Many of the sporting elite have had to overcome unthinkable obstacles to achieve incredible feats in their careers. To be able to master a sport is challenging in itself, but to do so growing up in particularly harsh and unflattering conditions is exceptional and demonstrates who has what it takes to become a champion.
One man who launched himself from humble beginnings to worldwide stardom is five-time Olympic champion and British sporting legend Mo Farah. This summer, 25 years after moving to Britain from Djibouti, Mo won double gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The story of his life and success has been documented in Mo Farah: No Easy Mile. To celebrate the release of the documentary on DVD and Digital Download on December 5th, we take a look at Mo and some of his most lauded contemporaries, and the struggles they had to endure to reach the very top of their sport.
The Brit who has recently become a five-time Olympic gold medallist was born in poverty stricken Somalia before moving to Djibouti with his twin brother and mother. At the early age of 8 years old and barely able to speak a word of English, he moved to Britain to live with his Father, Mukhtar Farah, who resided in the London borough of Hounslow. His athletic talent was first spotted at his primary school by his PE teacher, who rigorously encouraged Mo to join the local athletics club, although Mo had intentions of becoming a mechanic or playing for Arsenal Football Club as a winger. It seems he was convinced to make the right choice though, as 12 years later he won gold at the Daegu World Championships, taking his first steps towards dominating the sport for many years.
Before he became America’s most iconic sportsman and claiming three NBA championship rings, Lebron James was struggling to find a home, as his family were continually moving apartments every few months in the seedier neighbourhoods of Akron, Ohio. His mother, Gloria, who was only 16 at the time, realised that this wasn’t the best environment to bring up a child and sent him away to live with the family of a local youth Football coach Frank Walker. His new guardian introduced the now aptly named ‘King James’ to basketball which became a therapeutic way for him to cope with his challenging upbringing, and put his effort into a sport that he eventually ended up mastering, and becoming a global superstar.
Another real rags-to-riches story is that of legendary Argentine soccer player, Diego Maradona – a player who came from nothing and achieved numerous wonders. Diego grew up as one of six children in a very poor family living in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires. His father worked tirelessly to make sure Diego and his siblings never went without a meal, having to work through the early hours at a factory to do so. After mastering his skills on the streets of his home city, Maradona eventually became one of the greatest footballers to play the game, becoming a club legend for Napoli and Barcelona, and winning the World Cup twice with Argentina.
After winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin became Britain’s most successful Olympic equestrian with three gold medals and one silver medal to her name. But Charlotte was not always in line to become part of the elite, as she started her career not out on the arena floor but back in the stables, sweeping the pens and grooming the horses before she ever got the chance to compete. But after following her dream and leaving school at only 16, she won the Horse Show of the Year competition and went on to train as an Olympian. Dujardin is a true example of how hard work and dedication can pay off in the end!
Cassius Marcellus Clay was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942, to a family who were decedents from slaves and heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s amid the racial segregation of that time. Once when Clay was still a small child, he was denied a drink of water in a food store because he was black, which had a profound effect of him, giving him the added desire to succeed against all adversity. When a thief stole his bike, Clay wanted to learn how to best “whup” the culprit; a police officer told him to take up boxing. Clay did so and went on to re-write history as the greatest boxer to ever step foot in the ring, beating heavyweights Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Forman and become an icon for African Americans during a time of racial division. Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam in 1964, banishing his “slave name” and setting an example of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
Mo Farah: No Easy Mile is out now on DVD and Digital Download