After winning two gold medals at London 2012 and becoming father to twin daughters just two weeks later, Mo Farah has had a year he’ll never forget.
“It has been incredible,” the long-distance runner tells hello! as he cradles his beautiful dark- haired baby girls.
“I dreamt of becoming an Olympic champion and to do it twice in your home country with a stadium of 80,000 people shouting your name… It doesn’t get better than that.”
Mo – who was born in Somalia, but left the war-torn country when he was eight – gives us his famous beaming smile. “You train so hard and at that moment when you reach the finish line it’s hard to believe it.
“Then for my wife to have two healthy little girls, well, there’s no way to describe it.”
His wife Tania agrees: “It’s like a fairytale. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”
THE A TEAM
The couple, who married in 2010, are proudly introducing their golden girls to the world exclusively in hello! – and, for the first time, revealing their daughters’ names.
“Twin one, the eldest, is Aisha,” says Tania, 26. “Twin two is Amani.” The non-identical girls, who the couple say have inherited Mo’s long limbs, were born by emergency Caesarean just two minutes apart.
How did they decide on those names? “We wanted some free stuff from Armani,” quips Mo before the couple explain that they wanted Muslim names that began with the same initial.
Mo will have his daughters’ names inscribed on his gold medals, saying they gave him the determination to do the 10,000m and 5,000m double. “All the way, I was thinking, ‘I want to do something special for my girls.’ I knew the eldest one would have her name on the 10,000m medal, then I was thinking, ‘The other one must have something.’”
While 29-year-old Mo was spurred on by personal motives, millions around the world shared his joy. In Britain alone, 17.1 million people tuned in to watch his 10,000m win on “Super Saturday”. His elation as he crossed the finishing line was followed by some of the most emotive scenes of London 2012 as his six-year- old daughter Rhianna ran onto the track and into his embrace.
When he celebrated his triumphs by holding his arms in an “M” shape, it was quickly dubbed the Mobot and was soon trending worldwide.
And famous faces were queuing up to add their congratulations, with Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson among his high-profile fans.
His name is now used alongside the word “legend”, but Mo won’t let the success go to his head. Tania, who met him when he was 14, says he is “still the same as when he was at school”.
The delightfully warm and laid- back couple are renting a flat in Teddington, south-west London. In the autumn they’ll return to the US, where Mo has been training hard since last year, with their three girls. It has been a long, hard road but the sacrifices have clearly been worth it, with Mo standing to make an estimated £2million in sponsorship.
As Mo blows kisses on Aisha’s cheek, calls her “bubba” and holds her close, the couple talk to hello! about their double Olympic and baby joy, and how the little girls followed in Dad’s record- breaking footsteps with their own speedy arrival… Mo, congratulations on your twins. What was it like when your daughters were born?
“It’s weird because in running, you train for it and you know how to deal with it. It’s nerve-racking but you learn how to cope with the nerves. With this I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I was nervous. And you can’t do anything to help.” Tania: “I didn’t know you were nervous. That’s the first time I’ve heard you say that.”
Tell us about the girls’ early arrival…
T: “My waters broke at 1.30am last Friday, just under six weeks before my due date. It was panic stations – I was throwing things into a bag while Mo was trying to wake Rhianna up and get her dressed. I kept saying, ‘I’m really scared.’ Mo then drove really quickly.”
Mo: “She was telling me to slow down… ” T: “I just wanted to get there safely. I was hoping to have a natural birth, that’s what I had with Rhianna, but both babies were breech and it was too risky to deliver them naturally. They had to rush me in to perform an emergency C-section. It happened so quickly. It was literally an hour and a half between my waters breaking and the babies arriving at 3.10 and 3.12am.”
Who held your daughters first?
M: “I cut the umbilical cord and held them. It was amazing. Before they were born, I couldn’t really imagine what they would be like. But these two little lives come out and you are like, ‘Wow!’ I just had a big, big smile.”
Did you get emotional?
