Top positive review
22 people found this helpful
Published with athletic timing.
on 22 November 2012
You wonder how long this book or the idea of this book was a glint in the eye of Seb Coe.
He has had so many opportunities throughout his glittering career to have sat down and put pen to paper to tell "my story" but averred. Something must have told him to hold on, just wait, and not make a hasty dash for the line,- until this year- the year of perhaps his greatest triumph- the London 2012 Olympics. In this regard Seb Coe and his autobiography are very different from the hordes of other autobiographies rushed out to make the most of "ten minutes of fame."
The book starts off with Seb's 'roots' and the story of his father, Peter Coe.( the ultimate "autodidact" as Seb puts it). His personality explains a lot about the latter father-son relationship which is discussed in a very open manner ( yes, Peter Coe did tell his son that he ran like a c*** after the 800m at Moscow where he won Silver) and generally the book did not have the feel of hagiography ( Seb is honest enough to recount what he perceives as personal failings and this does create a more rounded and realistic self portrait). What you do also realise if you didnt already know this was that when it came to running, Seb Coe was a very lucky man indeed in the choice of his highly analytical father. In this regard I think the 'old man' would be pleased with his son's efforts to set the record straight about their relationship.
The story rapidly moves on however to look at athletics, and writing about the most fascinating aspect of Coe's life (for many of us) was always going to be a fine balancing act- I mean the Coe versus Ovett story. I initially thought this bit was a little undercooked but then on further reflection saw that most of the hype and media interest in the pair was just that- hype. After all these two did not run against each other that frequently and were not all that close- how does one manufacture up some 'great rivalry' out of that? (However if you are interested in more of this, Pat Butcher does an okay job at tackling this theme in The 'Perfect Distance, Ovett and Coe'.) Nevertheless you can't help feeling that Coe is maybe holding out a little on the reader in terms of how he felt about Ovett at the time.
Coe covers the Olympic periods of Moscow and LA and most interestingly Barcelona and why he didnt make it,- which when seen from the perspective of our poor more recent middle distance running achievements is quite sad.
Then we have a large section devoted to life after sports as an MP and then working for William Hague- interesting how some of the most amusing (laugh out loud) bits cover this period! - before getting the job of 'landing' and then 'running' the 2012 Olympics.
Overall a very interesting story, with a number of genuine learning points in there for sportsmen and those interested in leadership and coaching (though it is an autobiography not a manual!)- I did however note some typo's and also more importantly some factual errors whith regards to performances. This is something that could easily have been fact checked before printing:
(eg Flo Jo's 100m record was set in 1988 not 1984 and doubts as to its veracity are more to do with the timing equipment than confirmed drug taking. Then, Linford Christie who came third and not fourth in Seoul and was elevated to Silver not Bronze when Ben Johnson was banned.)
These are probably just accidental slips of the fingers on the keyboard by a man with a lot to do - but then again Seb and Linford don't exactly get on do they? More importantly, when even I can spot glaring errors like this it makes you wonder about other errors beneath the surface. This, for me, definitely rubbed off some of the gloss on what was otherwise an enthralling, well written (ghosted?) and enjoyable read.