When Peter Elliott stepped off the track after winning the 1500m final at the 1988 Olympic Trials in Birmingham he walked straight into the biggest Olympic selection storm in British athletics history.
The selectors rubber-stamped the name of the British Steel joiner from Rawmarsh, South Yorkshire, in the team for Seoul – overlooking Sebastian Coe, who had won the previous two Olympic 1500m finals but failed to get beyond the heats in the trials.
The Daily Mirror launched a "Coe Must Go" campaign and published a cartoon portraying Coe as a thoroughbred and Elliott as a carthorse. "It wasn't particularly pleasant," Elliott reflected yesterday. "I also received some hate mail, like the taekwondo guy who was selected instead of Aaron Cook.
"I didn't actually do anything wrong. I was asked by the selectors to finish in the top two, which I did, by winning. I think it was just the profile of where we were at the time with our middle-distance runners."
Elliott – now 49 and northern regional director for the English Institute of Sport – went to Seoul instead of Coe and won silver in the 1500m, despite being injured.
"I don't have the silver medal out on show, because at the time it was a failure," he said. "There was a perception that Britain ruled the world in middle-distance and that myself and Steve Cram, who was also in the final, had let that tradition down.
"It took me a long time to appreciate that Olympic medals are hard to come by."Reuse content