22 May

Miles Better (2)

Steve Ovett and Seb Coe

Enormous attention will focus on Usain Bolt at this summer's Olympic Games. The world's fastest man is the standard bearer for the sport and millions will watch the men's 100m final looking for a gold medal-winning performance, a world record and some world-class showboating too.

Britain will be just as rapt in the charismatic Jamaican as the rest of the planet. But beyond the jet-heeled superstar and GB's own stars, the home crowds are likely to follow the men's middle distance races with the most interest.

The British have a love affair with the middle distance races. It has such a rich heritage in the UK. From Roger Bannister's iconic run to break the four minute mile in 1954 through to the record-breaking rivalry of Olympic gold medallists Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett.

Mo Farah's likely exploits in the long-distances will - naturally - be hugely enjoyed by everyone. But it doesn't stop the craving for British success in the 1500m.

Ovett once humorously described the decathlon as "nine Mickey Mouse events and a 1500m." It's a remark that deserves to be treated as the tongue-in-cheek way it was intended. But, being British and a little biased, you still can't help but think he's onto something.

The 1500m is the metric mile and the mile is a distance that the British understand and relate too. It's a still a symbolic distance. It is one that everyone has ran at some point. It is one one that is still a long way to race, it's a distance that can be run fast, but not without pain.

It requires not only fitness, but brains too. It has to be delicately paced and beautifully timed to be run right. This summer, Britain's current crop of 1500m runners, names such as Andy Baddeley, Tom Lancashire, James Brewer and James Shane will find themselves scrutinised like never before.

Of course every member of Team GB will feel their own pressures, but none will feel the weight of history quite like the 1500m runners. None will have names like Coe, Ovett and Cram tossed in their faces at every repetitive media interview. A film about the Coe-Ovett rivalry is also set for release. It's an unenviable pressurised position to be in.

But on the flipside of the coin, imagine the reaction should they succeed. Millions will watch their attempts to win a medal in the men's 1500m and for many Brits, that will be miles better than a triple jump or hurdles medal.