Sir Mo Farah has opened up about his childhood in a new BBC documentary in which he revealed that he was brought to the UK illegally under the name of another child.
The 39-year-old said that the main reason behind telling his story was because he wanted to “feel normal” and that he didn’t want to feel like he was “holding on to something”.
Following the announcement of the documentary, Sir Mo tweeted: “Through this documentary I have been able to address and learn more about what happened in my childhood and how I came to the UK.”
This is everything you need to know about the Olympic champion.
Who is Mo Farah?
Sir Mo Farah is a British long distance runner with 10 global championship gold medals to his name, including four Olympic medals, making him the most successful male track distance runner globally in history.
He was born on 23 March 1983 in Somaliland before moving to the UK at the age of nine. In July 2000, he was granted British citizenship under the name Mohamed Farah.
After not being allowed to attend school for his first few years in Britain, Sir Mo eventually enrolled in Feltham Community College in Year 7, which is where his athletic abilities were first spotted by PE teacher Alan Watkinson.
In 1996, when he was 13, Sir Mo finished ninth in the English school cross country - the following year he won the first of five English school titles. After his athletic talents were recognised by philanthropist Eddie Kulukundis, Sir Mo had his legal fees paid for to complete his naturalisation as a British citizen that allowed him to travel to competitions without issues.
His first major title that he won was in 2001 at the European Athletics Junior Championship in which he came first in the 5000 metres. That same year, Sir Mo began training at St Mary’s University in Twickenham.
Over the course of his career, Sir Mo became the most decorated athlete in British athletics history. Some of his accolades include:
- Being the first British athlete to win two gold medal at the same world championships
- Becoming the most successful athlete in individual events in the history of the European Athletics Championships with five gold medals
- Winning the European Athlete of the Year award and the British Athletics Writers Association British Athlete of the Year award more than any other athlete, three times and six times respectively
- Being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in the 2017 New Year Honours for his services to athletics
- Setting a European record for winning the 2018 Chicago Marathon, with a time of 2:05:11
- Being the European record holder for the 10,000m, half marathon, marathon, and two miles
- Being the British record holder for the 5000m and the British indoor record holder for the 3000m
- Being the world record holder for the one hour run, and indoor world record holder for the two miles
Does he have a twin brother?
Sir Mo has a twin brother named Hassan, however the two were separated when Sir Mo was taken to the UK.
Hassan had been due to go with Sir Mo, but after he fell ill, Hassan stayed behind with his family whilst Sir Mo continued with the journey, thinking that his brother would join him at a later date.
Talking about the time in his 2013 autobiography, Twin Ambitions: My Autobiography, Sir Mo said: “I was consoled by the fact that we wouldn’t be away from each other for very long – a couple of months perhaps.
“Had I known how many years would pass before I’d see him again, I would have been heartbroken. But as far as I knew, Hassan falling ill was a temporary hitch. At least, that’s what I thought.”
Sir Mo eventually was able to reconnect with his brother in 2003, when Hassan was getting married.
In his autobiography, he wrote: “I got off the aircraft and looked around. All I remember is Hassan coming up to me, giving me a big hug and a kiss on my cheek and saying, “My brother, my brother, my brother!”
“Twelve years is a long time to be away from someone you love. It’s hard to describe the joy of that moment.
“It felt like a part of me had been missing the whole time I had been growing up separately from Hassan. The way I see it is, we’re not different people – we’re part of the same person.
“At last, the void in my life was gone.”
Is he married - does he have children?
Sir Mo married his longtime girlfriend Tania Nell in April 2010 after meeting when they were studying together at university.
The two have three children together - twin daughters Aisha and Amani, born in August 2012, and son Hussein who was born in 2015. Sir Mo also gained a step daughter named Rihanna from the relationship.
What did he say in BBC documentary?
In his new BBC documentary, titled The Real Mo Farah, the four time Olympic champion said that “the truth is I’m not who you think I am”.
He said: “Most people know me as Mo Farah but it’s not my name or it’s not the reality.
“The real story is I was born in Somaliland, north of Somalia, as Hussein Abdi Kahin. Despite what I’ve said in the past, my parents never lived in the UK.
“When I was four my dad was killed in the civil war, you know as a family we were torn apart.
“I was separated from my mother, and I was brought into the UK illegally under the name of another child called Mohamed Farah.”
After his father was killed, his mother sent him to live with his uncle in Djibouti, but, because of the war, she lost contact with them.
Sir Mo was then later brought to the UK when he was nine with a woman he didn’t know, with the understanding that he was going to stay with a relative.
He recalled going through a UK passport check under the name of Mohamed.
He said: “I had all the contact details for my relative and once we got to her house, the lady took it off me and right in front of me ripped them up and put it in the bin and at that moment I knew I was in trouble.”
What happened next?
The athlete was forced to work as a domestic servant, looking after another family’s children.
He said: “If I wanted food in my mouth, my job was to look after those kids, shower them, cook for them, clean for them, and she said, “If you ever want to see your family again, don’t say anything. If you say anything, they will take you away”.
“So she told [me] “you don’t talk about anything” otherwise I was in big trouble and I guess for me the only thing that I could do, [that was] in my control was to run away from this was get out and run.”
Sir Mo eventually told his PE teacher, Alan Watkinson, the truth and moved to live with his friend’s mum, Kinsi, who “really took great care” of him. He ended up staying with them for seven years.
It was his PE teacher who applied for Sir Mo’s British citizenship – which he described as a “long process” – and on July 25 2000, Sir Mo was recognised as a British citizen.
Sir Mo, who named his son Hussein after his real identity, said: “I often think about the other Mohamed Farah, the boy whose place I took on that plane and I really hope he’s OK.
“Wherever he is, I carry his name and that could cause problems now for me and my family.
“The important thing is for me to just be able to say “look, this is what’s happened” and just being honest, really.”
The documentary ends with Sir Mo speaking to the real Mohamed Farah whose identity he took entering the UK, before adding that he will continue to go by the name he was given when he entered the UK.
Sir Mo said: “Thank you so much, I use your name.
“I came here as a child and I just wanna say thank you and it’s been hard, difficult.”
Mr Farah replied: “It’s okay, you’re still my brother.”
Sir Mo said that it felt “amazing” to speak to his namesake, saying it was a “relief”.
He said: “I feel like something’s been lifted off my shoulders. But that’s just me. I don’t know how everyone’s gonna see it.”
The Real Mo Farah will aired at 6am on BBC iPlayer and 9pm on BBC One on Wednesday 13 July.
What has trafficking charity Unseen said?
After Sir Mo discussed his childhood and the circumstances in which he arrived in the UK, trafficking charity Unseen has said that calls have risen by 20%.
The charity told the BBC it had seen a 20% rise in calls and a 15% rise in overall contact since the report aired earlier this month.
Charity director Justine Carter told the broadcaster some callers had explicitly mentioned Sir Mo as a prompt for reaching out.
“It shows us that these types of high-profile stories really do have an impact with the public, and it’s resonating with those who might have spotted something concerning or might have been in a situation that’s similar to Sir Mo’s and the story that he told to the BBC,” she said.
“People feel very alone and isolated when they’re in that situation themselves, so knowing that somebody else has been a victim of this type of crime – and is still suffering from all of the experiences that they’ve had as a child – I think is really crucial.”