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Mahamed Mahamed: Mo Farah-inspired distance runner looking to emulate idol

Mahamed Mahamed

Mahamed Mahamed is a distance runner with his sights firmly set on not only emulating his sporting idol’s achievements, but surpassing them.

Like Mo Farah, Mahamed’s story has many similarities. Until 2011, Ethiopia was home to one of British Athletics’ rising stars before he and his family emigrated to England.

Now 21, and living and studying in Southampton, he is hoping to have similar tales to tell as Farah, who himself emigrated from Somalia and has already handed on some key advice.

Having come to attention in recent years on the road and cross-country events, a full-time move to the track and the double of 5,000 and 10,000 metres is on the horizon for Mahamed.

Comparisons are inevitably being drawn between himself and Farah, who inspired the former to make a career in athletics as he watched his double gold medal-winning at exploits at London 2012 on television.

From chasing away wolves to chasing medals

“I remember watching the likes of Mo and Jess Ennis and thinking this is amazing, it’s something I want to do,” said Mahamed.

Back then, Mahamed had only lived in the UK for about a year and athletics was merely something he had shown promise in at school.

Swapping Ethiopia for Southampton at the age of 14 was to prove a move that would open his life to numerous opportunities while exposing him to a different culture.

“My father and my uncle moved over before me and then we managed to get me sponsored to come over in 2011,” recalled Mahamed.

Mahamed Mahamed

“Life was very different over there. I used to look after a family herd of sheep and one of the challenges was having to protect them, chasing wolves away at night.”

Mahamed’s main challenges now are juggling training with studying a degree in sports coaching and sports development at Southampton Solent University.

“It was a hard decision to leave Ethiopia in the first instance, I didn’t speak any English when I first arrived,” he told BBC South Today. “I couldn’t even say hello.

“It’s taken time to get used to the language, the culture and the environment. The weather and the climate are certainly a bit different.

“I’d never seen snow in my life until the first year here. I thought it might be sugar or salt on the ground until my dad told me otherwise.

“I went outside to play in it with my brother and that’s when I first realised how cold snow can be and how cold it can get here.”

‘Are you the new Mo?’

Snow is seemingly no distraction for Mahamed now as his recent notable achievements have come on the cross-country and road racing circuit, competing in the chilliest of wintry conditions and strengthening his place in the British Athletics squad.

“It’s a great experience to be part of it, it’s a different level and a different competition,” he said.

Farah himself has crossed paths with Mahamed several times since they first met at a training camp in 2014.

Mahamed Mahamed and Mo Farah

Double-double Olympic champion Farah has even asked if he will soon find himself in the company of ‘the new Mo’.

“Every time we meet, his advice is always to make sure I listen to my coaches and keep my focus on what I’m doing,” said Mahamed. “He’s done a lot of good things for the sport and to be able to follow in his footsteps would be incredible.”

Exciting times lie ahead for Mahamed both at university as he continues to study and train on a high-performance scholarship, while 2019 will feature the World Cross-County Championships in Aarhus, Denmark and the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

He hopes both will be key stepping stones to Tokyo 2020 and the dream that first ignited when he watched the events of London 2012.

“For the next few years I just want to focus on becoming an Olympian,” he said. “The eventual aim is to be better than Mo Farah. It’s important to aim high.

“If I can follow this dream, then I think I can change my life and my family’s, which would be amazing considering where we’ve come from.

“I just want to be a role model for young kids and make sure that they follow the right path.”

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BBC Sport – Athletics

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