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Superb Mo Farah … surely not the greatest British runner

There can be no argument. Lean, likeable and voluble Mo “I’ve got four children I miss so much” Farah is sheer poetry in motion. For once, the use of the word “awesome” is fully justified. So graceful, so strong and seemingly so effortless in his ability to shift up a gear and find the extra effort when it is most needed.
The commentators have run out of superlatives. For once they were almost at a loss for words – almost, but for the endless repetition of their barrel-load of adjectives. Inevitably there was the usual demand that he quickly joins Britain’s growing pantheon of knighted sportspeople.
The one grating aspect of this outpouring of awe and admiration is the most frequently applied tagline of “the greatest-ever British athlete”.
No, no, no. Correction, please. He is (arguably) the greatest athlete ever to represent Britain. True, he holds a British passport, having emigrated from Somalia at an early age. And he was educated here and grew up here. But his genes, which make him what he is as an athlete, are purely sub-Saharan. In other words he is on a par with the dominating force in middle to long-distance running – that seemingly endless flow of athletes emerging from Ethiopia, Kenya and other African countries.
It’s in their blood. Not only genetically, but in their lifestyle. They are born to run. There are no parental SUVs driving them to school, not even a school bus in many places. You run, even if school is some miles away. It is inherent to their lifestyle And in recent times it has become the key to a better life and financial security of a level these often impoverished rural communities could only dream of.
Mo Farah and those who know him well talk of his determination to succeed, of his drive, guts, staying power and all the other attributes needed to survive in the land of his birth.
And he has certainly shown all that in his endless pursuit of medals, championships and records.
All of which – and the success he has achieved – are to be greatly admired.
Without a doubt, he is the greatest sub-Saharan athlete ever to run for Britain. An athlete who mostly lives and trains overseas and makes occasional flying visits to wallow unashamedly in the adulation of the British crowds.
Oh for the days when Team GB was represented by true Brits – Chris Chataway, Gordon Pirie, Roger Bannister, Jim Peters, Seb Coe, Steve Cram, Chris Brasher and numerous others come to mind – who pitted their Anglo-Saxon genes against the bloodlines of the rest of the world.
It was an unequal contest and the medals were far fewer than the Rio 2016 haul. But one felt an affinity having trained and raced alongside them in everything the British weather could throw at us. They were one of us. Just like the gallant Andrew Butchart, who came in close behind Mo Farah in the 5000m and scarcely rated a mention. Or Callum Hawkins who did so well in the marathon.
Now the medals come in abundance but are often thanks to the efforts of those who have changed national allegiance.
Team GB is not alone in this; the sub-Saharans have become athletes for hire, pitching their tents wherever a country will welcome them into their team.
The same has happened in football where multi-millionaires swap clubs at the waving of a cheque-book. They have no affinity with the cities and towns their teams represent. No longer can one cheer on the local lads but merely hope these overpaid mercenaries decide to put on a good show.
But well done, Mo. Love your running. The greatest sub-Saharan of them all.

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