James Dunaway was one of the few Americans to witness first hand the duel between Seb Coe and Steve Ovett over the 800 meters and 1,500 meters. Here is his first hand account of one of the most iconic races in middle distance running: the men’s 1,500 meters from Moscow 1980!
MOSCOW 2013 – 8
LOOKING BACK: MOSCOW AND THE 1980 OLYMPICS
1. “COE vs, OVETT” — PART TWO, 1,500 METERS
Six days after the 800-meter final came the 1,500 final. Coe and Ovett came into the Games tied for the world record at the distance (3:32.1), but in every other way Ovett looked like a sure winner. Not only had he won 40 straight races over 1,500 and the mile
in the last three years, but he had run a brilliant tactical race winning the 800 while the favored Coe had seemingly lost concentration at a key point in the race.
The Carter boycott had cleared out all the other likely contenders – Thomas Wessinghage of West Germany (3:31.58), sub-3:50 miler John Walker of New Zealand, and American record holder Steve Scott (3:51.11) – leaving two East Germans, Jurgen Straub (3:33.68 in 1979) and Andreas Busse as the likeliest challengers. Neither had competed outside of East Germany that year, but everyone knew that East Germany entered only athletes who had a chance to win (and of course, would test clean). 19-year-old Steve Cram was also in the final, but would not be a factor.
The race began much like the 800 final – slowly. Straub, like Ovett and Coe noted for his strong finishes, took the lead, with Coe second and Ovett on his shoulder third. They dawdled through laps of 61.6 and 63.3 (2:04.9), when WHAM! With 700m to go, Straub suddenly set sail, and there was…separation: five meters to Coe, another three to Ovett, and the rest string out behind them. Straub and the other two barreled through the third lap in 54.2, and Straub was still looking strong with 200 to go. In the middle of the turn,
Coe and Ovett both went after Straub. Coe took the lead at the top of the straight and won by three meters from Straub, who managed to fight off Ovett, who in the final 10m of the race, eased off as if to say, “What the hell? I’ve got my gold. Straub made the race, so let him have the silver.”
Coes final 2 laps were timed in 1:49.2, his last 400 in 52.2, and his closing 200 in 25.4. It was a race he had to win, and he did.
Leave a Reply