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11 Aug 1984
Los Angeles 1984

Coe defies critics to claim unique double

Sebastian Coe’s victory in the 1,500m at the 1980 Games in Moscow was one of the most tumultuous moments in the history of the Olympics.

Devastated at the loss in his favoured 800m days earlier by arch-rival and fellow Briton Steve Ovett, Coe claimed the ultimate salvation by winning gold in the blue riband 1,500m.

That iconic win in Moscow’s Lenin Stadium must have seemed a world away to Coe as the Los Angeles Games of 1984 neared. His form had taken a huge dip in the intervening years. He had been misdiagnosed with glandular fever when in fact he was suffering from potentially a much more dangerous infection, toxoplasmosis.

While Coe spent much of the time in hospital, Ovett, another Briton Steve Cram and the American Steve Scott vied for his mantle as the finest middle distance runner in the world.

Cram won the 1983 world championships in Helsinki in clinical style while the era of Moroccan runner Said Aouita was also in its formative months.

Never far from controversy, Coe was selected in Britain’s three-man 1,500m team for the Los Angeles Games despite a loss in the trials to the unlucky Yorkshireman Peter Elliott. It was a brave selection decision which was to reap fine reward.

The weather and schedule in Los Angeles made it a gruelling 10 days for the runners, and Ovett was among the hardest hit by the high temperatures and draining programme.

He won his heat but later complained of chest pains and after a strenuous 800m campaign was only just declared fit enough to start the race.

Coe was in the familiar position of looking for glory in the 1,500m after defeat in his favourite race, the 800m.

This time Brazilian Joaquim Cruz had denied him the two-lap gold and pressure was mounting on Coe, not least from the feverish British press, to again make amends in the 1,500m.

Scott took on the pace in the final in a bid to tire the likes of Coe with the big finishing kicks. Spaniard Jose-Manuel Abascal took up the pace in the final 400m.

When the loping Cram made his move on the outside with 250m to go, Coe’s response was emphatic.

He entered the straight with a yard or so lead and he pulled away from the helpless Cram, who completed a 1-2 for Great Britain.

Coe’s response after crossing the line in Olympic record time said it all. He stared at the press box with real venom as if to say: ’Who says I’m finished!’.

His steely gaze never dropped on his lap of honour, sternly illustrating with his finger who he thought was No 1.

He had become the first man to successfully defend the 1500m crown to cap one of the most remarkable Olympic careers of them all.

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