Wednesday 22 May 2019

Mo Farah sent to back of queue while boarding flight home from Rio, his wife claims

Runner Mo Farah with wife Tania and daughter Rhianna, who holds his new gold medal.
Runner Mo Farah with wife Tania and daughter Rhianna, who holds his new gold medal.

Luke Heighton

The wife of four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah has spoken of her pain at being the victim of racist abuse, after they were prevented from boarding a plane during their journey home from Rio.

In an exclusive interview with Radhika Sanghani in The Sunday Telegraph, Tania Farah said the couple first experienced racism while growing up in London in the 1980s – but that the problem had not gone away.

The latest shocking incident occurred last month, as the family were preparing to board a plane home just two days after Mo’s triumph in the 5,000 metre event, his second gold of the 2016 Games.

Ms Farah, 30, described how, despite his global fame, a flight attendant refused to recognise that her husband, 33, had a business class ticket.

She said: “This woman basically humiliated him until people came forward and said: ‘That’s Mo Farah, the Olympic champion…’ She was mortified afterwards, but had basically yelled at him like he was a piece of s--- to get back into line.

“He was the only black person [in the queue] and hadn’t done anything to warrant it. I just knew she had a problem with him.”

Witnesses later claimed Mrs Farah called the Delta Airlines worker “f******* pathetic”, told her she led a “sad little life”, and was being “disrespectful”, before demanding an apology.

The incident is alleged to have taken place on August 22, as the Farah’s waited to board a 9.35am connecting flight from Atlanta, Georgia to their home in Portland, Oregon.

Mr Farah, whom witnesses said was carrying a Team GB holdall while Mrs Farah’s daughter from a previous relationship, Rhianna, 11, clutched a Pride the lion Team GB mascot.

They were asked to wait until all passengers at the gate had boarded, with Mrs Farah was heard to complain about the “f****** problems on this f***** airline”.

A Delta Airlines spokesman declined to comment on the alleged incident, but said the company “takes precautions to protect customer data and information”.

It is understood the family were finally allowed onto the aeroplane when a second official intervened. Once aboard, they were applauded by passengers.

In her candid interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mrs Farah, who like her husband is a Muslim, expresses her hopes that the family will one day be able to visit the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, considered holy in Islam.

But despite Mo’s huge success – which has led to calls for him to be granted a knighthood - she revealed she is still nervous of discussing her religious faith for fear of how others might perceive her.

“Religion is important to us despite how it might look, " she explained. "We don’t pray five times a day, but we certainly follow the main fundamentals of the religion, especially for our kids.

“I’m sometimes a bit wary of telling people I’m a Muslim because I’m worried of how they might view me. It sounds terrible because I should be proud and I am, but I’m also conscious of how we’re viewed nowadays.”

She added: “Being called a lady sound so hilarious to me, because I’ve never been called a lady by anyone. It’s a huge honour – it goes without saying".

Mo and Tania Farah will take part in the Great North Run in Newcastle on Sunday.

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