had more reason to believe than most: the PE teacher has known Mo since he was 11, nurtured his nascent talent, and predicted: "I think the crowd will lift him. He's one of those guys that tends to defy things that seem impossible."
Then he watched as Mo fulfilled his prediction and roared until his voice gave way, whispering: "I'm totally overcome. It was the perfect race."
Farah made his victory "M" symbol over his head with his hands, and the crowd copied the distinctive move, which has become as recognisable to Team GB fans as Usain Bolt's bow-and-arrow pose. Dubbed the "MoBot", his finish line dance was dreamed up with James Corden on the sport comedy show A League of Their Own.
Mr Watkinson argued that it was Farah's insatiable hunger to improve that made him a champion. "The talent mixed with hard work meant he continually got better and better," he said. "I don't think there's been a period where he stood still for more than two years. He's a really hard worker. He trained very, very hard, and takes it seriously."
The first sign Mr Watkinson saw of Farah's peculiar determination was in the first English Schools' Athletic Association race he ran. "There were probably 250 people in the race and at the very start he was tripped up. You don't normally come back from that and he practically had to run past 250 people to win. He wasn't going to let that stop him."
Born in Mogadishu and raised as a young child in Djibouti, he arrived in England as an eight-year-old. Though he acknowledges the importance of his Muslim Somali roots, he is also a very proud Briton. When a reporter asked him after his first gold if he would rather have run for Somalia, he was quick to retort: "Look mate, I'm British."
It has taken thousands of hours and miles of training to get to this point. Farah runs twice a day, every day, typically around 100 miles a week.
He has won admiration for his work ethic and lack of ego. Instead of resting after last night's exertion, he will spend today visiting No 10 to discuss world hunger, an issue that continues to blight the country where he was born.
The 29-year-old's achievement was the crowning glory for Team GB, British athletics, and London 2012. It will also mean Farah's name is etched in athletics folklore, making him one of seven men to complete the fabled distance double.
Sebastian Coe, the London 2012 chairman, had said that if Farah took a second Olympic title it would be "the perfect finish" to London 2012 – and Mo duly delivered.
Last Saturday, he became the first Briton to win an Olympic distance event after he was crowned the Olympic 10,000m champion before a rapturous crowd. A week later, he achieved even more.
Farah was cautiously optimistic ahead of the race, saying: "Hopefully, I will be able to do something again. I want to do well for the crowd and whatever I do I will give 100 per cent. If it comes down to the last 10 or 15 metres, and it's really tight and everyone's shouting your name, it gives you that bit more of a boost, so hopefully it will help."
Lord Coe had been more emphatic: "He is good enough, tough enough and fast enough. He was roughed up in the semi-finals, but that was a few days ago. I think he will be fresh enough by now, and it would certainly be the perfect finish."
After the race, Farah made a beeline for his heavily pregnant wife, Tania, and said he had wanted to win two gold medals – one for each of his expected twins.
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