Great Britain Olympic superpower
History-making Briton will take it year by year ‘At the minute I’m in the tunnel and will carry on’
Picture the scene: Sir Mo Farah, at the ripe old age of 37, raising his hands to his head in ‘Mobot’ celebration as he crosses the marathon finish line at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
As implausible as it seems, it may yet become a reality. Fresh from completing a historic doubledouble of Olympic 5,000 metres and 10,000m titles in Rio, Britain’s greatest long-distance runner whetted the appetite for the tantalising prospect of lining up in Japan at what would be his fourth Olympic appearance.
“My feeling is that I want to continue to Tokyo, but you have to be honest with yourself,” he said. “I owe it to my kids and my family, so I will take it one year at a time.
“When I line up, I’m in a tunnel – I close everything and that tunnel is all you can see. That’s what drives me and that’s why I’ve become successful and won medals.
“But the day you feel like you can’t see straight ahead of you – you can see corners and stuff – that’s when you have to hang it up. At the minute I’m still in that tunnel and I want to continue.”
The signs from Rio suggest there is no reason for him to stop any time soon. As he destroyed his rivals in a ninth successive global final to retain his Olympic 5,000m title on Saturday night, every brilliant attribute he possesses was evident in abundance.
The self-assured biding of time as he sat at the back of the pack and waited, the cool ease with which he glided his way to the head of the field when the time was right, and the scintillating kick in the final lap – all were present and correct. In fact, his final lap of 52.83 sec was even faster than the split he recorded en route to victory at London 2012.
If his 33 years are starting to catch up with him, there is little sign of it. Instead, the more pertinent issue is one of motivation.
Having doubled the next best haul of Olympic titles achieved by a single British track and field athlete, it is entirely understandable for Farah, a father of four, to begin paying closer attention to his role as a parent.
“It is hard,” he admitted. “The light turns off sometimes, because you miss your kids, you miss your family and you want a normal life. That’s the only thing that really gets me down or makes me think twice about what I do, but it has been worth it. You can’t replace this gold medal – it’s one moment, you’ve got to make the most of that opportunity and that’s what I have done.
“I do miss my kids [when I’m away] six months of the year. That is one of the hardest things for me. When you see them cry, when you see them not eating well, being a father and having four kids is not easy and seeing my wife struggle, that’s the hard part.
“You ask what more can I do? I owe it to my kids and my family, so I will take it one year at a time.
“Now I’m heading to the World Championships in London 2017. I owe that to the people to turn up on the track.”
His presence at the London Stadium next summer is certain. Farah will yet again head to his spiritual home town – even if he is now based in Portland, Oregon – as favourite to complete yet another 5,000m and 10,000m double before calling time on his track career and concentrating on roadrunning full-time, having finished eighth on his marathon debut two years ago.
For now, Farah’s immediate plans are to spend time with his family, before one final competitive race for the year at the Great North Run in Newcastle next month. From there he will be long overdue a holiday and some time to reflect on his achievements in Rio.
“I used to dream of becoming Olympic champion once, so to do it twice and come back again and again is pretty amazing,” he said.
“I remember seeing Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat in Sydney [at the 2000 Olympics] and wondering if I could become Olympic champion. I was in school at the time. I had a poster in my room of that moment printed in one of the papers and had it on my wall and thinking: ‘I want to be Olympic champion.’ ”
From a teenager idolising his childhood heroes to a four-time Olympic champion, is it now time to say Arise, Sir Mo?
“That would be amazing,” he said. “Knowing where I grew up, where I come from, the journey I have taken. I didn’t even dream of becoming Olympic champion, let alone four times.
“I remember Sir Alex Ferguson got it because he was at Manchester United and Sir Steve Redgrave for what he did. To be in the same category as them would be pretty amazing.”
‘The light turns off sometimes because you miss your kids, family, and you want a normal life’
Giving his all: Mo Farah sprints for the line as he claims his second gold medal