'No one chooses to come like this': Sir Mo Farah urges empathy for trafficking victims

Sir Mo Farah's retirement will be a busy one, ITV News' North of England Correspondent Rachel Townsend reports

Sir Mo Farah walked into a hotel in central Manchester this morning beaming his trademark smile.

No fuss, no entourage, he just put his hand out to greet us, saying “Hi, I’m Mo.”

For a man who has four Olympic gold medals and six World Championship titles, he has incredible humility. He spends much of our morning talking about the people who have helped him along the way.

He is in a reflective mood. Sunday’s Great Manchester Run will be his penultimate race ahead of his retirement in September.

Thousands will line to the streets to cheer him on, something he has never taken for granted.

Sir Mo Farah and his partner Tania at the Bafta TV awards. Credit: PA

“It’s what gives me energy. Honestly, without the support I don’t know where I’d be. And it’s come from everyone.

"I remember early on in my career, when I was European Champion I said to Sir Brendan Foster, ‘how am I going to make it on the world stage’ and he said, 'be patient Mo, just be patient and it will come'.

"And it’s things like that, little comments that people say to you that stick with you.”

Sir Mo showed patience. In his illustrious career he has achieved almost every accolade. He is the most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic history.

For Sir Mo, his first gold in London 2012 will be the one that sticks with him.

“As athletes, we always dream of winning an Olympics medal and for me to do it in front of my home crowd, in front of 75,000 people cheer for you on Super Saturday I always think back to that moment and that will be the moment.”

He will miss those moments, but he won’t have too much time to reflect on them.

Mo Farah with his gold medal following the Men's 10,000m final at the Olympics. Credit: PA

Sir Mo's retirement will be a busy one. He has four children and he will be in great demand.

“I’ve missed a lot. I used to be away, perhaps six months a year and so I missed birthdays and things but now I’m going to be so involved.

"I’ll do the school run, then gymnastics, sports, drama. I’m like, right, where are we going today?”

What makes Sir Mo’s success even more remarkable, is the trauma he suffered as a child. At the age of 8 or 9, his father was killed in the civil war in Somalia and he was trafficked illegally to the UK.

When he arrived, he was forced to change his name and work as a domestic servant. Last summer was the first time he spoke publicly about his ordeal.

“It wasn’t easy. It took me 30 years to come to terms with it. But what made me speak about it was my kids.

"I look at them and it’s unimaginable to think about them going through something like that. When I spoke out, they were the same age as I was when it happened.”

I asked him if he thought the UK had improved in their work protecting victims of child trafficking.

“We just need to see them as humans, like us. They’re vulnerable. No-one chooses to come like this, they’re kids and we should let them be kids.”

Mo Farah with wife Tania (left), daughter Rihanna (right) twins Aisha and Aman and son Hussein (bottom right) Credit: PA

More than anything, Mo wants to spend his retirement making a difference; to the lives of his own children and to the lives of children who have experienced suffering in their lives.

“They’re just kids, and kids have no choice. I’d love to be able to help kids that are vulnerable and change their lives.

"If it wasn’t for running that helped me, maybe I wouldn’t have become who I became.“

Sir Mo credits his success to his teachers, his coaches, his mentors.

But he is the one who has made the sacrifices, spent months away from his family, training in blistering heat in a bid to be and remain the best.

It has all paid off and on Sunday, on the streets of Manchester, the thousands of people he has inspired, will get a chance to say thank you.

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