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Scott Ostler

Steve Scott Ready to Renew Personal Battle of Britons

January 15, 1986|SCOTT OSTLER

It probably wouldn't bother Steve Scott that the glory days of his career so far have been spent running in the shadow of the fiery chariot fellows from England, if those chaps didn't tend to be such insufferable boors.

Every time Scott turns around, the English milers--Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram--are either ducking him or beating him.

And they have other annoying habits. For instance:

"They lie a lot," Scott says. "You can't believe 'em. In any (magazine or newspaper) article that describes their training, you can't believe 'em. They like to play psychological games, try to make you think they hardly do any training at all, that it's all natural ability."

Then there is their annoying tendency to act like royalty. Except for Cram, maybe.

"I saw him at a party in Nice after the meet where he set the world record," Scott says. "He was blitzed on champagne. If it was me in that position, I'd do the same. If I was to break a world record, I'd be partying for a week.

"You'd never see Coe doing that. Coe after a world record would be sitting with the executives of the meet, sipping tea and talking world affairs."

With pinky extended, no doubt.

"Ovett would be more likely to be out partying, but not going wild."

Scott could put all this irritation behind him if he could just win an Olympic gold medal, or set a world record, or both. He's always a threat to do one or the other, but the English keep getting in the way.

For the last eight years, Steve Scott has been America's No. 1 miler, and he holds the American record, and he has run the third-best mile of all time. All of this should make him a legend in his own time, but the English fellows . . .

It must be tough when you're a one-man national dynasty in your event and all anybody wants to talk about is the great races you didn't run.

Like the 1983 world championships in Helsinki. It was the major pre-Olympic test event, and Scott went into the race with greater confidence of a victory than he had ever felt. He knew he would win.

He didn't. Employing race strategy that even Tom Lasorda might second-guess, Scott went out slowly and let Cram blaze away early in the last lap and win easily.

That ruined Scott for the Olympics. He was favored to win the 1,500 in L.A. in '84, being the hometown kid and all. The stage was set. No American had won the Olympic metric mile since 1908, when Melvin Sheppard took the gold in London. Gold fever was running high among American athletes in L.A., and Scott was ready.

However . . . Still smarting from the criticism of his strategic blunder in the Helsinki race, Scott resolved to set the pace in Los Angeles. You had to admire his spirit, especially since Olympic metric mile races tend to be boring, slow-paced chess games.

"I was going to go for first or nothing," he says. "All or bust. My strategy was to go out, take off after the first quarter and try to run the legs off the other guys. I figured a lot of them would be tired because of the fast heats.

"But it's pretty darn impossible, unless you're Superman, to run away from that field. I felt I was OK until 300 (meters) to go. I figured I could respond (kick). Even when three of the British runners went by, I felt I was still in good position. I wanted to make a move, but there was just nothing there.

"It was a good experience, but it didn't quite work out."

Not quite. Coe won in 3:32.53. Cram was second. Scott was 10th, 3:39.86.

End of career?

Not yet. Scott went through the motions all last year, slogged through the post-Olympic blahs, and it looked as if he might be over the hill at 29--he'll turn 30 in May.

But Steve swears he's back now, with a vengeance. He'll kick off his comeback year Friday night in the Sunkist indoor meet at the Sports Arena, challenging indoor king Eamonn Coghlan. The English rarely run indoors. They'll be waiting for Steve in Europe next summer, sipping their tea and lying about their training.

Maybe Scott will be ready for them this time. Maybe his running in the hills near his new home in Fallbrook will have given him an edge. Maybe he has learned his lesson and, in his next big race, Steve Scott won't be caught playing checkers when all the other guys are playing chess.

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