Whatever happened to? British middle- distance running

Share
Related Topics
In the golden summer of 1979, Sebastian Coe breaks three world records in six weeks, leaving fields and superlatives trailing in his wake. He completes the final lap of his final record at 1500m in glorious isolation for a time of 3 minutes 32 seconds. During the following gold- medalled summer at the Moscow Olympics, Steve Ovett comes first in the 800m, Coe second, before himself winning the 1500m. Britain rules the middle-distance world.

Coe and Ovett often refuse to compete against one another, so we never really know who is the best. Meanwhile, along comes Steve Cram to steal their thunder, with victory over Said Aouita and a world record in 1985.

Success continues at the European championships of 1986 as, like "three Spitfires coming out of the sun" (The Telegraph), Cram, Coe and Tom McKean make a clean sweep of the medals in the 800m. The future of British middle- distance running seems assured.

But at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics not one Briton reaches the 1500 final - for the first time since 1960. Cram, prevented from competing by Matthew Yates, whose time for the mile is over four minutes, draws his own conclusions: "The ones who have come through are not up to standard. Matthew Yates, for instance, is good but he's never going to break a world record."

Then, in September 1993, Noureddine Morceli takes two seconds off Cram's world mile record - down to 3:44.39 - in Rieti, northern Italy and the African domination of middle-distance running begins. Though Roger Bannister claims an unfair advantage for black runners "of genetics and upbringing".

The balance of power in British athletics shifts to shorter distances with Linford Christie and Sally Gunnell winning world, European and Olympic titles. Coe, now a Tory MP, believes it is down to the lack of "decent PE teachers" - rather than funding. But, as the British 1500m champion, John Maycock (who he?) commented last month, "People think: `1500 m? We used to be good at that...' We're crap now."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher - requ...

Science Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Calling all science teachers! Ra...

Technology Teacher - Food & Textiles

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Food Tech/Textiles Teacher We ...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Theresa May  

Democracy and the police: a system in crisis

Nigel Morris
 

Mary Beard has taught us all a lesson in how to deal with online bullies

Louise Scodie
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone