Mo Farah: the loneliness of the long distance runner
Unlike the supremely self-assured Usain Bolt, Somalian Mo Farah, who came to the UK at the age of 8, was not a naturally confident athlete. At school, he lagged academically and suffered with the language barrier. He struggled with self doubt and lacked focus.
Fame and success did not come easily to a runner described by his trainer as “a weak athlete, who ran like a girl.” Alberto Salazar says: “When Mo came to me 18 months ago, he was a skinny distance runner with a great engine but no upper body strength. At the end of races, he would tire, his head would bob around and his arms would flail. He was the weakest athlete I’d ever trained — in terms of core strength and being able to do push-ups, sit-ups and single-leg squats, he was a 90 lb weakling.” Salazar got Mo working out and lifting weights. He was way behind, but eventually, everything came together.
In the London Games, when Mo won the gold in the 10,000 metres, there was the most comical look of astonishment on his face, before he cast himself face down onto the track, in a moment of almost holy ecstacy. Mo seemed stunned that he had won, overjoyed but also overwhelmed by success.
The momentous cheering of the crowd before he ran the 5,000 metres, produced the same shy, astonished reaction, but the months of tough training paid off and he quickly found his focus. Mo seemed quiet, but self contained, as he ran right at the back of the pack, and then moved forward to take the lead. In the dying moments of the race though, it seemed he was running out of steam. The Ethiopian runner, Dejen Gebremeskel, looked like overtaking a fragile and tiring Mo and sick with fright, I couldn’t watch. Mo said afterwards, “I could feel them lining up to pass me, but I wasn’t going to let anyone pass me.”
That is when he reached inside his soul and found another gear, to surge home. It was a powerful and uplifting moment. His trainer described him as having “more heart, more guts and more soul than I have ever seen.” Mo Farah called on not just body strength, but his own inner power, the power of the spirit, to become the man the Africans fear. It is that inner power that evokes such an emotional and rapturous reaction from the crowds when he runs.
The battling Brownlees: brothers in arms
From childhood they have beaten seven bells out of each other and at table tennis particularly, their competitiveness knows no bounds. They are like a couple of famed young gunslingers, taking over Dodge City. “Look out boys, the Brownlee Brothers are in town!” They rib each other mercilessly, but they would shed blood to protect and defend each other without a second’s hesitation.
In their triathlon, Jonny Brownlee made a mistake, earning a 15 second penalty. Dryly, he joked: “I looked up and thought”Oh Alastair has earned a penalty, the idiot! Then I realised, it was me!” Tough Yorkshiremen, Alastair, Jonny and their backup buddy, Stuart Haynes had planned their tactics perfectly. They were like a three headed Hydra, an irrestible, ruthless assault no man could withstand, and without a hitch, Alastair won the gold medal.
So determined was Iron Man Jonny, in spite of his penalty, not to miss out on an appearance on that medal podium, he made the most supreme effort, and when he ran over the line ahead of the Frenchman to win bronze, he collapsed in his brother’s arms. His collapse was followed by a violent spell of vomiting, and he was rushed to the medical tent. He was overheated, but he quickly recovered. Their father said “They know how much they need each other and how essential they are to each other’s success.”
Nicola “Babyface” Adams. The gutsy woman who ignored convention and knows no fear.
So many athletes at victory were overcome with emotion, even the great Sir Chris Hoy could not restrain his feelings or hold back the tears. There were no tears from this feisty little one, only a beaming smile and her heartfelt, but down to earth comment that the win had “made my day!”
From the age of twelve, when she watched videos of Mohammed Ali and the Rumble in the Jungle, she was hooked on boxing. It was something she wanted to do – so against the stereotypes, she just did it. She had natural talent and her nifty footwork showed her class. In the Final of this Games, Nicola was fighting Ren of China, the world champ. She was the underdog according to the form books, but from the moment she bounced into the ring, there was only going to be one winner. She led the champ in every round.
When she won, the pat on the back from a groggy Ren, still reeling from a knock down, was genuine, as Nicola became the first female British Boxing Champ in history. Nicola’s dog also didn’t lose out. She loves her dog so much, she hired a tv so he could watch her box in the final. If they don’t make the movie, they are crazy. Like Nicola, the film has winner written all over it.