Back home in the UK, no one’s smile was wider and prouder than Alan Watkinson’s. A PE teacher at Feltham Community College, the school Farah attended in west London, Watkinson introduced him to athletics and became a huge influence. How the two met is an epic story in itself.
Farah’s father, Muktar, had moved the family from Somalia: first to neighbouring Djibouti and then – when Farah was eight – to London. Muktar was a businessman based in London and had met Farah’s mother on a holiday to Somalia. Life was relatively comfortable for the family in Somalia but, as violent kidnappings became more commonplace as part of the civil strife in Mogadishu, he decided the family should leave.
Farah arrived in London knowing only three phrases in English: “Excuse me”, “Where’s the toilet?” and “Come on then”. The last of them secured him a black eye when he challenged the playground bully shortly after he arrived at his Hounslow school. The language barrier also cost Farah success in school cross-country races as, not understanding the signs, he would follow the wrong directions.
Over the years, Watkinson had to cajole Farah – a fervent Arsenal supporter – to focus on athletics. As a compromise, the young Gooner was allowed to play football only if he promised to fulfil his running commitments later. Pupil and teacher remained close long after Farah left school. Watkinson was even best man at Mo and Tania’s wedding two years ago.
Support has also come from Paula Radcliffe, Britain’s marathon world record holder, who was so impressed by Farah’s commitment when they met at national team training camps that she paid for driving lessons to make it easier for him to get to sessions at his local track in Teddington, south-west London.
And just as others have helped him, so he wants to lend a hand, too. Farah returned to Somalia late last year. For Tania and Rhianna, it was a first visit – making a lasting impression. “There were parents cradling starving children,” says Farah. “Mothers were forced to choose which children to save and which to leave at the side of the road.”
Using his new status as a world champion, he was moved to set up the Mo Farah Foundation, with the aim of providing short-term relief while seeking sustainable solutions.
His faith is part of what shapes Farah the man and the athlete. As a committed Muslim, he observes Ramadan, but he has had to make adjustments to suit his ambitions. He will delay fasting, as he did for the world championships at around the same time last year, “making up the days”, as he puts it, after the Olympics have finished.
Victories at London 2012 would deepen the impact Farah can make off the track. No British athlete has ever won the Olympic title over 5,000m or 10,000m, let alone both, with Mike McLeod’s silver over 10,000 in 1984 the best finish. The statistic is a measure of the challenge facing Farah.
After last Saturday's victory, “Mo fever” has taken hold and Farah has a chance to join Usain Bolt as one of the poster boys of the Games. Both men are managed by Irish race agent Ricky Simms, who says Farah has the potential to be Britain’s Bolt.
Farah’s sporting hero Muhammad Ali once said: “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
Mo Farah has done it in the gym and out there on the road. Now it’s time to dance once more.
Mike Costello is 5 Live Athletics correspondent
Mo Farah runs in the Men's 5,000m Final at 7:30pm, BBC1, BBC Olympics 1