Tokyo 2020 - ‘Don’t let them hold you back’ - Mo Farah on dealing with racism in sport
The four-time Olympic champion says he has sometimes questioned why he sometimes gets negative press attention, which he says can be “harsh” at times in the UK. Farah says he has never experienced racism first hand in athletics, but believes sport can help break down divisions and hopes discrimination will be eradicated in his children’s lifetime.
Britain’s four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah admits he has sometimes questioned why he gets negative press but says nothing makes him prouder than to pull on a GB vest.
The distance runner is returning to the track at Tokyo 2020 after focusing on road racing, and marathons in particular, following his double success in Rio.
But with racism and discrimination in sport a heavy focus at the moment, particularly following a recent social media boycott which started in football but went beyond, Farah was asked whether he gets fair coverage.
“Sometimes people react differently,” Farah told Presenting.
“Different journalists write different things, it depends on how they see it. I was given a chance in life, I was born in Somalia and grew up in the UK and worked hard, I love making my country proud and for me it’s an honour when I put on the GB vest.
People will see it differently and say I came to this country, I wasn’t speaking English, I couldn’t do this, I can’t get in the system and try and create an obstacle.
“I was lucky that I was given that chance and I’ve got to make the most of it. But sometimes in ourselves, we can be harsh, in the UK particularly.
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Farah also reflected on whether black success is celebrated as much as white counterparts, and he concedes he has not always understood why certain angles are taken when journalists write about him.
“A lot of times I’ve questioned myself, I’ve questioned whether it’s something I’ve done,” he said.
“Sometimes there are things in the news which are not the truth. People take it as the truth, you always have to make those people understand the truth and it’s difficult, because once you start to explain yourself it just causes more things.
I just think that’s just how it is, just go and do your stuff and do what you do best and don’t let them wear you down and don’t let them cause a problem in your life.
“As long as we can continue to have that positive mindset, I think we will overcome it, but particularity in the UK it's a lot harder.
“But at the same time, don’t let them hold you back, do what you need to do and stay positive.”
Farah says he has never experienced racism in track and field, but believes the coronavirus pandemic has shown why sport can be a force for good.
“Sport is so powerful, the Olympics was designed to bring all continents together.
“If they can do that, why can’t we do that with sport? We need sport, sport brings everyone together and I think without sport, it would be a lonely place.”