Sir Chris Chataway remembered

Tributes to Sir Chris Chataway
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Sir Chris Chataway (centre), Sir Roger Bannister (left) and Chris Brasher (right) come together 40 years after Bannister became the first to break the four-minute mile, Chataway and Brasher acting as his pacemakers that day in 1954. Chataway died Sunday aged 82.

The death on Sunday of Sir Chris Chataway at the age of 82 will bring sadness around the world because of the impact he had on athletics - and beyond.

European Athletics joins so many in passing its condolences on to Chataway's family and friends at this sad time.

And as Sebastian Coe, the double Olympic 1500m champion, said: "He was a 'Renaissance Man' and although his international career was relatively short, he packed an enormous amount in it.

"He was a world record-holder, inspired Roger Bannister to the first sub four-minute mile, made two Olympic finals and won the Commonwealth Games title at Three Miles in Vancouver. He did all this on four training sessions, so had bags of talent."

On 6 May this year, a small track in Oxford will celebrate the 60th anniversary of one of the landmark moments in the history of sport but it will now be tinged with an extra touch of sadness.

On that day back in 1954, Chataway, along with the late Chris Brasher, were the pacemakers as Bannister became the first man to break the four-minute mile barrier.

Brasher, who went on to launch the London Marathon and died in 2003, set the pace before Chataway took over on the second lap.

He maintained the brilliant speed, leading on the final 400m before Bannister took over with half a lap to go to run into history with his time of 3:59.4.

Bannister led the tributes to Chataway, telling the BBC: "He was gallant to the end. Our friendship dated back over more than half a century.

"We laughed, ran and commiserated together. My family and I will miss him sorely and our thoughts go out to his family and many friends who were so fond of him."

His role in helping Bannister to that run was just a part of an extraordinary and brief career.

But that year of 1954 was a remarkable time for him.

In August he won gold in 13:35.2 over three miles at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, the same month where he was beaten into second in the 5000m silver at the European Athletics Championships in Bern by Russia's Vladimir Kuts. The difference then was almost 13 seconds - 13:56.6 to 14:08.8 - but a few weeks later, how the tide was turned.

At the White City Stadium in October in a London v Moscow match, not only did Chataway beat Kuts in an epic race, he did so in a world record time of 13:51.6 - his victory achieved on the line in an amazing race with the Russian second in 13:51.7.

It was shown live in Europe and the name Chataway became known across the continent.

Days later Kuts took the record in Prague with a run of 13:51.2 but the following summer, back at White City, Chataway was a world record-holder again when he ran Three Miles in 13:23.2.

In 1995 he was knighted for his services to aviation, four years after becoming chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority.

But athletics was always in his blood and his enthusiasm showed at the Great North Run a few years ago, when he ran the race deep into his 70s.

An icon, if ever there was one.