Mo Farah


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Mo Farah moved to England at the age of eight, unable to speak a word of English. Yet just over 20 years later, he has become one of Britain's greatest-ever long-distance runners.

Mohammed "Mo" Farah, born in Mogadishu, Somalia, sprung into the public's conscience at the 2012 London Olympic Games when he won two gold medals in the 5,000m and 10,000m, launching into British sporting greatness. His success is all the more incredible when his upbringing is considered.

While he was born in Somalia on March 23 1983, Farah spent a large part of his childhood with his twin brother in Djibouti, before moving to Great Britain at the age of eight-years-old. He arrived not knowing a word of English, but was soon finding his way at Holloway Secondary School in London. This is where his true talents were found. Alan Watkinson, his physical education teacher at Isleworth and Syon School, quickly took him under his wing as he was seen to have the ability to run well over long distances.

From here, Farah started competing and taking the sport seriously. At 13-years-old, he finished ninth in the English schools cross country, before winning an English school title - first of five in his academic career - a year later. He continued to work his way through the ranks, winning the 5,000m title at the European Athletics Junior Championship in 2001, aged 18-years-old, before starting life as a full-time athlete and leaping into senior competitions.

Farah started to live a very disciplined life, moving in with a group of Kenyan runners and Australian Craig Mottram, where they ate, trained and rested without any form of social life.

In 2006, he won silver at the European Championships 5,000m in Gothenberg, while in the same year clocking a time of 13 minutes 9.40 seconds across the same distance. This put him second to only Dave Moorcraft in the list of quickest Brits of all time across this distance. More success was to come later that year, when Farah was successful in the 2006 European Cross Country Championships in San Giorgio su Legnano in Italy.

A disappointing sixth place at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan, were to dominate his year, before turning his attentions to 10,000m competitions early in 2008. The 2008 Beijing Olympics ended in disappointment as, running in the 5000m, he was a long way behind the pace before being knocked out. But as he was to find out, this would not be the end of Farah's love affair with the Olympics and in four years' time, he would be launched into stardom.

Yet there were still 48 months until this became reality and this led to Farah spending the late winter months of 2008 toiling away in Kenya and Ethiopia, taking advantage of being able to train at altitude. It paid off too, because at the very start of 2009, as the long-distance runner started breaking records, firstly with the British Indoor 3000m in January and then again at the UK Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham shortly afterwards.

Following a gold medal win at the European Indoor Championships in March, the runner finished seventh at the 2009 World Championships despite being among the leaders early in the race and then collected another silver medal at the 2009 European Cross Country Championships. Again, 2010 was a successful year for the Brit, winning the London 10,000 in a British record, before winning again in the European Cup at the same discipline. Further training in Africa helped him take gold at the European Athletics Championships in the 10,000m, before doing the same in half the distance later at the event.

Still he was improving, building up to the peak of his career so far. He and his family - by now he had married girlfriend Tania Nell - moved to Portland in Oregon, US, giving him the ideal training conditions. This led to wins in the 3,000m at the European Indoor Championships and the New York Marathon, where he set a new British record. Added to this was the Prefontaine Classic 10,000m race, along with a new British record in the Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

The year finished well, with a silver medal in the 10,000m race at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics in South Korea, in addition to gold in the 5,000m. By now, his reputation was gathering quickly and he had become one of the best long-distance runners in the world. He would - intended or not - be peaking ahead of the biggest two weeks of his life.

London 2012 represented a unique opportunity for all British athletes - and Farah was no different. With his reputation increasing, the runner was being tipped for success by experts and commentators - and he delivered in quite incredible style. Firstly, he formed a part of what became known as the Super Saturday of British athletics, winning gold in the 10,000m race as team-mates Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford did the same in their track and field events.

Then, to the surprise and shock of athletics experts across the world, Farah managed to do the same in the 5000m, capping off an incredible long-distance double. Pictures of him looking startled on the finish line, arms aloft and mouth wide open became some of the most iconic of the Games. Farah's "Mobot" celebration, where he arches his arms on top of his head, also became something of a phenomenon, with politicians and celebrities tweeting pictures of themselves doing it in honour of the new British athletics hero. Farah's rise to stardom was complete.

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