M: “I don’t really get emotional.” T: “We were both really excited and so happy. He was almost bouncing- off-the-walls excited. The first baby came out and they took her over to be weighed and checked and Mo was all over the place. Then they had to call him back because the second one was coming. He didn’t know what to do with himself. I was just laughing. He was like a kid in the candy shop.” Were you worried the babies might be born during the Olympics? (In unison) “Yes!” T: “One doctor was convinced I would go into labour before Mo ran his first race. He said, ‘Prepare yourself, you are going into labour in two weeks,’ which would have been 12 weeks early. I was beside myself. I didn’t want it to affect Mo’s preparation. At one point, it looked like I might give birth and have to hide it from Mo.” How would you have hidden that? T: “Rhianna and I were staying at our flat in Teddington while
Mo was in the Olympic Village, so we were speaking on the phone.” M: “If I’d heard the babies crying in the background, she was going to pretend it was a cat miaowing!”
T: “We joked about it. But I said to Mo’s agent Ricky that there was a chance it might happen and we would have to keep it from Mo. We decided that if I went into labour anywhere up to a week before the Olympics I could tell him; if not, I wouldn’t. So it was a massive relief when that didn’t happen.”
M: “It would have affected me, and the Olympics doesn’t come around a lot. This was my one and only chance to nail a home Olympics.”
T: “It would have been hard to talk to him every day and pretend there weren’t two babies in the background, but that was the sacrifice. It was Mo’s best chance ever. I thought for the sake of holding on a couple of weeks, it was worth it.”
Did you worry that the drama of being in the stadium during Mo’s races could have triggered early labour? T: “Funnily enough, I was actually pretty calm throughout it all. I was trying to maintain some level of serenity for the sake of the babies. The nerves did get to me – I was probably feeling as nervous as Mo was. But I wasn’t getting too worked
up and jumping up and down or cheering. I was trying to keep as calm as possible.” There were emotional scenes when you and Rhianna went onto the track… “Initially, Rhianna ran on and I was waiting for her to come off, but the officials waved me to go onto the track – I think for me to go and collect her! It was a spur-of-the moment thing. I was just focused on seeing Mo, so I sort of forgot where we were and how many people are watching. It wasn’t until afterwards that we realised the whole country – in fact quite a lot of the world – was watching. If I’d realised that before, I probably wouldn’t have gone on.”
What was that moment like for you, Mo?
“It was really emotional when Rhianna ran over and gave me a hug. Then seeing Tania was awesome; just amazing. All you do is just share with your family, which has gone through your ups and downs with you. I just said, ‘Rhianna, do you want to come with me on the lap of honour?’ and she said, ‘No, it’s too noisy.’”
You seem to have a good relationship with Rhianna… M: “I sometimes spoil her a bit as she has been an only child. A lot of the time I am away from her. We have a good laugh. Sometimes I can be a friend, sometimes I can be a dad – a bit of everything.”
Mo, you won a two-mile race in Birmingham two days after the twins were born. Did you think you might miss that event?
“I wanted to be at their birth and the Olympics was the big one, so I would have missed it.” T: “If he’d been in Birmingham when I went into labour, he wouldn’t have made it back in time. But everything fell into place perfectly.”
You must have been tired for that race, Mo? “I went to a press conference and I had big black circles under my eyes and looked liked I’d been in the ring with Mike Tyson. It was really hard to motivate myself because I’d just left two little kids in hospital and I wanted to get back as quickly as possible. I didn’t get to the hospital until 11.30pm that night, and we ended up staying up until 6am before packing to come home.” When you discovered you were expecting, had you thought it might be twins?
M: “I’m a twin and it runs in Tania’s family.” T: “My uncle and aunt are twins
but it was still a surprise. We hadn’t really planned to get pregnant then. We always said we wanted kids after the Olympics, because Mo is all over the place training and never at home.”
You came to Britain after fleeing war-torn Somalia, Mo. Does your background give you perspective? “Yeah, for sure. I was eight when I came to Britain to start a new life. It does give you that attitude because you know to work for it and not to just get given everything. I think my drive comes from there.” You were separated from your twin brother then, when you came to live in the UK with your father. Your brother recently gave a newspaper interview… M: “He did it with good intentions but maybe people took advantage of him. He was vulnerable.”
