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Sir Roger Bannister dies aged 88

Lord Coe leads tributes to a man whose achievements “transcended sport”.

Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a sub-four minute mile, has died at the age of 88.

Bannister, aided by Sir Christopher Chataway and Chris Brasher as pacemakers, achieved a feat widely viewed at the time as impossible by running three minutes 59.4 seconds at the Iffley Road track on May 6, 1954.

Bannister, who also won a Commonwealth and European Championship gold medal that year, went on to become a leading neurologist.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011.

Bannister died on Saturday at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, the same hospital he trained at as a medical student.

His family said in a statement that Bannister “died peacefully…surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them. He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends.”

Lord Coe, who followed in Bannister’s footsteps by breaking the mile world record three times, paid tribute to an inspirational man, describing him as a “giant”.

“On May 6, 1954, Roger made the impossible possible,” Coe, now the president of athletics’ world governing body the IAAF, said on iaaf.org.

“One year after the coronation of a young Queen Elizabeth II and after man conquered Everest, Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile with the help of his friends Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher.

“The world’s best runners had been attempting the four-minute barrier for a quarter of a century. It was as much of a psychological barrier as it was a physical barrier. Bannister’s assault allowed mankind to enter a world filled with new possibilities.

“His achievement transcended sport, let alone athletics. It was a moment in history that lifted the heart of a nation and boosted morale in a world that was still at a low ebb after the war.

“We have all lost a giant and, for many of us, a deep and close friendship.”

Steve Cram, another British mile world record breaker, said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “To have Roger Bannister as a Brit having done that was something I used so often over the years to inspire me individually. I wanted to be a great British miler following in his footsteps.”

Four-time Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah described Bannister as “always humble, supportive and encouraging” and “an inspiration to so many”.

Women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe tweeted: “Saddened to hear the news that we have lost one of the true pioneers, trailblazers and iconic inspirations of our sport. Sir Roger Bannister showed that barriers are there to be broken and there are no limits.”

British long-distance runner Jo Pavey, a former European champion over 10,000 metres, said Bannister was a “true hero”.

She said on Sky News: “He’s such a great example to all the athletes coming through. He was such a gentleman, so able to give encouragement to all the generations of athletes coming through and he’ll be so sorely missed. He’s left such an amazing legacy in our sport.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell, a former British 100m record holder who competed at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, said: “Like every other schoolboy in the 1950’s Roger Bannister was my hero.

“Everything he did in life he did to perfection. His assault on the four-minute barrier was meticulously planned and beautifully executed.

“He was an inspiration to those like me who sought to combine university with international sport.

“We met when I was the youngest member of the first ever UK Sports Council set up in 1964 and he could not have been more welcoming or helpful.”

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