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'Slow Moe' shows he is no slouch in a rowing boat

Published 13/08/2016

Rower Mohamed Sbihi, second left, celebrates with his team-mates after winning gold in the men's four in Rio
Rower Mohamed Sbihi, second left, celebrates with his team-mates after winning gold in the men's four in Rio

Olympic gold medallist Mohamed Sbihi could have joined the family barbershop business - but was too tall and too lazy to make a career of it, his father has said.

The 28-year-old athlete from Surbiton in south-west London followed in the footsteps of Team GB rowing heroes Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent by taking gold in the men's four crown on Friday.

He and colleagues Alex Gregory, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis stormed to victory on the water in another display of power and determination in Rio.

But Sbihi's father, also called Mohamed, said his 6ft 8in-tall son was seconds away from walking out on the sport before his rowing career had barely started.

He told the Press Association: "My son was not interested in rowing, he was very good at tennis instead and was winning trophies at 12 and 13.

"He was very tall for his age, a very big boy. Somebody from a rowing programme went around to his school and they noticed the size of him - they said he should be rowing.

"So at the age of 14 he was going to his first rowing class. But I don't think he fancied it because he turned to walk out the moment he got there.

"It was only because a PE teacher recognised him and knew he was supposed to be training instead that he told him to go back. I think that if the PE teacher hadn't been there at the same time as my son, would he have ever got involved in the sport?"

Indeed the young Moe's early disinterest in rowing was matched by his lack of enthusiasm for working in his father's barber shop in Westminster.

The shop itself has several photographs and trophies charting Sbihi's rise from novice to Olympic hopeful - many of which are regularly shown to customers by Sbihi's proud father, who is originally from Morocco.

The 60-year-old, recovering from recent life-saving heart surgery that prevented him from cheering his son from the sidelines in Rio, said: "I used to bring him here on Saturday mornings when he was about nine, to learn how to cut hair b ut he wasn't interested in this. He wanted to play football.

"Eventually he became too tall to use the broom properly. And he didn't like early mornings either, so my customers used to call him Slow Moe.

"He still comes in here. Hopefully next time with the medal around his neck."

Mr Sbihi's health meant he watched Friday's heroics from his home in south-west London, cheering alongside his wife Samira and their 18-month-old daughter Layla.

He said: "I spoke to him after the medal, he was crying and we were just so happy.

"He's made us so proud. And he's made his grandma in Morocco proud too. She said he's made rowing famous over there."

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