Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

SEBASTIAN COE VS STEVE OVETT

hero carl lewis.jpg

Individually, Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett were titans of middle-distance running. Together, they were one of the best advertisements athletics has ever had.

It was in 1978 when Coe started breaking all sorts of records. Ovett was barely a year older and had been dominating the sport a year previously. Coe was better at the 800m while Ovett specialised in the 1,500m. They were so focused on these respective events that they were instant favourites in each. So when they faced each other at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, their first Games, people assumed a predictable outcome.

Off the track, Coe signed more autographs and was always smiling that bit more. They were different on the track, too. Ovett was a more aggressive runner who used all of his body — the sort of guy you didn’t want to run into the home stretch next to, because you’d end up either finishing second or in the in-field — while Coe was smaller and ran from the front a lot to gain control.

Ovett was well behind midway through the 800m final with Coe leading, but he forced his way into contention and hit another gear going into the final lap to take the gold with Coe behind him. No one expected it — especially Coe, who no doubt went to bed saying a few choice words to himself.

The 1,500m final wasn’t for a few days, which gave Coe time to stew, and it made him all the more determined to do the unthinkable: beat his rival and win the 1,500m — an event that Ovett hadn’t lost in for more than two years.

When it came to the race, Ovett kept behind Coe but never upped the gears. He slipped to third and Coe took gold [above]. Coe was always about breaking records, but racing Ovett made him want gold even more. It was amazing and one of the most underrated stories in the sport’s history.

It shows that rivalries can push you further. I had travelled to those games with the US team, and although I was a sprinter and a few years younger than Coe, he and I were friends. He taught me to keep trying hard, never get down and keep fighting back.

Apply for London 2012 tickets at Tickets.london2012.com until 26 April

Related

Macca-getty.jpg

Liverpool V Man U

hero_odowd.jpg

Ireland vs England

tsres.png

The Greatest Sport You'll Never Play

Comments

More

Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear, dies age 91

He brought joy to millions of childhoods

by Gary Ogden
28 Jun 2017

American rapper records brutal diss track... about himself

He's gone in hard

by Dave Fawbert
28 Jun 2017

Glastonbury techno tent blares out Corbyn's speech at 4am

He won Glastonbury

by Alex Finnis
28 Jun 2017

Sky Sports are overhauling all their channels and slashing the price

It's a brand new look

by Carl Anka
27 Jun 2017

First details of the Glastonbury spin-off festival emerge

It's sounding great already

by Dave Fawbert
27 Jun 2017

The 5 most surprising findings from the Forbes athletes rich list

Some unlikely names took home heaps

by Tom Victor
27 Jun 2017

London is getting a 50mph, 225m urban zip-wire

You'll fly across the city at 50mph

by Gary Ogden
27 Jun 2017

Serena Williams' short and sweet response to John McEnroe’s comments

Pipe down, John

by Tom Victor
27 Jun 2017

All the winners from the 'Dog Photographer of the Year' contest

So many good boys and girls

by Alex Finnis
27 Jun 2017

John McEnroe is an idiot

He cannot be serious

by Tom Victor
26 Jun 2017