Roger Bannister's miracle mile booked him a place in history


Roger Bannister's death at the age of 88 prompted a host of emotional tributes to athletics' great barrier breaker on Sunday with the sport's senior figure, Sebastian Coe, saluting him as the "man who made the impossible possible".

"Sir Roger Bannister died peacefully in Oxford, surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them", his family said.

"He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends". "He will be greatly missed".

Bannister died Saturday in Oxford, the city where he accomplished the feat many had thought impossible. He ended competitive racing at age 25, having never earned prize money, to focus on his career as a neurologist. His achievement opened the physical and psychological door for many other milers who have since beaten his time of three minutes 59.4 seconds.

But Bannister, who stood 1.8 metres tall and weighed only 68 kilograms, was told he was too light to make a first-rate oarsman.

He asked for his name to be withdrawn from a list of 1948 Olympic possibles and continued his careful preparations for the 1952 games.

Criticized by the British press and disappointed in his own performance, he made a decision to keep running, dedicating himself to beating the 4-minute mile.

At the same time Bannister was training on the track, he was going to school to become a doctor.

After Helsinki he became the forgotten man of athletics.

Landy surpassed Bannister's world record less than seven weeks later, clocking 3:58.0 minutes in Turku, Finland, on June 21. Stampfl had Bannister, Chataway and their friend Christopher Brasher run 10 laps of 440 yards - a quarter mile - with a two-minute recovery between each.

May 6 was cold, wet and windy - not ideal for a record-breaking attempt. After a false start by Brasher, he was keyed up but fresh from five days of rest.

The same year of his marriage, Bannister wrote a book, "The Four Minute Mile".

Despite being famed for breaking the four-minute barrier, Bannister said he felt a greater sense of achievement winning gold at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, beating his great rival Australian John Landy in a race later dubbed the "Miracle Mile".

Two months later, he claimed the European title for the 1,500 meters in Bern, Switzerland. He initiated the council's "Sport for All" campaign and pressed for testing of anabolic steroid use.

In 1975, he was awarded a knighthood for his achievements and was later bestowed with the Companion of Honour by the Duke of Cambridge.

He went on to become a top brain doc and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford.

Bannister, who went on to pursue a long and distinguished medical career, had been slowed by Parkinson's disease in recent years.

He established his own medical practice and was eventually appointed director of National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London. Hagg's record was still the time to beat nine years later.