AFTER they leave the arena, life is a trip back down for most sportsmen. The greater the peaks of achievement, the more humdrum the future. Living with diminished fame and fulfilment is the toughest lesson most athletes have to learn. Lesser mortals struggle to cope with being unable to match the feats of their youth to such an extent that lifestyle counselling is offered these days to sport professionals facing retirement.
So how has it been for you, Seb?
Lord Coe is 50 today. He once bestrode the athletics world: back-to-back Olympic 1500 metres gold, plus eight world records including three (800m, 1500m, and mile) in just 41 days, at the age of 22. Yet since Coe hung up his spikes, most things he has touched have continued to turn to gold. A millionaire in his business life, he now chairs the 2012 London Olympic organising committee. His keynote address overturned Paris, the perceived invincible favourites, so he is still master of the tight finish.
A Chelsea supporter for 39 years, Coe was recently appointed chair of the FIFA ethics commission. He denies having taken his eye off the Olympic ball, yet doesn't rule out future advancement in either athletics or the International Olympic Committee. He has been tipped as a future president of both the IOC and the UK and world athletics bodies.
"I'm a full-time chairman, short of taking half an afternoon off to watch my sons play rugby." He adds that, if 2012 colleagues can't find time to watch their kids play sport, they don't understand the philosophy "and probably shouldn't be here".
"There are very good examples in politics of people who have decided that at 23 they need to be here, at 25 they need to be there, and at 40 they need to be in the cabinet. And at 50 they are a complete failure unless they've become party leader. By and large, life doesn't work out like that.
"I have always sensed that people who have done that have tended to become quite unhappy people. I've probably witnessed that more in politics than in most professions. So I really don't sit here scheming.
"I'm not even standing for the UK Athletics presidency, and in terms of the IOC, well I'm not even a member. I'm sure people think I sit here being very strategic and Machiavellian, but I've never done that. When opportunities have come, I've tended sometimes, with a little bit of risk occasionally, to grab them."
Doug Gillon, Glasgow Herald,September, 29 2006
Submitted by Martin Slavin on Sun, 01/10/2006 - 01:21.