Olympic star Mo Farah is now setting his sights on yet another new goal; getting the country's children active. Jaine Blackman finds out more
Champion athlete, and national hero Mo Farah might be giving his legs a well-deserved rest after running his first marathon, but he is not easing up on being an inspiration to the nation’s children.
The long-distance runner, who won two gold medals at the London Olympics and recently finished eighth in the London Marathon, is fronting a new campaign designed to encourage children to get active and take part in sport.
Earlier this year Oxford’s Roger Bannister, who celebrates the 60th anniversary of breaking the four-minute mile at Iffley Road Track, on May 6, spoke of his joy at being an inspiration to youngsters.
Now a new running star is being used to head a drive which comes as a survey shows that over half (55 per cent) of the children questioned said they’d like to play more sport at school, with 47 per cent willing to extend their school day to do it.
This could benefit the activity levels of mums and dads too, as 60 per cent of parents questioned in the Weetabix poll said watching their kids play sport encouraged them to play more themselves – although perhaps that could be because half admit they played more sport in their youth than their child currently does.
Farah, a father-of-three, says: “I was very active as a child in Somalia – kids out there are running around all day, but in the UK, kids aren’t nearly as active as they can be.
“As parents, it’s our responsibility to inspire kids and get them as active as we can.”
The 31-year-old hopes children will be encouraged to get involved in sport by fronting the Weetabix Ultimate Sports Day campaign, which is inviting children to design a unique and exciting obstacle they’d like to see at their own sports day. Two winners will then see their creations come to life at a day of sport at the Olympic Park this summer.
It’s hoped the initiative will recapture some of the enthusiasm for sport created by the 2012 London Olympics. Certainly, Farah happily recalls the Olympic spirit of that Super Saturday, when he, heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and long-jumper Greg Rutherford all won gold medals.
“We didn’t start off being the best when we were young though,” Farah points out.
“It was years of hard work and dedication to get to the top, and it’s important that we point young kids in the right direction.
“Kids need to start young in sport, and as a result of the Olympics we might have a few champions in the future.
“The legacy still goes on, but the Olympics only come round once every four years, and obviously things die down as time goes on, and what we’re doing with campaigns like this is stressing that the Olympic memory is not to be forgotten.”
The Weetabix survey found that just under one in five (18 per cent) of the children questioned blamed general tiredness for preventing them from playing more sport, while a worrying 15 per cent said they didn’t play more because they got their sport fix from playing on games consoles.
Farah’s twin daughters Aisha and Amani, who will be two in August, are a little too young to be fixated by computer games, but his stepdaughter Rihanna, who’s nearly nine, enjoys them like all other kids her age.
“In the past, kids were running around more, but now they’ve got Playstations and Xboxes – there are so many different distractions for them that I think sometimes, as parents, we forget what we need to do to get them active,” says Farah.
“Even as a parent myself, the kids like to go on the iPad but I take them to the park where they can run around.”
He says Rihanna loves computer games, but he makes her jog a mile or two a day, or go swimming, as well.
“It’s my duty to make sure she stays active and healthy,” he says.
“She’s not a big fan of running, she prefers swimming, but it’s about getting exercise and getting them active – it doesn’t matter what sort.”
More details at ultimatesportsday.co.uk