T: “He lives in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere and doesn’t know anything about the media and he got nothing out of it. But it has happened now and it’s not the end of the world.”
M: “It wasn’t the ideal way for it to come out. We intended to talk about it at some point. I didn’t want it to take away from what I’ve done or been working so hard towards.”
Would you like to take your daughters to Africa?
M: “Yeah. I will definitely go back. We took Rhianna there last October and it really opened her eyes. I do treat her well but, at the same time, she has to know what people out there don’t have. That’s one reason why we set up the Mo Farah Foundation, to help those facing starvation and disease in East Africa. I just want to support kids out there and give them that opportunity. There will be babies born in Somalia today and their parents won’t be able to afford to look after them, so they will get put on someone’s doorstep.”
T: “We are so lucky to be in the situation we are with food and a roof over our heads.” Mo, did you ring your family in Somalia when the twins were born?
“Yeah. When I was telling my mum that Tania had a
C-section, she was like, ‘Why did you let her?’ She was panicking. They don’t have anything like that. For my family, a Caesarean is unheard of. That’s why a lot of pregnant women have trouble because they don’t have access to the same medical help.”
Tania, what is Mo like as a father?
“He’s really hands on – more than I thought he would be. We keep the twins in cribs on either side of the bed. During the night, if the baby on his side wakes up he’ll get up and hold her for a little bit if I’m holding the other one. One of the things I was looking forward to was seeing Mo with his babies.”
Mo, do you have a special bond with your twin? “While we didn’t grow up in the same country, we still have that connection.”
T: “We’d like the girls to do everything they can together.” Can you see their personalities already?
T: “I noticed it pretty much on day one. One wants a bit more attention while the other will just wake up when she wants feeding and go back to sleep.”
M: “Aisha is the chilled-out one. She’s like me.” How will you ensure that Mo’s sleep isn’t disrupted when he’s training? T: “We’re trying to avoid him losing any sleep. He has still got an important race in a couple of weeks [the half-marathon at the Great North Run, in Newcastle] and the season isn’t over yet. So most nights, I’ve been coming into the lounge to feed them, then slipping back into the bedroom in the early hours. We’re just about managing. I’m quite happy to be up during the night, so the key is for me to try to get some sleep during the day.” What has Mo mania been like for you both?
T: “Overnight, everything changed. He can’t go anywhere without being recognised, which is a bit surreal.” M: “I didn’t realise how big it was until I got back home. We’ll be in Tesco, doing things normal people do, and people will go, ‘Mo, what are you doing here?’ I’m like, ‘I’ve just come in to buy my milk and Frosties.’”
Fans have been queuing to have their photos taken with the postboxes painted gold in your honour… M: “We’ve driven past people doing the Mobot and having their picture taken next to the postbox and, just for a laugh, I’ve wound the window down and stuck my head out.”
T: “People go ‘Oh my God, it’s him, it’s him!’” Have you had your photo taken next to one?
T: “We managed to get one of Mo with it… It was at night, but just a more mature version.”
Your Muslim faith is clearly important to you both… T: “I think that really helps. Mo is grounded anyway, but the religion helps. He doesn’t take things for granted or see himself as superior to anyone… That’s why Mo is so popular, because he is so humble and doesn’t let success or failure affect him.”
M: “I still call my old PE teacher ‘Sir’. I’ve kept in touch with him, but I’ve always called him that.” Would you like more children?
(In unison) “Oh yeah.” M: “I’d be happy if we had twin boys.” T: “We were talking about it in hospital. Even before I’d given birth, Mo was talking about the next one. I was like, ‘Get these out of the way first!’” M: “I want a boy to take to football matches and teach how to be a good person, do some manly stuff, give him the talk about the ladies, the whole lot.” You seem blissfully happy with your family… T: “Although the tiredness is a real killer and it’s very demanding, it’s worth it. I’ve loved every minute of it. I just look at them sometimes and think, ‘Wow, you were in my belly last week, the two of you.’” M: “I’m looking forward to the first words they say and playing around with them. I’m just a big kid myself, to be honest. I’m looking forward to seeing them grow up. I just feel very lucky.”