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Sir Mo Farah shares mission to get kids involved in sport and the Olympic life lessons he's passed on to his own children

The Olympic champion opens up about his inspiring journey

Sophie Hamilton

Think of Sir Mo Farah and we all remember those incredible scenes of him winning gold in both the 5,000 and 10,000m races at the London 2012 Olympics.

Since those momentous wins, Mo did the double again at the 2016 Olympics and became a national treasure. Fans everywhere copied his now-iconic 'Mobot' move, and in 2017, Mo was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen.

As part of our Back to School digital issue guest-edited by Giovanna Fletcher – who happened to be Mo's campmate in the 2020 series of I'm a Celebrity – the athletics champion speaks exclusively to HELLO! about his achievements, along with the importance of investing in the next generation.

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WATCH: Mo Farah shares his running tips

Mo, who is married to Tania Farah, and dad to Rihanna, 16, twin daughters Aisha and Amani, eight, and son Hussein, five, is a strong believer in keeping children active and encouraging an interest in sport early on.

Mo told us: "For me, it's really important for kids to be active and get into sports, no matter what sports it is.

"Kids nowadays are getting distracted in many ways, in terms of social media and other stuff and they don't quite get outside and be active and get into different sports. The social part is a big part. How do we make it more fun? How do we make it more challenging? Not putting on too much pressure, but getting them out and enjoying it."

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Mo does his famous 'Mobot' move

Mo started life in Somalia before moving to London at age eight and his upbringing was all about getting outside.

"Growing up for me… the number one thing for me was being outside," recalls Mo. "I never even thought about staying at home because home for me was boring.

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"Often relatives would say, 'Listen, if your room's tidy and you've helped with the dishes, then you can go outside,' so it was always the reward. You never came back in till late and they're like, 'Just come back before dark.'"

Now Mo is encouraging his own children to stay active and it sounds like they're already taking after their famous father.

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Mo with his wife and four children

Mo reveals: "Each one of my kids is different, so I have to find out what they're good at, what they enjoy and try and bring that into it. "My kids, particularly my son, is very active and sporty and the girls too, do a lot of running around and play football.

"I started a kids one mile. We're trying to encourage them to do one mile a day no matter what it is. They started off walking and now they can run. They always compare their times with each other. The key thing is to get them to enjoy it."

Like his children, Mo started running as a child but it wasn't until his teen years that it became a focus.

He explains: "For me, it was the age of eight, and then I went to secondary school and it was my PE teacher who supported me, took me to the local club. If it wasn't for him getting me involved and helping me, taking me to running and taking that step forward, I don't think I would have ever joined the athletics club.

"Growing up, all I ever wanted to do was play football and I honestly thought I was great at football!"

But the turning point for Mo came after attending a training camp with his athletics club.

"I started getting into the right frame of mind, thinking about athletics, what I needed to do and what it involved. It involved going to the running club twice a week, even sometimes three times, and on the weekend, we always met up around the park and the coach would be there. We'd do some hills, have a laugh and then we'd go home. It was never about work, work, work. It was work, but there was a fun part of it."

Mo tells us he was inspired by watching other great athletes on TV.

"I've watched many great athletes, Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, Brendan Foster was a big part," he says. "I didn't know too much about him early on because I was into football but once I discovered I wanted to do running, I started to watch more YouTube videos and events. Watching the Sydney Olympics for me was huge."

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Mo wins the 5,000m final at the London 2012 Olympics

And how does he feel about his own Olympic achievements, looking back now?

"There's no words to describe it, honestly," he reveals. "I do take it for granted, but that moment was special."

"I got a little bit of goosebumps watching the England match in the Euros 2020 quarter-final when we did so well – you look around and the stadium and see the England flags everywhere. For me, it came back like a memory thinking that was like 2012. All you saw were GB flags everywhere."

There's no doubt Mo is an inspiration to all young athletes – his hard work and determination resulted in fantastic success, and he's keen to encourage children to do the same.

Mo tells us: "I love to be able to spend my time with schools, visiting the kids and connecting with the kids. I think that's my next mission, to do something with the kids and all around schools in the UK, and actually see them in person - talk to them, encourage them and start off something good like 'one more mile'."

"I think it's important that kids engage with us because they see you on telly but when it comes down to it, I never just climbed up the ladder and went 'I'm here'. It's taken me a long time to get to that. And also to give them a dream, hope. I think that's the key."

Mo adds: "In my career, lots of it is finding the right people, connecting and then seeing 'What's the work ethic? How much work do they do?'

"I'm lucky enough to learn from the Kenyans' work ethic – eat, sleep, train and nothing else. I was like, 'Oh my god if they're doing this and I'm going out, playing PlayStation, how am I going to compete with these guys?' But in your mind, it comes later on.

"Now it's really important for the grassroots. As a nation, we have to start thinking, ten, 15 years' time, maybe something can come from that."

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We wonder what Mo's children think of their dad's achievements?

"They don't quite understand," says Mo. "They get it but don't quite get it. They know you have to work hard and that's the key thing I want to do – it's not something you just get. That's what I'm trying to teach them. Anything they do, as long as they work hard, stick at it."

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Mo celebrates with son Hussein after winning the Men's 10,000m at the 2017 World Championships

Unfortunately, Mo did not compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after not quite making the qualifying time, and told us about a current injury he's recovering from.

"Yeah, I've got a stress fracture on my toes. It's going to take another four or five weeks [to heal]. I'm enjoying my time with the family and kids."

Having been the world number one for so long, does Mo put a lot of pressure on himself we wonder?

He reveals: "I always do because I like to give always 110 per cent. You want to continue to work, but also, I do enjoy it with a massive smile. I think what motivates me even more is looking back at what I have achieved and the memory of those moments – you're like, 'Wow, can I get to that point?'"

So what's next for the champion?

"For me, I enjoy time with my family," says Mo. "There's nothing I can do, injuries do happen, but as soon as I heal I'll be back on the roads and back on the track. I feel in myself there's a lot more, getting the best out of it. There's still more to do!"

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