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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping and enlightening read
As somebody who was inspired as an eight year old watching the Moscow Olympics to take up athletics, I bought this book with not a little excitement. I read it in a single sitting.
As a predominantly Ovett fan, it was great to read in detail about Coe and Ovett's early careers as well as the drama surrounding the rivalry of the pair.
I remember vividly the tv...
Published on 13 July 2005 by Mark Szolkowski

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Stodgy Read
Any book about athletics runs the risk of becoming a list of races and times; a risk which this book does not really manage to avoid. There are interesting insights into the rivalry between Coe and Ovett and other runners competing at the time but it's a struggle to read and I really wish I hadn't started it!
Published 7 months ago by jabt


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping and enlightening read, 13 July 2005
This review is from: The Perfect Distance: Ovett and Coe: The Record Breaking Rivalry (Paperback)
As somebody who was inspired as an eight year old watching the Moscow Olympics to take up athletics, I bought this book with not a little excitement. I read it in a single sitting.
As a predominantly Ovett fan, it was great to read in detail about Coe and Ovett's early careers as well as the drama surrounding the rivalry of the pair.
I remember vividly the tv coverage in 1984 from the Los Angeles Olympics when Steve Ovett was having his breathing difficulties. What I didn't know until I read this book was quite what was wrong, or how incredible it was that he still managed to make it into two Olympic finals. Nor did I know that it was none other than his great rival that made sure he received medical attention and waited around afterwards. Nuggets from interviews and touching anecdotes like this make this book the great read that it is.
The only thing that could have made this book any better would perhaps have been a final chapter on what Coe and Ovett have been up to since they retired.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this one will run and run, 5 Feb 2005
This has got be one of the best books ever written on athletics. And given the subject matter, the rivalry between two such different characters as Seb Coe and Steve Ovett, the book strays well beyond its sporting context. As the author points out, it was a touchstone for a formative era in Britain, Coe representing the Thatcherite strand in politics, and Ovett harking back to the good old labour days, which were about to disappear forever.
Books on sport have developed enormously over the last few years, since Nick Hornby's appraisal of the cultural significance of fandom, whether Cambridge Utd or Arsenal, and Butcher's book contributes to an update of a genre that has never really been given much serious treatment beyond relatively shallow biography.
As a journalistic enterprise, it succeeds admirably, both principals were obviously interviewed in depth, as were all their rivals, domestic and international, from the guy who beat them both as schoolkids, to Steve Cram and Peter Elliott, to John Walker, Eamonn Coghlan, Steve Scott and Thomas Wessinghage.
But where Butcher scores is he does not take the quotes at face value, rather he evaluates them, puts them into context, and gives his own, often ascerbic view. He also puts it all into an historical perspective, with lots of trenchant (and amusing) opinion. This is exactly what biography should be. It would be an insult to call this a sports book or a book on sport. It's far more than that.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book on Athletics, 20 Feb 2005
Pat Butcher's finely researched book on Coe and Ovett is simply the best athletics book I've ever read. His sparkling prose style combined with in-depth research makes it a far cry from the usual hackwork of the average journalist. It fair zips along and takes you with it and even the non-aficionado will be caught up in the lives, the successes and the defeats of these two great runners. The books works through the years when Britain's runners led the world, and everyone knew their names. A thrilling time and a thrilling read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling read, 6 Sep 2008
By 
P. Angell (Cranleigh, Surrey) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Perfect Distance: Ovett and Coe: The Record Breaking Rivalry (Paperback)
Bought this book on holiday to Greece and couldn't put it down. The book provided insights into these two great characters that were otherwise not public knowledge, e.g. Ovett's dominant mother, Andy Norman's views on Cliff Temple, Ovett's change of views from racing to record-breaking, Coe's aid to Ovett after Ovett had collapsed in the LA Olympics. This book was much more than an account of the Coe v Ovett saga, it was a history lesson, documentary, mini-biographies, and fast-paced thriller all rolled into one. The chapter on the historical mile rivalries of Walter George v Willie Cummings and Arne Anderssen v Gunter Hagg is superb. I cannot speak highly enough of this book. The phrase "unputdownable" is not lost on Pat Butcher's excellent work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars UK golden athletics, 26 Aug 2006
By 
Michael Watson (Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
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I thought this book depicted Ovett, Coe and the UK Golden era of athletics superbly. It gave me an insight into all of their races, results, their characters, careers and a full background of what I had witnessed on TV as a child. Fabulous!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This one will run and run, 4 Feb 2005
By 
This has got to be one of the best books ever written on athletics. And given the subject matter, the rivalry between two such different characters as Seb Coe and Steve Ovett, the book strays well beyond its sporting context. As the author points out, it was a touchstone for a formative era in Britain, Coe representing the Thatcherite strand in politics, and Ovett harking back to the good old labour days, which were about to disappear forever.
Books on sport have developed enormously over the last few years, since Nick Hornby's appraisal of the cultural significance of fandom, whether Cambridge Utd or Arsenal, and Butcher's book contributes to an update of a genre that has never really been given much serious treatment beyond shallow biography.
As a journalistic enterprise, it succeeds admirably, both principals were abviously interview in depth, as were all their rivals, domestic and international, from Steve Cram and Peter Elliott to John Walker, Eamonn Coghlan, Steve Scott and Thomas Wessinghage.
But where Butcher scores, he does not take the quotes at face value, rather he evaluates them, puts them into context, and gives his own often ascerbic view. He also puts it all into an historical perspective, with lots trenchant (and amusing) opinion. This is exactly what biography should be. It would be an insult to call this a sports book, or a book on sport, it's far more than that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The perfect rivalry, 16 Mar 2008
By 
J. C. Birchley (Wuerenlingen, AG Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Perfect Distance: Ovett and Coe: The Record Breaking Rivalry (Paperback)
Pat Butcher's book is a fine read - accurate, entertaining, informative, and including a generous helping of human drama. His assessments are fair and even-handed, something not always easy to achieve even after more than 20 years. His accounts of past achievements and rivalries, his revealing of the person behing the athlete, and the transition from (sh)amateurism to professionalism are excellent. I particularly like some of the little details which spoke to much (.... and Coleman said, "Ovett, those blue eyes, like chips of ice.")

