Today: May 22, 2024

Mo Farah: From Humble Beginnings

To master a sport is challenging enough, but to do so growing up in harsh conditions is exceptional – and demonstrates who really has what it takes to become a champion.

One man who launched himself from humble beginnings to worldwide stardom is five-time Olympic champion and British sporting legend Mo Farah. This summer, 25 years after moving to Britain from Djibouti, Mo won double gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The story of his life and success has been documented in Mo Farah: No Easy Mile. To celebrate the release of the documentary on DVD and Digital Download on December 5th, we take a look at Mo and some of his most lauded contemporaries, and the struggles they had to endure to reach the very top of their sport.

Mo Farah
The Brit who become a five-time Olympic gold medallist was born in poverty stricken Somalia before moving to Djibouti with his twin brother and mother. At the age of eight and barely able to speak a word of English, he moved to Britain to live with his Father in the London borough of Hounslow. His athletic talent was first spotted at his primary school by his PE teacher, who rigorously encouraged Mo to join the local athletics club, although Mo hoped to of become a mechanic or playing for Arsenal. It seems he was convinced to make the right choice though, as 12 years later he won gold at the Daegu World Championships, taking his first steps towards dominating the sport for many years.

Lebron James
Before he became America’s most iconic sportsman – claiming three NBA championship rings – Lebron James was struggling to find a home. His family were continually moving apartments in the seedier neighbourhoods of Akron, Ohio. His mother, Gloria, who was only 16 at the time, realised that this wasn’t the best environment to bring up a child and sent him away to live with the family of a local youth Football coach, Frank Walker. His new guardian introduced the now aptly named ‘King James’ to basketball which became a therapeutic way for him to cope with his challenging upbringing.

Diego Maradona
Another real rags-to-riches story is that of legendary Argentine soccer player, Diego Maradona. Diego grew up as one of six children in a very poor family living in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires. His father worked tirelessly to make sure Diego and his siblings never went without a meal, having to work through the early hours at a factory to do so.  After mastering his skills on the streets of his home city, Maradona eventually became one of the greatest footballers to play the game, becoming a club legend for Napoli and Barcelona, and winning the World Cup twice with Argentina.

Charlotte Dujardin
After winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin became Britain’s most successful Olympic equestrian with three gold medals and one silver medal. But Charlotte was not always part of the elite – she started her career in the stables, sweeping the pens and grooming the horses. After leaving school at only 16, she won the Horse Show of the Year competition and went on to train as an Olympian. Dujardin is a true example of how hard work and dedication can pay off in the end!

Muhammad Ali
Cassius Marcellus Clay was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942, to a family who were descended from of slaves and heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Once when Clay was still a small child, he was denied a drink of water in a food store because he was black, which had a profound effect of him, giving him the added desire to succeed against all adversity. When a thief stole his bike, Clay wanted to learn how to best “whup” the culprit; a police officer told him to take up boxing. Clay did so and went on to re-write history as the greatest boxer to ever step foot in the ring, beating heavyweights Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Forman. Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam in 1964, banishing his “slave name” and setting an example of racial pride and resistance to white domination in American at the time.

Mo Farah: No Easy Mile is out now on DVD and Digital Download.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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