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Farah Stays Focused On Breaking Golden Duck
Our correspondent talks to Britain's last hope of individual success in Gothenburg
By David Powell
London, UK, August 12, 2006 – THE country of his birth may be on the brink of civil war but it is too long ago now since he left Somalia for Mo Farah to let that trouble him. Farah’s mind these days rarely switches off from athletics and the task of restoring British pride in men’s long-distance track running. He has made a promising start, but the job picks up significantly in importance tomorrow.
Farah was born in Mogadishu but departed with his family at the age of 4, living for five years in Djibouti before moving to England, where he arrived speaking not a word of English
Separated from his parents and living with an aunt in Middlesex, he expressed himself through football until his school PE teacher persuaded him to try athletics.
By the age of 16 Farah had won a junior international 1,500 meters race for Britain and had led the national team to victory in the European junior cross country championships. Fast-forward to the present and, unless one of his team-mates causes an upset between now and then, he will line up tomorrow as Britain’s last shot at a gold medal in an individual event at the European Championships.
Both Ian Stewart, one of five British winners of the title, and Alan Storey, Farah’s coach, acknowledge that the Briton is a genuine contender, but urge that it is recognized how tricky is the task facing him. There is no obvious front-runner to stretch the field and take the sting out of the fast finishers, of which Farah is one, but not the quickest.
Whether any of the non-kickers are prepared to try their luck with an aggressive early pace is uncertain, but one sure thing is that Farah will not be one of them. “If he leads he would be taking it to athletes who are just as strong as him,” Storey said. “The challenge is the variety of races that could be thrown at him and the winning time could be anything between 13min 10sec and 14:10.”
At the quickest end of that, Farah would be stretched but not, in theory, out of his depth. Not after his performance in Heusden, Belgium, last month when he ran the fastest 5,000 meters by a Briton during his lifetime. Born in March 1983, eight months after David Moorcroft set what was then a world record 13:00.41, and is still the British record, Farah recorded 13:09.40.
Either side of Farah’s 21second improvement over 5,000 meters, he finished runner-up in the European Cup 3,000 meters and defeated Britain’s 1,500 meters specialists to lead the domestic contingent, in third place, at the London Grand Prix.
Stewart, who won the title in 1969 and now directs Britain’s showpiece meetings, said that Farah’s best chance would be to kick from 600 meters out. Does he think that Farah will win a medal? “Yes,” Stewart said. Could it be gold? “It could. He has the ability to win.”
The European title has never been out of British hands for this long. It has been in Italian and Spanish possession since Jack Buckner was the last Briton to win it in 1986, following the triumphs of Brendan Foster (1974), Stewart (1969), Bruce Tulloh (1962) and Sydney Wooderson (1946). Last year, Moorcroft advised Farah to “live, sleep and dream the sport”. This he has done to the extent that Storey has to tell him to take a night off from time to time and go to the cinema, for a meal, or for a beer with his mates. But, even socially, Somalia rarely comes up in conversation.
Farah appears to have little knowledge of the stand-off between the transitional federal government in Somalia and the Islamic Courts Union, which has secured control of Mogadishu. Under the ICU, there are fewer guns on the street but some measures have proved unpopular, such as a ban on watching World Cup football.
“I have not been concentrating on it,” Farah said. He has no family remaining in Mogadishu to concern him and Storey said: “Somalia is no part of his current life. He is very happy with life in the UK.” And UK Athletics is happy to have him. Especially if he spares Britain the embarrassment of returning home from a European Championships without a gold medal for the first time.
Source - Times online