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Mo Farah: Distance Double Threat

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Mo Farah: Distance Double Threat

Mo Farah

Michael Steele/Getty Images
Heading into the 2012 Olympics Mohamed Farah was already one of the great long distance runners in British history. Farah became the first British runner to win a 5000-meter World Championship gold medal and nearly pulled off the 5000-10,000 double at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. Farah’s life, and career, has featured a pair of intercontinental moves that helped him reach the top of the track and field world.

Leaving Home:

Farah was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, but left the war-stricken country at age eight. He settled in his father’s native England, but spoke little English when he arrived in London in 1993.

From Soccer to Track:

Soccer was Farah’s favorite sport as a child, but when phys ed teacher Alan Watkinson watched Farah play he noticed the young man’s running ability. Watkinson convinced Farah to run track, tempting him by letting Farah play 30 minutes of soccer first, before he began running for the day. Watkinson also told the BBC that he once offered to buy the 14-year-old Farah a soccer jersey if he won the English schools cross country championship. Farah won.

Early Success:

At the junior level, Farah won the European 5000-meter championship as well as Europe’s cross country title in 2001. His subsequent professional career began picking up after he moved into a house with a group of mainly Kenyan distance runners and became more disciplined in his training. In 2006 Farah earned a silver medal in the European 5000-meter championship and earned the gold in the continent’s cross country championship. He then finished sixth in the 5000 at the 2007 World Championships but failed to reach the final at the 2008 Olympics. Farah gained the 5000-meter final at the 2009 World Championships, placing seventh.

Breakthrough:

Farah won the 3000-meter finals at the European Indoor Championships in 2009 and 2011, but his key breakthrough came outdoors in the 2010 European Championships when he struck gold in both the 5000- and 10,000-meter races. Farah was just the fifth man to turn the long distance double at the Euro Championships. Farah then moved to the United States early in 2011, setting up residence in Oregon to train with new coach Alberto Salazar.

Daegu Double:

Farah earned a silver medal in the World Championship 10,000-meter final in 2011. He broke from a large pack on the second-to-last lap and pulled away after the bell, but not quite far enough. Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan ran Farah down at the end to win by about a quarter-second, in 27:13.81 to Farah’s 27:14.07.

Farah also led on the last lap of the 5000-meter final, but this time he survived a late charge from Bernard Lagat to win the gold in 13:23.36, a quarter-second ahead of the American.

Future:

In perhaps a sign of things to come, Farah won the 2011 New York City Half Marathon in a UK record time of 1:00:23. He’s talked about eventually moving on to the marathon. Off the track the British distance ace set up the Mo Farah Foundation, which provides agricultural, educational, food and medical assistance to people in his native Somalia.

Stats:

  • Height: 5-feet-9
  • Weight: 140 pounds
  • Birth date: March 23, 1983
  • Hometown: Mogadishu, Somalia
  • Personal bests: 3:33.98 (1500 meters); 12:53.11 (5000); 26:46.57 (10,000)

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