History maker Bannister dies at the age of 88

Roger Bannister
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European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen today paid tribute to Roger Bannister, who has died at the age of 88.

On May 6, 1954, Bannister wrote himself into track and field history when he became the first man to break the four minute barrier for the mile. In the same year, he would also win the European 1500m title in Berne, Switzerland in 3:43.8.

Many had tried before but Bannister’s time of 3:59.4 - in a race of six runners on the now famous cinder track at Iffley Road, Oxford - had reverberations around the globe.

It remains one of the greatest, if not the greatest, breakthrough moment in athletics history. 

President Hansen tweeted: “Our sport owes Roger Bannister a great deal – he will never be replaced. A True history maker... Sleep well Sir Roger. RIP.” 

The tributes poured in for a man whose record actually lasted only 46 days before Australian John Landy ran 3:58.0 in Turku but it has been broken just 17 times since. The current mark of 3:43.13 was set by Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj in Rome in 1999. 

IAAF President Lord Coe tweeted: “This is a day of intense sadness both for our nation and for all of us in athletics. There is not a single athlete of my generation who was not inspired by Roger and his achievements both on and off the track.”

A special tribute to Bannister took place this afternoon at the Arena Birmingham during the final day of the IAAF World Indoor Championships. 

Bannister, who had been fourth in the 1500m at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, was paced during his mile record by Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway and retired from athletics at the end of the year to pursue a career as a neurologist.