March 4, 2018
Sir Roger Bannister, the first athlete to run mile in under four minutes, dies aged 88
Sir Roger Bannister, the first athlete to run a sub-four minute mile, has died aged 88 in Oxford, his family have said.
His time of three minutes 59.4 seconds, set at Iffley Road sports ground in Oxford on May 6, 1954, stood as a record for just 46 days but his place in athletics history was assured.
He also won gold over the same distance at the 1954 Commonwealth Games and later became a leading neurologist.
“He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends.”
Bannister studied medicine at the University of Oxford and went on to become a consultant neurologist after retiring from athletics in 1954.
The Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten of Barnes said: “My wife and I were very sad to hear about Roger Bannister’s death. We offer our condolences to his family. He was not just one of the great athletes of the last century but a superb doctor and servant of Oxford University.
“He was a man of great distinction and honour in every sense. At the age of 88 he was still an active supporter of the University and we will miss him enormously.”
After missing out on a medal when he finished fourth in the 1,500 metres at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, the then medical student made it his goal to become the first athlete to run a four-minute mile.
Wes Santee, of the United States, and John Landy, the Australian, had both gone close to the mark before Bannister finally achieved the feat at the Iffley Road track.
As with his previous attempts, he had Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, his Great Britain team-mates, to set the pace. Brasher took the runners through the first 880 yards before Chataway took over until the end of the third lap.
Bannister kicked for home with 275 yards remaining and crossed the finish line in three minutes 59.4 seconds.
Bannister retired in August 1954 after winning the 1,500 metres at the European Championships in Berne, Switzerland. He devoted his life to medicine and has always said his career as a neurologist, and not his landmark run, was the achievement of his life.
The current mile world record is held by Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran a time of three minutes 43.13 seconds in Rome on July 7, 1999.
Speaking to the BBC in 2014 about his illness he said: “I have seen, and looked after, patients with so many neurological and other disorders that I am not surprised I have acquired an illness,” he said at the time.
”It’s in the nature of things, there’s a gentle irony to it.”
Bannister was the first Chairman of the Sports Council and was knighted for his service in 1975.
In response to the news of his death, British Athletics tweeted: “All at British Athletics are incredibly saddened by the passing of Sir Roger at the age of 88.
“A legend in every sense of the word.”
Prime Minister Theresa May, meanwhile, wrote: “Sir Roger was a great British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all. He will be greatly missed.”
Fellow sporting stars also paid tribute.
Olympic champion Amy Williams wrote: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sir Roger Bannister. First athlete to break the 4-minute mile, and going on to do groundbreaking work in medical science.
“You redefined what could be achieved by the human body & showed us nothing is impossible.”
Olympic sprinter Iwan Thomas added: “Sorry to hear of the passing of Sir Roger Bannister what a true legend that man was, an awesome athlete & a true gent.”