HE could be an Olympic champion by this evening, but Mo Farah had to settle for second best the first time he raced.
The occasion was a district schools cross country race starting at Heston School, but Farah crossed the line in second behind a lad called Aaron Wilkes, who was in his year at Feltham Community College.
Farah has since gone on to become European and World 10,000m champion – as well as being the best in Europe, and second best in the world, over 5,000m – and bids for his first Olympic medal in tonight's 10k final.
And while the man who discovered him at Feltham, Alan Watkinson, was best man at Farah's wedding last year, the boy who beat him that day in Heston is now off the PE teacher's radar.
Watkinson said: “I remember the race well. Mo came in on Aaron's shoulder but was taken by surprise a bit. They were both well clear of the pack. Mo went on to finish fourth in the County Championships that year, while Aaron came 11 th .
“Aaron had real talent too, but perhaps didn't have the same dedication as Mo. I've no idea where Aaron is now, but Mo is a shining example of what you can achieve when you are determined.
“You can never really tell how good someone is when they're racing against peers who might not be as good, you see how they get on at regional and national level. But you could tell from the start that Mo had talent – his stride was ridiculous. I always knew he'd at least be an international.”
The story goes that Watkinson had to encourage Farah, then a young refugee from war-torn Somalia, away from dreams of playing for Arsenal FC to concentrate on athletics.
It is perhaps one of the best sporting decisions ever made at grassroots level, and Watkinson will be in the Olympic Stadium to hopefully watch his protege's crowning achievement.
He added: “It's very different this time round to Beijing, when the hope was just that Mo would make the final and not disgrace himself in it.
“Not only has he kept developing and getting stronger, but he is an even better runner than when he won the European and World titles.
“A combination of studying what the Kenyans do, and the 21 st century technology applied by his coach in Oregon (where Farah moved to last year) means he has a very good chance.”