On this day in 1980 – Sebastian Coe claims 1500m gold in Moscow

Athletics – Southern Counties Amateur Athletics Association Competition – Crystal Palace
Athletics – Southern Counties Amateur Athletics Association Competition – Crystal Palace - (Copyright PA Archive)
6:00am, Sat 01 Aug 2020
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The rivalry between Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett dominated British athletics 40 years ago.

Coe was university-educated, media-friendly and urbane, Ovett was introverted and did not like talking to the press.

The pair spent the year before the 1980 Olympics trading the world mile record without facing each other on the track, heightening the excitement of what was to come in Moscow.

Ovett struck first in the 800 metres – Coe’s favourite event – winning in one minute 45.4 seconds and relegating his rival to the runners-up spot.

Coe left it too late after running at the back of the pack and described it as “the worst tactical race of my life”, but in the 1500m final on August 1, 1980, he would get his revenge in Ovett’s favoured discipline.

The first two laps passed at such a slow pace, with Coe sitting on the shoulder of the East German Jurgen Straub, that it basically became an 800m race.

Straub picked up the pace to stretch the field and this time Coe had ensured that he was not boxed in.

Coe looked for Ovett as he kicked around the final bend, overtaking Straub with ease.

Ovett tried to match him but failed and finished third, his first defeat over 1500m for three years and 45 races.

Great Britain had only won the 800m and the 1500m once before in the same Games, at Antwerp in 1920 when Albert Hill had claimed both gold medals.

Coe never won the 800m Olympic gold he craved, finishing behind Brazil’s Joaquim Cruz at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

But he struck gold in the 1500m again with an Olympic record run of three minutes 32.53 seconds. Coe remains the only male athlete to win successive Olympic 1500m titles.

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