Thursday, 10 December 2009

Mo Farah feature


Fly-Mo: the smiling assassin

Carrying the long-distance hopes of a nation during a turbulent 2009, Britain’s amiable athlete, Mo Farah spoke to Nicola Bamford about how he has embraced the Kenyan lifestyle in order to match strides with the Africans and add more gold to his collection.

The 26-year-old West-Londoner, from Somalian descent, has adapted his daily life over the past couple of years to a more simplistic, professional approach which is paying dividends with his athletic performances at home and abroad.

Nights out and drinking sessions in the capital were replaced with a solitary existence in his Teddington home with African world-class runners; a move introduced by his agent, Ricky Simms; the man charged with keeping the great sprint sensation Usain Bolt in order.

Regular trips to ‘runner’s paradise’ in Iten, Kenya have also been added to the Adidas sponsored-runner’s agenda; the last of which he has recently returned from:
“Training went well – I was there for five weeks as part of the GB training camp then I trained with some top Africans. It was very hot, which I love and there were so many great training routes; all I did was sleep, eat and run,” Farah explained.

The Alan Storey-coached runner is no stranger to adapting to new surroundings. Aged 10 and without a word of English in his vocabulary, he uprooted to England, where his talent was spotted by his PE teacher. Reluctantly pushing his first love of football aside, Farah achieved great success as a junior athlete; winning a silver medal at the European Junior Cross Country Championships.

As a senior, the Newham and Essex Beagles athlete broke through in 2006, when he sped to a World-class 13:09.40 for 5,000m, ahead of taking the runners-up position at the European Championships.

The outgoing ‘Fly-Mo’, as he is affectionately known to his athletics fans, then captured his first major title at the 2006 European Cross Country Championships, followed up by an impressive 11th at the World Cross Country Championships. 2007 and 2008 witnessed sixth-place finishes in the World 5,000m and World indoor 3,000m for Farah, yet he failed to progress through his heat in the Beijing Olympic Games. After a six-week training stint in Ethiopia, however, he took second place at the European Cross Country Championships.

Farah’s 2009 campaign, he admits, has been a rollercoaster. With a British indoor 3,000m record, European indoor gold and a British 10km road record under his belt, Farah’s prospects looked strong to capture a long-overdue World medal; but in the global Championships in Berlin this summer, he finished a disappointing seventh.

Farah explained: “I had a great start to the year but I was disappointed to miss David Moorcroft’s British 5,000m record and to come only 7th in the Worlds.”

Never one to lose focus of the tasks in hand, though, Farah has an immediate target for a realistic medal this weekend; the European cross-country Championships in Dublin. Eager to replicate his 2006 win and gain revenge over his great nemesis; the eight-time winner Serhiy Lebid of Ukraine, Farah said: “It’d be so nice to win but it’ll be tough, particularly against Lebid and there are lots of fast guys entered, so it’s not going to be easy. Lebid’s my main rival; he prepares for this race for months and he’s very dominant – this is his Olympics – but he can be beaten; I showed that in 2006.”

On his chances in a competition where a mud-bath is predicted for Sunday’s event, the British rankings leader from 1500m-10km said: “I prefer solid ground but I know I’ve done the work so I’m looking forward to it.”

Based on his BUPA Great South Run victory over 10-miles in October and successful stint in the hills of Kenya, the ‘smiling assassin’ should be up there in the medals in Irish capital and has aspirations of a bright 2010:

“I like running indoors so after Dublin, I’ll return for a training block in Kenya then target the World indoors (in Doha in March) and then maybe the World cross (in Bydgoszcz shortly afterwards), before doing the 5km at the Europeans in the summer. I’m not really thinking about the Commonwealths (in New Delhi in October).”

In the long-term, Farah has hinted at turning his attentions to the marathon (“but only when I’ve stopped running fast over the shorter distances”), and most likely after he has conquered his aims at the 2012 London Olympic Games. But for now, Farah’s concentration is set firmly on relishing the ‘luck of the Irish’ by gliding to gold in the continental cross championships – and avoiding the Guinness – unless he wins.

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