In fact I might have given 5 stars but I found the journalistic dialect - the extensive use of stereotypes, the exaggerated black and white - was a little grating (only a real Ovett opponent would accept that for years he made Coe's athletic career a misery). Of course, it is hard to escape the reality that these were two exceptional athletes, and it certainly was the rivalry between them that captured the imagination of track enthusiasts and the general public alike. But the dominant theme of the book was "rivalry" rather than the athletic event itself. I would have preferred the book to bring out just is so special, so "perfect" about the mile (British or metric), because it IS a special distance, posing special challenges to the athlete and lending itself to the type of sporting confrontation that generates these special rivalries.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting read, 22 Aug 2007
By 
A. Cooney (Windsor, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Perfect Distance: Ovett and Coe: The Record Breaking Rivalry (Paperback)
This is a great read for anyone interested in athletics. Unsurprisingly it's mostly about Coe and Ovett and their intense battle for supreamacy but, riveting as that main plot is, Butcher intersperses sections on many of the other leading runners of the time, the change from amateurism to professionalism, the history of the mile.. etc which help flesh out the story.

The opening sentence captures the imagination and makes putting the book down difficult! I would have liked a bit more on the LA campaign which closes the book however.

I've read biographies by several olympic athletes and one thing they have in common is not conveying what it's actually like to be at the games. Something I would give my right arm for. Paula's is the most recent example, where there is little more detail than you would expect describing a trip to Sainsbury's. The Perfect Distance did go some way to capture the atmosphere and brought back vivid memories of watching Coe, Cram and Ovett competing at the time, on the edge of my seat, shouting at the tv.

Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant tale of two shining stars., 13 Jan 2007
By 
Andrew J. Parker (Bolton, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Perfect Distance: Ovett and Coe: The Record Breaking Rivalry (Paperback)
Although too young to vividly remember the full extent of their rivalry, I took up running as an 8 year-old after watching Coe's magnificent victory in LA, and have been at it ever since.

Butcher's masterly account captures all the magic of the two great runners, presenting them as multi-faceted personalities each driven to glory in his own unique way. He also skilfully presents the differences between them and the essence of this keenest of rivalries, while bringing out a warmth and mutual respect that has clearly developed over time and with the benefit of hindsight.

What sets the novel apart from the majority of sporting literature is the narrative skill and literary flair he uses to do justice to a great story and piece of history, and a first line that made the hairs stand up on my neck.

Unlike most sports books, which are purely of interest to the hardcore enthusiast, this is to be recommended for anyone with a passing interest in sport.

For track fans it is an absolute must-have.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Stodgy Read, 6 Dec 2013
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Any book about athletics runs the risk of becoming a list of races and times; a risk which this book does not really manage to avoid. There are interesting insights into the rivalry between Coe and Ovett and other runners competing at the time but it's a struggle to read and I really wish I hadn't started it!
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