From Usain Bolt down, the great and the good of athletics stopped in their tracks yesterday to pay tribute to Lloyd Cowan.
Cowan, who passed away aged 58, was the coach who guided Christine Ohuruogu to Olympic and double world title glory.
The gentle giant of a man who gave Andy Turner the belief to become a European and Commonwealth sprint hurdle champion.
But as the outpouring of grief from inside the sport showed, he was so much more than that.
Turner said: “Lloyd took me through some really low, really terrible points of my life and on to the highest heights of my sport.
“For the 12 years we worked together I probably spent more time with him than I did my family. Lloyd knew me better than anyone.
“He was always there, like another father to me; the coach I turned to when I had a bad race and was feeling awful – or a good one and wanted someone to celebrate with.
“He had a way of making you believe you had it, you were good enough, you were special, even at times when you would doubt yourself.”
Cowan was there for Turner away from the track too, when Turner’s mother Yvonne died, at the same tender age of 58, and the hurdler’s home was ransacked while he attended the funeral.
“Lloyd made such a huge impact on my life,” he said. “I’m absolutely heartbroken.”
Linford Christie shared Turner’s pain, saying “it hurt more than I could have ever imagined” to learn of Cowan’s death, the cause of which is believed to have been Covid-19.
“The space you left cannot be filled,” he added.
Bolt tweeted "RIP Lloyd" while Jess Ennis-Hill remembered how the London-born coach “always believed in me” and exuded “pure passion” in what he did.
Cowan, who competed as an international hurdler, relished helping athletes excel in the spotlight that he himself was so keen to avoid.
He famously shut himself in a toilet at the warm-up track in Moscow while Ohuruogu produced arguably the performance of her life to reclaim the world 400m title in 2013.
“He rarely watched finals in the stadium,” Turner confirmed. “You’d find him standing in the middle of the warm-up track, quite often with a coke bottle which had a little bit of brandy in just a case a celebration was in order.
“I once saw him out there watching Chrissie (Ohuruogu) on the big screen. When she won he walked off with a beaming smile, clapping and talking to himself.
“To think we gave him something to be happy about is such a good feeling because he invested so much of himself in us.”
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