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Peter Elliott

Peter Elliott

Date of Birth: 1962

Born: Rawmarsh, Rotherham

Club: Rotherham

Coach: Wilf Paish, Kim McDonald 

 

Turning Back The Clock

If ever a British athlete was born a few years too late, it was Peter Elliott. He had an impossible act to follow, that of the golden era of Steve Ovett, Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram, but he delivered admirably when the expectations of the public were high. Not since Elliott has Britain had a male middle-distance runner who was capable of living among the world class standards which Ovett, Coe and Cram had set, but there was more to this friendly Yorkshireman.He was from the old school, a competitor who combined his sport with his job, working as a joiner for British Steel.He ran with real tenacity, knowing that he may be winning a prestigious Grand Prix on the Sunday, but that if the flights were not delayed, he would be serving his country in a different manner at the plant the next day. He would train two to three times a day, while still working an eight-hour shift which sometimes would start before 8am. But, as he said, it gave him a perspective in life and it worked.

During his career, which began with his senior international debut in 1983, and ended on a sad night in Rotherham in 1992, Elliott was an athlete who was captivating to watch because of the power, strength and dogged determination which he brought to the track. It was a testament to how good he was that after he won the Commonwealth Games 1500m title in 1990, no British man would land a major gold at the distance until Michael East, at the same Championship, in Manchester 12 years later. 

 

Schools Glory

Elliott first came through as a determined front-runner and in 1977, he won the Northern Boys Cross Country title and in the summer, the 800m English Schools gold at junior level, an event he triumphed in two years later again as an intermediate. He was national youths cross-country champion in 1980 and in 1981 he was fourth in the European Junior 800m. At this distance in 1983, he was second at the European Indoors, and a magnificent fourth at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki when Willi Wülbeck, of West Germany, won gold. It established him for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles the following summer...and controversy. 

 

First To Beat Coe

Elliott decided at the start of the year to run his first competitive 1500m and he triumphed in a race in New Zealand in 3:38.13. It was a fabulous way to begin Olympic year, but throughout the summer, everything was building towards a crescendo because Britain was spoilt for choice at the distance. Ovett and Cram had been pre-selected for the team because of their form, but there was no definite place for Coe, the defending Olympic champion. In the end, it came down to what was virtually a run off between Coe and Elliott at the AAA Championships and the drama was excruciating. Coe led, but Elliott came through in the final stages to win in 3:39.66. It was the first time that Coe had lost over the distance to a Briton for eight years, but when the team for LA was announced, he was given the place ahead of Elliott. At the time it may not have seemed the right decision to everyone, but Coe was spectacular at the Games where he retained his title.

Elliott made those Olympics in the 800m, but suffered the misfortune of progressing through two rounds before being unable to take his place in the semi-final because of injury. Four years later, when Coe did not make the 1500m team, Elliott delivered. 

 

Seoul Silver

Injuries caused Elliott to miss nearly all of the 1985 season, but in 1986 his series of good races at 800m included third in the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and a victory in the Grand Prix final. He ended 1987 in great form by finishing second in the 800m at the World Championships in Rome, in 1:43.41 as Billy Konchellah, of Kenya, took gold in 1:43.06. He set personal bests at 1500m and 2000m also in 1987, before overcoming the pain of a groin injury in Seoul to win Olympic silver in the 1500m. Elliott clocked 3:36.15 in a race won by Peter Rono, of Kenya, in 3:35.96, with the Briton holding off East Germany’s Jens-Peter Herold who was third in 3:36.21. He was fourth in the 800m aswell, but two years later he was magnificent when he won the Commonwealth Games 1500m title in Auckland in 3:33.39.

It was some year for Elliott, because at the start of the summer he revealed he had left British Steel to concentrate solely on his running career and he was heading to the European Championships in Split as the favourite - and hoping to follow in tradition.Ovett had won the gold in Prague in 1978 before Cram succeeded him in 1982 in Athens before retaining it 1986 in Stuttgart, but Elliott suffered the horrendous setback of being brought down in his heat. He did not ask to be re-instated for the final, but the Jury of Appeal allowed him in anyway. He had been so affected by the controversy that he finished only fourth.

 It was the last time he would run for Britain at a major Championship. He won the European Cup 1500m in 1991 but had to withdraw from the World Championships later that summer in Tokyo and as he aimed to make the Olympics in Barcelona, injury struck on a cruel night on his home track in Rotherham when he made his way along the home straight of a 1500m race. He was forced to stop, and he never ran competitively again. Though so much of the Ovett, Coe and Cram era was about world records, Elliott never followed that lead individually. He ran on the British team that set a world record for 4 x 800m in 1982 and set a world indoor 1500m record of 3:34.20 in 1990, with three more British indoor records: 1500m 3:37.9 (1988), 1M: 3:53.70 (1988) and 3:52.02 (1990).

 In 1997 he was appointed running and promotions officer and then later Director of Running at Brendan Foster’s Nova International and in 2004 he joined the English Institute of Sport as Athlete Services Manager. After retirement, one of his proudest moments was advising John Mayock on his way to the European Indoor 3000m gold in Valencia in 1998. But so often Elliott was the man whose career should have arguably been laced with even more glory himself and, but for outside intervention, and injury, it may well have been.

 

International Championships

1981: 4th 800m European Juniors

1983: 2nd 800m European Indoors, 3rd 800m European Cup; 4th 800m Worlds

1984: sf 800m Olympics

1986: 3rd 800m Commonwealth Games

1987: 2nd 800m Worlds

1988: 4th 800m, 2nd 1500m Olympics

1990: 1st 1500m Commonwealth Games, 4th 1500m Europeans

1991: 1st 1500m European Cup

 

UK Internationals: 15 (1983-91)

 

National Championships

Won UK 800m 1983-4, 1986; 3000m 1991; AAA 800m 1982, 1987; 1500m 1984, 1988; National Youths CC 1980.

 

Personal bests

400m 48.2 (1984), 600m 1:16.6 (1983), 1000m 2:16.30 (1990), 1500m 3:32.69 (1990), 1 mile 3:49.20 (1988), 2000m 4:52.82 (1987), 3000m 8:07.51 (1991).

 

Indoors: 1:46.71 (1993), 1000y 2:06.77 (1987), 1000m 2:20.29 (1987), 1500m 3:34.20 (British record, 1990), 1 mile 3:52.02 (British record, 1990),