Sir Mo Farah is homesick after years spent training abroad – but even with President Trump in the White House, Team GB’s hero is staying in the US for the sake of his running career
Mo Farah training in Dubai, where he has spent the winter training and on holiday with his familyMo Farah training in Dubai, where he has spent the winter training and on holiday with his family
Viewers may have failed to recognise Mo Farah’s achievements when they placed him fourth in last year’s Sports Personality vote, behind a serious Scot, a Yorkshire triathlete and a 59-year-old showjumper. But the British establishment didn’t. Mo is now Sir Mo, placed alongside his Sports Personality nemesis Sir Andy Murray, a knight of the realm he has called his own since fleeing from Somalia when he was just eight years old.
“Looking back at the boy who arrived here from Somalia, not speaking a word of English, I could never have imagined where I would be today,” he says.
Finally, proper recognition for a proper British success story. A story that, whether because of his race, his Muslim faith, questions about his coach or plain naivety about the demands of distance running, has never quite been taken to heart by his adopted nation until now.
“What more do I need to do?” was Farah’s half-joking, half-exasperated question to RT the day after he failed to make the top three at the Sports Personality of the Year ceremony. “I do what I do, represent my country and do the best that I can. It doesn’t mean anything to me really, if I’d won or not won. It would be nice to have it, but without it it’s just normal.”
He’s right; Sir means much more than Spoty. But there’s still that question to answer: what more does he need to do? After repeating his 5,000 and 10,000m Olympic double last year, Farah could have called it a day, retired happy with a gold medal for each of his four children and more than enough bullion to set them up for life.
Late last year Farah and his wife Tania left their home in the US to visit Dubai for a winter break, where the four-time Olympic champion ran along palm-backed beaches in the morning before taking a dune buggy for a spin in the evening. That must be preferable to another high-altitude African training camp?
“I’m not quite finished yet!” he counters. “I want to give it another year on the track, and do everything I can at the 2017 World Championships in London. After that, I’d like to go on to the road – that’s my aim.”
He reveals he wants to improve on his 2014 London Marathon performance, when he finished eighth, which means London could be the setting for even more Farah victories.
“For now, we’re in the US. But London is the place. England is ‘home home’,” Farah says. “London’s special to me: I come back home, see my team [Arsenal] play, and just enjoy it. There’s a lot I miss.”
Did he consider moving back to the UK after Rio, leaving the Oregon training base in the States and bringing the family – eldest daughter Rihanna, twins Aisha and Amani, and son Hussein – home? “Not yet, because the kids are still studying. When the time is right, hopefully we will come back. Really another reason I’m out there is to be able to do what I do, and continue winning. In order for me to be at my best I need to be out there, taking advantage of the facilities.”
But surely there was part of him that considered leaving the US after…
“After Trump?” He finishes the question. The new President of the United States, who during the election advocated “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”, must be on Farah’s mind.
“It’s crazy. But you know what? I’ve got a country, I’ve got a place, and if things don’t work out [with President Trump] I’ll be back. I’m glad to be British and have a country. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
For now, Sir Mo is prepared to serve his country abroad. But all this talk of home has got him thinking about the one job that would entice him back to the UK: Arsenal fitness coach.
“I’d take that one in a split second!” he laughs. “You know that. If that call ever comes, I’ll be like, ‘Yep, yep, I’m here!’”