One of Britain’s biggest hopes of double gold at the London Games is the modest, self deprecating but undoubtedly brilliant Mo Farah. The Somali-born English track and field star, who is the current 5,000m world champion, has set his heart on becoming the first Briton to win an Olympic title in both the 10,000m and 5,000m.
Not bad for someone who, as a boy, set off in the wrong direction in his first schools cross country championship (though he still managed to win). Now living in Portland, Oregon, with his wife Tania, who is expecting twins in September, Mo first came to Britain (where his father was born) when he was eight, having fled war-torn Somalia. He was equipped with just three phrases in English – "Excuse me", "Where is the toilet?" and the rather unfortunate "C'mon, then", which saw him come home with a black eye after his first day at junior school. At the age of 14 he was taken under the wing of PE teacher Alan Watkinson, who spotted his talent at Feltham Community College. "He had something special," recalls Alan. "I told him that if he stuck at running, he could one day compete for Britain. It isn't the sort of thing you say to a kid lightly – it can create unrealistic expectations. But I'm very glad to have been proved right."
At last week's London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace, Mo, who regularly runs more than 100 miles a week when training, proved himself a genuine medal contender by winning his 5,000m race. "I'm in great shape," he says, adding of the challenge ahead: "I just have to think of it as another race and forget it's the Olympics. But I'm quite looking forward to it." The men's 10,000m race is on August 4; the men's 5,000m events start on August 8