'He locked that away': Mo Farah's PE teacher says athlete had to keep traumatic childhood a secret
ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia reports on Sir Mo Farah's revelation that he was trafficked to the UK as a child, which the Met has now opened an investigation into
Sir Mo Farah’s former PE teacher has said the athlete "locked away" his traumatic upbringing as a trafficked child in order to progress in sport.
The 39-year-old sports star revealed this week that he was trafficked into the UK aged nine under another child’s name.
Alan Watkinson, who kept his pupil's secret and helped find him a foster home, told Good Morning Britain the four-time Olympic champion had "no other option" but to keep quiet about his past.
"I think the progress he was making as an athlete, the knowledge that if this story came out at any particular time, what would that mean for him?" said Mr Watkinson.
"I believe he locked that away because he wanted to focus on the thing that drove him."
Mr Watkinson was asked if it was difficult to watch Sir Mo sell a story that was not true as his profile grew.
"It was really difficult, but he was in that situation where, really, he had no other option," he said.
The former teacher told Good Morning Britain how Sir Mo "came alive" during PE lessons because it was "the one enjoyment he had" and the "one way he could express himself".
He said: "I saw a very different side to him than other people saw. He was quite aggressive in his first year at school.
"He had no access to the curriculum because he couldn’t speak the language and he had a really, really difficult time."
He said that as a young teacher he would never have guessed his pupil's problems stemmed from him being trafficked and it was a "real bombshell" when Sir Mo confided in him.
Mr Watkinson, who helped his pupil obtain British citizenship, received an outpouring of love after the story aired in a BBC documentary, The Real Mo Farah.
Speaking about the Olympian's decision to reveal the truth after so many years, Mr Watkinson said: “I know a lot of his friends were saying to him, ‘Are you sure? Do you really want to do this? Can’t you just leave it alone? You’ve got a really nice life; this could cause you all sorts of problems.’
“But I know Mo. When he decides he wants to do something, he goes and does it, and more often than not his instinct is right.
“I knew from what he said to me he had to do it. It was something he was very, very exercised about.”
He said the father of four “has always been” the person portrayed in the documentary.
“I have known for a considerable part of his life he is such a generous and lovely guy. You always forgive him everything because he turns up with this big smile on his face and he is such engaging company, and I think you will probably see more of him now. The guard will be lifted,” Mr Watkinson said.
He does not think Sir Mo is “looking for retribution” following the launch of a police investigation into his trafficking, he added.
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