In six weeks this summer Sebastian Coe, 23, of Sheffield, England set unprecedented world records in the 800-meter run (1 minute 42.4 seconds), the mile (3:49) and the 1,500 meters (3:21.1). In the seventh week he rested and announced: “I’ve had enough for 1979.”
Fatigue was not the reason. Coe wanted to prepare for the 1980 Olympics, complete his postgraduate studies in economics and social history at Loughborough University and retreat from what he calls “all that razzmatazz.” The publicity has had its dark side. The International Amateur Athletic Federation revealed that it was investigating charges that Coe, among other athletes, had accepted excessive expense payments (reportedly $430) this year. His amateur standing could be in jeopardy.
Meanwhile he’s training under his coach and father, Peter, a silverworks engineer who, Seb has admitted, “can be as rude and as critical as he needs to be.” The 5’9½”, 129-pound Coe runs more than 50 miles a week in the British farm country near Sheffield (at left); he’ll train in Italy or Spain after spending Christmas with his family. Out of sweat clothes, he reads Saul Bellow and Dorothy Parker, listens to jazz (he has 250 records) and tries to improve his French. Though he has been dating the same woman for three years, Seb lives alone in an apartment at the university. His sister Miranda, 21, was a Las Vegas showgirl now turned to modeling.
At Moscow, Coe will give Great Britain a chance to win its first gold medal in the distance events since 1932. He’s considered a possible entrant from 800 through 5,000 meters. Post-Olympics, he may quit competition for a career in management. “It’s easy to take running much too seriously,” Coe says. “I’m totally committed to my performance and training, but there has to be something else in life. There has to be a certain roundness.”