Sunday, 5 August 2012

A True Brit

In many respects Jessica Ennis has been the poster girl of this Olympic Games - and she's repaid that in style with a series of personal bests in the individual Heptathlon events and a British Record overall. Indeed - she made sure of the record - and put on a show for the crowd - by running the fastest time in the 800m even though she had no need too.

But if Jess Ennis has been the poster-girl, Tom Daley has been the poster-boy man. From a 14 year old boy in Beijing, he has carried medal hopes for this games through the past 4 years. He's had to grow up very publicly and has had the personal tragedy of his father's death played out in a very public arena. Next week, is has chance to shine; if he does his best he can take Gold, but if he doesn't we still shouldn't belittle his achievements - and I hope the press remember this.

But this post is about another, undersung, hero of British athletics - and a man whose story deserves to be celebrated.

Mo Farah arrived in the UK at the age of 8, a member of a family of refugees fleeing conflict in Somalia. Settling in West London, Mo took up running at school and was spotted by a PE teacher who encouraged him - although initially his ambition was to play right-back for Arsenal. At 13, he entered the an English Schools Cross Country. After finishing 9th that year, he entered again the following year and won the first of what would be 5 medals. 

After a number of years competing as a junior - which included winning the 5,000m European Athletics Junior Championships - he moved onto the Senior circuit in 2005. He concentrated on the track races - winning silver in the 5.000m at the 2006 Europeans - although he won the European Cross Country Championship in same year.

Less successful events followed in the next couple of years including a disappointing Olympics  in Beijing when he didn't make the 5,000m finals. Since then, he has collected Gold Medals in European for both 5,000m and 10,000m and World Championship Gold for the 5,000m  and Silver for the 10,000m.

Whilst he trains in the States, and is coached by Cuban-American Alberto Salazer, a former American record holder at both 5k and 10k as well as being an accomplished Marathon runner. While he may have been born in Somalia and train in the U.S., there is no mistaking than when he runs, he runs for Britain.

Last night, in the wake of becoming the first British man ever to win the Olympic 10,000m, a journalist asked him if he'd rather be racing for Somalia. The Huffington Post reports the story:

"When asked in a press conference if he'd have preferred to run as a Somali, he said to the journalist: "Look mate, this is my country.”

Farah added: "This is where I grew up, this is where I started life. This is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I'm proud. I'm very proud.

"The support I got today was unbelievable. I couldn't believe it. It was the best moment of my life.

"If it wasn't for the crowd and people shouting out my name, cheering and putting the Union Jack up, I don't think it would have happened.

"To win the Olympics in the place you grew up and went to school just means so much to me.""
Hear! Hear!

Mo is testament to a modern Britain, a place where a refugee child can find a home, a skill and achieve his dreams. Although not the one about playing for Arsenal - that dream has been left for someone else to achieve.

Hats of to Jess and all our medallists and competitors - but two hats off to Mo and his achievements. He makes me proud to be British.


P.S. Never mind Olympic Gold though, I didn't know until today that Farah had taken on and beaten The Cube, too:

1 comment:

Raybeard said...

Splendid story of Mo - and splendid quotes. Although ALL the medal winners make one swell with pride at being British, his contribution has been an extra-special one. Thank you, Sir - and if there isn't a knighthood in the immediate offing (as well as an honour for Jessica, which there surely WILL be) it'll be so unjust!