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Sir Mo Farah: From tough beginnings to one of the UK’s most successful athletes

The athlete’s track triumphs have earned him a knighthood and a place as a British household name.

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Sir Mo Farah: from tough beginnings to one of the UK’s most successful athletes (Martin Rickett/PA)

Sir Mo Farah: from tough beginnings to one of the UK’s most successful athletes (Martin Rickett/PA)

Sir Mo Farah: from tough beginnings to one of the UK’s most successful athletes (Martin Rickett/PA)

Despite his tough beginnings Sir Mo Farah has become one of the UK’s most high-profile and successful athletes, with his track triumphs earning him a knighthood.

The athlete has made the shock revelation that he was brought into the UK illegally under the name of another child.

A four-time Olympic gold-medal winner, who has also won six world titles and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, Farah says his own children have motivated him to tell the truth.

He previously claimed he had been born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and spent most of his early life in Djibouti.

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Sir Mo Farah’s track triumphs have earned him a knighthood and a place as a British household name (Adam Devy/PA)

Sir Mo Farah’s track triumphs have earned him a knighthood and a place as a British household name (Adam Devy/PA)

PA

Sir Mo Farah’s track triumphs have earned him a knighthood and a place as a British household name (Adam Devy/PA)

A die-hard Arsenal fan, he said he had come to London when he was eight to join his father, speaking barely any English – a story he has now revealed to be untrue.

Speaking on the Jonathan Ross show in 2014 he said: “I just remembered being excited and you know obviously seeing my Dad was a big part for me.

“I was just excited to come off the plane (and) I met him … it was very exciting just going to school,” he said in the light-hearted interview.

He said his father had taught him “simple words” in order to communicate in the UK but he learned from the other children.

In fact, Farah’s father was killed during the civil war in Somalia when he was four and he travelled to the UK with a woman he did not know.

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The athlete, pictured with his mother, previously claimed he had been born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and spent most of his early life in Djibouti (BBC/PA)

The athlete, pictured with his mother, previously claimed he had been born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and spent most of his early life in Djibouti (BBC/PA)

PA

The athlete, pictured with his mother, previously claimed he had been born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and spent most of his early life in Djibouti (BBC/PA)

Farah was forced to work for a family that was not his own as a child but eventually confided in his school PE teacher Alan Watkinson, who helped him apply for British citizenship.

The process was completed on July 25 2000.

He has said that during this period of his life, one of the few things he was able to control was his ability to get out and run.

Farah landed his first major outdoor gold medals by completing the long-distance double at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona.

His real breakthrough, however, came the following year when Farah relocated his family to Portland, Oregon, to train under Alberto Salazar at the Nike Oregon Project.

He ran his personal bests over 10,000m and 5,000m – 26 minutes 46.57 seconds for the former, 12mins 53.11 seconds for the latter – in June and July respectively before taking 5,000m gold and 10,000m silver at the World Championships in Daegu.

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Farah’s ‘Mobot’ pose – arms above his head in an M shape – has become ubiquitous (Ian West/PA)

Farah’s ‘Mobot’ pose – arms above his head in an M shape – has become ubiquitous (Ian West/PA)

PA

Farah’s ‘Mobot’ pose – arms above his head in an M shape – has become ubiquitous (Ian West/PA)

Farah could not hide his disappointment at missing out in the 10,000m – to Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan, whom he had never even heard of – but it was not to be an emotion he would grow used to.

London 2012 brought him double gold, the third of three British victories within an hour at the Olympic Stadium on “Super Saturday”.

Suddenly he was a household name, with his “Mobot” pose – arms above his head in an M shape – becoming ubiquitous.

The “double double” at the Moscow World Championships the following year turned into the ‘triple-double’ in Beijing in 2015.

The golds flowed again at the Rio Olympics in 2016 with wins in the 10,000m and 5,000m races.

But as 10,000m glory boosted hopes of a remarkable quintuple double, they were dashed by Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris over the shorter distance, Farah bowing out as a track athlete with silver.

Farah’s brilliance did not come without sacrifice.

He has spoken often of the pain at spending much of the year training at altitude away from his wife Tania and their four children – two of whom, Hussein and Rhianna, stole the show during his interview via video link for the BBC awards ceremony.

The criticism, too, cannot be ignored.

There are the allegations of doping against Salazar, under investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

Farah’s refusal for so long to cut ties with his controversial coach left him open to suspicion too.

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The golds flowed again at the Rio Olympics in 2016 with wins in the 10,000m and 5,000m races (Martin Rickett/PA)

The golds flowed again at the Rio Olympics in 2016 with wins in the 10,000m and 5,000m races (Martin Rickett/PA)

PA

The golds flowed again at the Rio Olympics in 2016 with wins in the 10,000m and 5,000m races (Martin Rickett/PA)

Both men have denied any wrongdoing, but Farah left Salazar in 2017 as he returned with his family to Britain, with both men agreeing that the split was amicable.

In 2015 he enlisted the help of a specialist team of crisis management experts after questions were raised about two missed drugs tests before the London 2012 Olympics.

In 2014 he trailed home eighth at the London Marathon – his only race over the distance so far – and thereafter shifted his focus to the marathon event.

In 2018 Farah finished the London Marathon in a time of 2:06:22, comfortably beating the British record of 2:07:13 set by Steve Jones in 1985, but placed third.

Despite a planned return to track events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics he failed to qualify.

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Despite a planned return to track events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics he failed to qualify (Adam Devy/PA)

Despite a planned return to track events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics he failed to qualify (Adam Devy/PA)

PA

Despite a planned return to track events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics he failed to qualify (Adam Devy/PA)

Outside his impressive athletic career Farah is heavily involved in charitable work, having launched the Mo Farah Foundation after a trip to Somalia in 2011.

He took part in the 2012 Olympic hunger summit at 10 Downing Street, hosted by former Prime Minister David Cameron, as part of a series of international efforts seeking to respond to the return of hunger as a high-profile global issue.

In 2017 Farah became a global ambassador for Marathon Kids.

In 2020 he participated in ITV reality show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here and became the eighth celebrity to be eliminated alongside dancer AJ Pritchard.

Farah’s autobiography, Twin Ambitions: My Autobiography, was released in 2013.

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