learning from losing hero

CHAPTER THREE

PRAGUE 1978: A MOTIVATING DEFEAT

A NEW RIVALRY

Going into the men’s 800-metre event at the 1978 European Athletics Championships, there were two favourites. Steve Ovett had won silver at the previous championships four years earlier, and Seb Coe was the new British record holder in the 800-metre event. The press had billed it as ‘Ovett vs. Coe’, and it was set to be a dramatic race between the two powerhouses.


“MY WHOLE CAREER WAS BASED, IN LARGE PART, ON LOSING THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS IN 1978."

Seb Coe

TURNING POINT

After an impressive first lap, Coe was in the lead. But he was spent, and at the 700-metre mark, Ovett overtook him. It didn’t last long though – both Coe and Ovett were passed by outsider Olaf Beyer of East Germany, who finished first, setting the fastest time for that year. This loss devastated both Coe and his coaching team, and resulted in a total overhaul of his training strategy in the hopes of coming back stronger than ever.