DOUBLE Olympic champion Mo Farah takes on Ethiopian great Haile Gebrselassie in the Bupa Great North Run on September 16.
This mouth-watering clash with British Olympic hero Farah pitched against the two-time Olympic 10,000 metres champion is bound to bring the crowds onto the streets.
Among them will be friend and former foe Malcolm Hassan, who clashed many times with Farah on the track and over the country when they were schoolboys.
Over the years, Farah has visited the Hassan’s home in Red House on numerous occasions, and it was only last year that he paid his last visit and spent time training along the coast from Seaburn to South Shields.
Hassan, whose grandfather arrived in this country from the Yemen in the 1930s, was in the Olympic stadium to watch the 10,000m after Farah’s wife Tania invited him down to Stratford.
“It was really a nice gesture. To be in the stadium to watch Mo winning the 10,000 was unbelievable. The atmosphere was electric. It’s a memory that will live with me forever,’’ he said.
Shortly after the race Hassan joined up with Farah and they went to the Nike block where he was introduced to Carl Lewis, the nine-time Olympic gold medallist, and Farah’s coach Alberto Salazar.
The chit-chat went on for longer than expected and Hassan missed the last bus home to Sunderland. Farah said not to worry as he would take him to the station to catch a train.
“I said to Mo he couldn’t go out there as he would be mobbed,’’ added Hassan.
“But he put his hood up and dark glasses on and ventured outside. Very few people noticed him but one woman from a pub invited us in to watch the Olympics, not knowing who he was!’’
Hassan’s father, also named Malcolm, was a firm supporter of Farah when he was an up and coming youngster and has on video most of his English Schools’ triumphs and other successes. Indeed, Farah has spent many an evening or two at Red House viewing the footage of his early days in the sport.
On one of the videos, Malcolm senior holds an impromptu interview with Farah, aged 14, after he won the English Schools’ cross country championship at Chepstow race course and asked the youngster what his ambitions are: “To be an Olympic champion,’’ he said.
Farah never forgets his friends or people who have had a significant impact on his life since arriving from Somalia at the age of eight, as can be seen when he had his former teacher Alan Watkinson as his best man at his wedding. The Hassans were also there.
In 1996, at the age of 13, Farah entered the English Schools’ cross country and finished ninth. The following year he won the first of five English Schools’ titles.
“He always got the better of me,’’ admitted Hassan, whose flourishing career was brought to a premature end by an accident at the age of just 21.
Farah and Hassan cemented their friendship further at an Olympic squad training camp in Florida at the ages of 17.
But a year later their paths took a different turn. While Farah rapidly became a great force over the middle distances, Hassan departed on an American athletics scholarship for Utah Valley State University.
Shortly after that, he fell off a trampoline and dislocated his shoulder and that is when his problems started. Eventually he decided to call it a day.
Now the 30-year-old keeps fit by going out for the occasional run.
With the Olympic 5000m on the following Saturday, there was another surprise for the Hassans, as the whole family – Malcolm senior and his wife Caron and sons Malcolm and Michael –were all invited down to London after Farah had managed to purchase hard to find tickets for the four. He also booked them into a hotel so that they could fully enjoy their Olympic experience.
And, after Farah completed his remarkable double, the Hassans’ London Olympics, will be etched in their minds forever.