Sir Mo Farah served up some of the most indelible images of British sporting success, not least when he stormed to Olympic 10,000 metres gold at London 2012 to round off an historic ‘Super Saturday’.
Yet even his athletics heroics pale compared to the adversity he overcame to reach the track at all, and which were given a remarkable twist in a candid documentary he filmed with the BBC this month.
In it, Farah revealed he was not Mo Farah at all, and that he was brought to Britain from Somalia illegally having assumed the name of another child, after his father was killed in the war.
It presents another extraordinary perspective to the story of the 39-year-old, which post-2012 has incorporated a non-stop reel of race wins and celebrity appearances shaped around his famous ‘Mobot’ victory celebration.
He adopted it after it was suggested by presenter Clare Balding and then named by James Corden on TV show A League of Their Own just two months before the London Games.
A year after his success in London, Farah became a double world and Olympic champion after victory in the 10,000m and 5,000m at the World Championships in Moscow, the first British athlete to win two individual gold medals at the Worlds.
In 2014 he stepped up to the marathon for the first time, coming eighth in London but continued to shine on the track, defending his world titles in 2015.
All roads then led to Rio with Farah completing a historic double double by defending his London titles – despite falling in the 10,000m.
“After the 10k my legs were a bit tired, and I don’t know how I recovered. I had to take an ice bath and stay in my room, there were people bringing me food in my room and I was just resting up.
“I can’t believe I did it. I did it! It’s every athlete’s dream, as I said… I can’t believe it, it hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Back in the Olympic Stadium in 2017 he won another 10,000m world title and came second in the 5,000m in London before announcing his retirement from the track to focus on the marathon.
Yet, aside from a victory in the Chicago race in 2018, he failed to convince.
At the start of his marathon career he also split from controversial Alberto Salazar amid a US anti-doping investigation into the coach.
“I’m not leaving the Nike Oregon Project and Alberto Salazar because of the doping allegations,” Farah said at the time. “This situation has been going on for over two years. If I was going to leave because of that I would have done.
“As I’ve always said, I’m a firm believer in clean sport and I strongly believe that anyone who breaks the rules should be punished. If Alberto had crossed the line, I would be out the door but Usada has not charged him with anything. If I had ever had any reason to doubt Alberto, I would not have stood by him all this time.”
A return to the track to defend his 10,000m title was announced in 2019 and, while the 12-month coronavirus delay to the Tokyo Games gave him more time, it also left him a year older.
At the official trials in Birmingham Farah failed to hit the qualification mark, finishing 22 seconds adrift, and a hastily arranged race at the Manchester Regional Arena was his final chance.
As the stadium got quieter – with the PA slowly stopping announcing his lap times – it quickly became apparent Farah would not achieve his goal and in the immediate aftermath he hinted retirement was on his mind. Yet it would prove only the start of his incredible story.