Mile News

Herb Elliott motivated by pursuit of perfection

February 23, 2014

The 1960 Olympic champion and Mile world record holder has spiritual depth to match his athletic ability.

By Daniel Lane, Sydney Morning Herald

Herb Elliott, who dominated the 1500 meters at the 1960 Rome Olympics, theorises that if life is a race, it is best to focus on personal perfection rather than revelling in an opponent's downfall.

Elliott, who turns 76 on Tuesday, embraced that philosophy when he was only 18 and read a holy book from the Orient in a shack near the sandhills that formed an important part of his training camp on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.

His coach, Percy Cerutty, described as a genius by his supporters and as a crackpot by detractors, knew how to nourish his athletes. Long before Australians heard of muesli, Elliott, who also set the Mile world record clocking 3:54.5 in 1958, fuelled up on a mixture of oats, dried fruit and milk for breakfast, and at night digested books for deeper meaning.

''I had a wonderful coach in Percy Cerutty, and his philosophy was the backbone of my performance,'' Elliott said in a rare interview. ''It may sound strange but there's a pyramid of motivation, and the purest motivation is 'I'm going to do this as hard as I possibly can because it's going to make me a better person'.

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