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The Olympian

Brian Glanville
Date Published
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The Olympian is Ike Low, a young Cockney miler who is taken up by the eccentric, dominating coach, Sam Dee and turned into a world champion but at an immense human cost.

The author himself writes, ‘The Olympian can be read as an allegory, or as s straightforward story of an outstanding Cockney miler and his eccentric demanding coach. Ike Low, at the end, can be seen as a doomed Icarus, while the obsessional, deeply self-centred life of the international athlete has an almost Faustian quality. . . So Ike Low, groomed and driven by Sam Dee, his implacable coach, is at once hero and victim.

On first publication in 1969, this novel attracted deservedly extravagant praise both in the UK and USA:

‘His tale is brilliantly told, rushing to a wildly exciting climax at Ike’s second Olympic effort in Tokyo. And it is also as serious an effort as anyone has made to explore the tortures and indecisions of the totally dedicated athlete . . . He has picked (Ike) apart, found the delicate balance wheels inside and arrived at a tortuous, ironic absurdity. This absurdity races head and head with the sheer force of the narrative, right to the powerful, puzzling conclusion of this fine novel.’ Pete Axthelm, Newsweek

‘One of the best sports novels of all time. No one who is seriously interested in sports or in modern fiction should miss it.’ Bill Perkins, National Observer

‘Sheer unadulterated, unalloyed pleasure! How rarely that comes from a novel that is also first-rate.’ Richard Lister, Evening Standard

The Olympian is a polished technical achievement, convincing in detail and affect.’ William Trevor, The Guardian


Brian Glanville, novelist and journalist, is one of the best writers on football. He spent nearly thirty years as a football correspondent for the Sunday Times to which he is still a contributor. He has also written for The People as well as contributing obituaries of prominent players to The Guardian. Simon Barnes has said of him, ‘Football has been…

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