On This Day

  • August 1 down the years

Redemption for Coe

Seb Coe won back-to-back Olympic 1500 metres titles © Getty Images
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1980
Seb Coe's redemption. The day he won the Olympic 1500 metres for the first time. After losing the 800m to Steve Ovett by making every mistake known to man (July 26), he seemed to have settled for another silver today. With just over two laps to go, a slow pace was setting the race up for Ovett again - and again Coe wasn't making a move. But he was saved by East Germany's Jürgen Straub, who knew he couldn't win a medal at this sort of speed. So he upped it. With 200 to go, he had a good lead over Coe, who had a better kick from a fast pace than Ovett. When Coe began his sprint, Ovett couldn't get past him and even lost second place to Straub. It was the end of his invincibility in the event: before today, Ovett had won 42 races in a row at 1500 or a mile. Coe retained the Olympic title in 1984 (August 11).

1992
Linford Christie won the Olympic 100 metres. He came through in the last half of the race to clock the relatively slow time of 9.96 seconds. He was lucky that world record holder Carl Lewis was hit by a virus and didn't make the US team, but he beat a good field, including medallists Frankie Fredericks and Dennis Mitchell - and past and future world record man Leroy Burrell, who was charged with a false start despite not leaving his blocks. Christie had tested positive for pseudoephedrine after winning the silver medal in 1992, and he was banned for two years in 1998 when he failed a test for steroids.

On the same day as Christie's gold medal, Matthew Pinsent won his first and Steve Redgrave his third. Redgrave had already taken the coxless pairs with Andy Holmes in 1988 (September 24). Now he and Pinsent won easily, nearly five seconds ahead of the field. They retained the title in 1996 (July 27).

1715
The first staging of Doggett's Coat and Badge, which is still with us. A rowing race contested by Thames Watermen in London, it seems to be the longest-running sporting event in the world, so old that the name of the first winner is in doubt. Edward Gullyford (who definitely won the race in 1716) or E Bishop.

1976
The accident which left Niki Lauda with a burnt face and nearly cost him his life. He was the reigning Formula 1 world champion when he lost control on an early corner at the dreaded Nürburgring. His Ferrari tore through the fencing and caught fire on its way back across the track; another car smacked into him, and he was left with several fractures, injuries to his lungs, and first-degree burns to his head and chest. Lauda was in hospital when James Hunt won the race, and he didn't take part in the next two, but he still led the drivers' championship before the last Grand Prix of the season (October 24), when the enemy wasn't fire but water.

Michael Johnson set a time nobody was supposed to beat © Getty Images
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1996
The time they thought would never be beaten. Until Usain Bolt came along. At the Olympic Games, Michael Johnson won the 200 metres in 19.32 seconds, shattering the world record of 19.66 he'd set on the same track in June. Johnson finished three yards clear of Namibia's Frankie Fredericks, who won silver in both sprints for the second Olympics in a row. Johnson's time was broken when Bolt won gold at the 2008 Games (August 20).

Johnson had already won the 400 metres at those 1996 Olympics. But he wasn't the first athlete to achieve the 200/400 double. He was beaten to it by a quarter of an hour. In the women's 200 metres, a weak field left Jamaica's Merlene Ottey as hot favourite to win gold at last (she won her first bronze in the event sixteen years earlier). But yet again she didn't quite have what it took. Marie-José Perec of France had retained her 400-metre title; now she overtook Ottey fifteen yards from the end to set the slowest winning time in twenty years. Ottey never won an Olympic gold.

Meanwhile world record holder Dan O'Brien won the decathlon at last. At the Olympic trials four years earlier, he'd failed at the opening height in the pole vault. Now he won gold by 118 points.

2009
Swimming's poly-wotsit bodysuits continued breaking world records at the World Championships in Rome. Three more today: by a Chinese quartet in the women's medley relay, Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry (her third in a row at the 200 metres backstroke), and Michael Phelps, who broke the world best set by Milorad Cavić of Serbia the day before and became the first swimmer to go under 50 seconds for the 100 metres butterfly. Cavić was the second, clocking 49.95 to Phelps's 49.82.

On the same day in Durban, fly-half Morné Steyn set a world record by scoring 31 points for South Africa in a rugby union match against New Zealand. His total comprised a converted try and eight penalty goals. South Africa won 31-19. Of the players who scored all their team's points in an international match, Steyn amassed the most, breaking the record set by a Portuguese player in 2000 (February 6).

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