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Peter Coe, father of ex-Olympic champion, dies

Aug. 09, 2008, 9:50 a.m. (ET)

LONDON (AP) Peter Coe, the father of two-time Olympic champion Sebastian Coe, died Saturday after a short illness. He was 88.

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Olympic organizing committee, had delayed his trip to the Beijing Games to spend time with his father in a London hospital and had just arrived in the Chinese capital when his father died.

He plans to return to Britain for the funeral. The family was making arrangements but no detail had been released.

Coached by his novice father, an engineer by trade who survived when his merchant navy ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic during World War II, Coe burst onto the international scene as a 20-year-old in 1977 when he ran to victory in the European indoor championships.

Peter Coe recognized that the prevailing coaching methods for middle-distance racing in Britain were outmoded and revolutionized the program for his son, focusing on repetitious speed work rather than longer, slower sessions.

"My father had an extraordinary influence on my life," Coe said last month.

"His view was that you couldn't be a specialist in every discipline within the sport," Coe told a British Broadcasting Corp. documentary eight years ago. "He understood the basics of biomechanics and eventually became an extremely capable physiologist, but he didn't spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about those issues - he found people who could spend time worrying about them, while he concentrated on the coaching and bringing the team together."

Coe broke his first world record in 1979 before becoming a two-time 1,500-meter Olympic champion in 1980 and 1984, each time overcoming the disappointment of being beaten in his preferred 800.

British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan said Peter Coe was one of the best athletics coaches he had seen.

"In the world of coaching and inspiring and influencing there are few men in the history of British athletics of whom it could be said that they were truly among the greatest," Moynihan said. "He had a quiet determination and concentration on detail.

"Peter Coe's contribution to Seb's success, to British athletics and to everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was always of gold medal standard."

Sebastian Coe was lobbying for the London 2012 bid in 2005 when his mother, Angela, died on the eve of one of his trips to canvas voting delegates. He flew out to Australia immediately after the funeral and presented London's bid in one of the meetings that helped sway voters in favor of the English capital over high-profile bids from Paris, New York, Moscow and Madrid in July of that year.

Peter and Sebastian Coe co-wrote two books about athletics coaching.