Records, Victories and Coe
Sebastian Coe, who turns 51 on the 29th of September, is the man who delivers. At a very young age, he already preferred running to riding his bike, and his father, convinced of his eldest son’s talents, became his coach. This fruitful collaboration led them from the cinder tracks of the industrial city of Sheffield, where Sebastian grew up, to the most important meetings in world athletics. In 1979, from the “Bislett Games” in Oslo to the “Weltklasse” in Zurich, the British runner broke world records in the 800m, 1500m and the mile (1.609km).
True to himself from Moscow to Los Angeles
One year later, at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, Coe was the favourite in his preferred distance, the 800m. But, not managing to really get into the race, he missed out on the gold, despite a fantastic comeback in the last home straight. He took second place behind his fellow countryman Steve Ovett.
The middle-distance champion therefore did not excel where it was expected and doubt pervaded him. The record-holder wondered, just like the British press, if he was capable of winning “when it really mattered”. In other words, could he transform his records into Olympic gold? The answer was “yes” and he proved it six days later in the final of the 1500m where a clever mix of tactics and speed propelled him over the finish line first.
Four years later, and against all expectations, Coe was back at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Neither the insidious illness that sabotaged his 1983 season, the short rehabilitation, nor a heavy programme of seven races in nine days prevented him from stepping up to the podium. Despite the ambitions of a new generation of runners, the tenacious Briton achieved a repeat of his Olympic performance in Moscow: a silver medal in the 800m and gold in the 1500m. He thus became the first athlete in Olympic history to successfully defend his title in the 1500m: a crushing riposte to all those who did not believe in his return to the highest level.
Still active in the Movement
In 1990, six years after his last Olympic Games, Sebastian Coe ended his sports career. However, this was not yet the end of the notable meetings between him and the Olympic Movement. Within the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he was one of the first members of the Athletes’ Commission (1981-1996); and spent several years on various other commissions such as the Medical Commission and the Sport for All Commission. He is currently a member of the International Olympic Truce Foundation.
The race for the Games
On 6 July 2005, more than 20 years had passed since his last Olympic victory, but Coe once again stepped up to the podium. As Chairman of the London bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, he presented the British capital’s file to the 117th IOC Session in Singapore. In the final sprint, the city won, ahead of Paris, New York, Moscow and Madrid. The IOC members elected it in the fourth round of voting, with 54 votes out of 104. Coe could again savour a victory “when it really mattered”.
Lord Coe currently is the Chairman of the Organising Committee for the 2012 Games in London: his next big meeting already is lined up.