Coe versus Ovett, in film
To be honest it took reading this article to remind me that there was a strong rivalry between the British runners Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe. To be fair I think if anything had talked about the rivalry I would have remembered, for it was pretty big at the time and was well hyped in the media.
Now we're going to see it made into a film it would seem, adapted from the novel by Pat Butcher called The Perfect Distance: Ovett and Coe: The Record Breaking Rivalry ( / ).
The book gets a lot of strong reviews and positive comments, and doesn't just cover the rivalry of the athletes but a lot of their training and lives before the two came to compete side by side.
Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe presided over the golden era of British athletics. Between them they won three Olympic gold medals, two silvers, one bronze, and broke a total of twelve middle-distance records. As far apart as possible in terms of class and upbringing, their rivalry burned as intense on the track as away from it. The pendulum swung between the pair of them—each breaking the other's records, and, memorably, triumphing in each other's events in Moscow in 1980. The Perfect Distance is both a detailed re-creation and a fitting celebration of the greatest era of British athletics.
During the 1980 Olympics both Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe had their favoured distances, but they traded wins between them during the events, Ovett beating Coe at his favoured event and then Coe beating Ovett at his.
How about this one then, in a period of ten days the two swapped the world record for the mile between them some three times.
Or how about this great fact, Coe held the world records for the 800 metre, 1500 metre and the mile at the same time with Ovett becoming the mile world record holder at the same time as the 1500 metre.
According to the BBC, William Davies is writing a script from the novel which will look at the amazing rivalry the two faced. Davies previously wrote Twins, Johnny English, Alien Autopsy and Flushed Away, but this promises not to be a comedy. Hopefully.
One of the producers of the film, Vicky Licorish said:
”You were either an Ovett person or a Coe person and that's what makes it such a great character piece as well.”
I would agree with that, and considering some of those amazing statistics of these two athletes, it's hard to understand how this couldn't make for a strong dramatic film. Could it end up being a big production and making it beyond British audiences? Is there enough knowledge and appetite out there for this story?