THE CIRCUS IS IN TOWN
Mo Farah bandwagon rolls into Glasgow with doping still top of the agenda
FROM the outskirts of Addis Ababa to the banks of the Clyde, the Mo Farah circus is unmistakeable. It swept into Glasgow with a vengeance yesterday ahead of the multiple world and Olympic gold medalist’s participation in the Glasgow Grand Prix at the Emirates Arena today.
Since he was last spotted north of the border, running and winning at the Great International X Country in Edinburgh, Farah has been squeezing in six weeks’ of altitude training as a guest at Haile Gebrselassie’s Yaya Africa Athletes Village outside the Ethiopian capital.
If it allowed him to plead ignorance of a sort about the latest doping debates sweeping the sport, namely the fact Kenyan athletics had been placed on a ‘watch-list’ of nations at risk of breaching Wada’s code and could theoretically be banned from international competition, including the Olympics in Rio, if non-compliant, he nonetheless couldn’t resist a small aside about it.
“I’ve been away at camp,” said Farah. “So I haven’t heard too much. But when you come back, you get briefed. If Kenya’s not in it, then it makes things easier for me. You don’t want to wish it on athletes who haven’t done anything wrong. But as a country, they just have to follow the rules. If they can’t follow that rule, then tough on them.”
Farah, of course, is no stranger to these sort of debates, having stood by coach Alberto Salazar after an audit set up by UK Athletics found no evidence of wrongdoing amid allegations that the Oregon project coach had violated a series of anti-doping rules. A tweet earlier this week from US athlete Kara Goucher said that “justice was coming” in relation to that matter, but a smiling Farah would say only: “I haven’t heard anything about it. It was last year. We’ve moved on.”
If that was the closest thing to controversy yesterday, Farah cheerfully admitted that he can no longer remain incognito even in the remote districts of East Africa. “The people are so nice there, even though they know I’m running for GB and they’re probably thinking ‘that’s the guy who beats all our guys’,” he said. “I’ll be out in the park and they say ‘there’s Mo’ or ‘there’s baldy’ – which is funny.
“I’ve always gone to train at altitude,” he added. “I’ve been all around the world. I’ve been to Australia, Ethiopia and Kenya and right now I prefer Ethiopia. It’s simple and it’s going pretty well there. I get on well with the athletes, but you’re there to do a job and get on with it. I got on well with the food too. I love a good curry and it’s similar to curry. It has a few different spices. So I like Ethiopian food.”
Whether staples of the Scottish diet such as Irn Bru and haggis also agree with him, just as he did pre-London, Farah has made Scotland a key part of his preparation for the awesome challenge of retaining his Olympic 5000m and 10,000m titles. He might have skipped three high profile competitions in Scotland in the past, including the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but he is making up for lost time in 2016, and will be running the same 3000m event in which he broke the British record on his first visit to the city.
“Glasgow is very exciting,” said Farah. “I remember it was this particular meet the first time I broke the British record of 7:40 held by John Mayock. So I do have a great memory of Glasgow. The crowd do get behind you. Hopefully tomorrow they’ll get behind us and it’s going to be exciting for me to see where I am, do well in the race and then go home.” This time his sights are set rather higher, or should that be lower. Indeed, had he more indoor races under his belt he could well have been targeting the world record for that distance, the 7.24.90 set by Kenya’s Daniel Koman back in 1998 in Budapest.
“To be honest, it would have been nice to have had a few races and then see what I can do,” he said. “I don’t think I’m ready for world records. So I’m not going to say I can. The world record has stood for many years, no-one’s come close to that, [Kenenisa] Bekele or Haile. So it’s not in my mind.”
As much as he still loves competition, Farah, soon to be 33, gives a convincing impression of an athlete in his final laps when it comes to the track. He finds that even he cannot train in quite the same punishing manner he did before without rest periods, while being apart from his wife Tania, his daughters Aisha and Amani, step daughter Rhianna and newborn son Hussein is becoming an increasing grind.
This occasional visitor to the Royal Box at Wimbledon feels that Andy Murray will have to adjust to the same tensions since the birth of his daughter Sophia, but wants his family with him in Rio and quite frankly doesn’t give a fig about concerns around the Zika virus.
“I haven’t seen my kids since January,” said an emotional Farah. “So it’s exciting to get on a flight and see my kids and hopefully I can spend a bit of time with them and then come back for
If Kenya’s not in it, then it makes things easier for me. You don’t wish it on athletes who haven’t done anything wrong. But as a country, they have to follow the rules
the world half marathon. “The Olympics is where it’s at,” he added. “And I want to have my family with me no matter what because one of the best things from London was seeing my wife and family.
“It was just incredible and hopefully they’ll be there.
“It’s difficult being a father. I’ve got four kids and sometimes I’m away for six weeks, even more. It’s hard. But that’s what motivates me. I’m working for my kids.
“When I go out there I try and think about it. Andy is a great athlete and I’m sure he’ll get used to being a father.
“It’s not easy. But I know one day my kids will look back and say: ‘my Dad did this and that’. That will be of my proudest moments.”
CENTRE STAGE: Mo Farah attends a press conference in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, prior to the Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix.