Sunday, March 4, 2018

V8 N. 19 Sir Roger Bannister R.I.P.

Sir Roger Bannister (1929-2018) R.I.P.

March 4, 2018

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister, an English medical student, with the help of two of his training partners, Chistopher Chattaway and Christopher Brasher, and their advisor/coach Franz Stampl,  an Austrian who had been interned in England during World War II, pulled off  the single most significant event in our sport or any sport for that matter in our lifetime.  

In today's New York Times  Frank Litsky and Bruce Weber make a good attempt, with the help of a Sports Illustrated quote, to describe Roger Bannister in a short paragraph. 

Tall and lanky with a long, forceful stride and a blond head that usually bobbed above his competitors’ in a race, Bannister was a gentleman athlete with a philosophical turn of mind. He was a quiet, unassuming champion, a character of a type that has seemingly vanished in the modern era of sports celebrity. Sports Illustrated called him “among the most private of public men, inexhaustibly polite, cheerfully distant, open and complex.”

At the age of 88, Sir Roger's health had clearly been in decline.  As a neurologist, he knew well what he faced with Parkinson's Disease, just as he knew well what he faced in attempting to run the first sub-four minute mile.  

His fame might have been fleeting, with John Landy breaking his record only a few weeks later, but he would soon show his strength.  His seeming failure in not medalling in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, when a nation's hopes were on his shoulders, was followed by three  highly significant races, the first sub-four minute mile, the European Championship 1500, and the Miracle Mile against  Landy in the Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.  Clearly Roger Bannister  demonstrated his tenacity and courage behind that pleasant persona that he always conveyed.

In my own history, I recall vividly in 1954 when it was announced on the Today Show that the first four minute mile had been run.  I knew nothing about track and field, but it seemed that something of importance had indeed occurred.  Then about a year later a documentary film of that race at Iffley Road, Oxford, was shown at our school.  (See Below) The fact that the race was filmed from start to finish at a seemingly insignificant meeting says that certain people knew well what was about to happen.  I can remember too the close up of Bannister when he took off passing Chattaway, and his image filled the screen in close up for the last three hundred yards.  The speed seemed impossible, and I couldn't conceive of how someone could sustain such a physical effort for so long.  Although I still had dreams of becoming a basketball player, new information was filed in my brain, and when I failed at basketball, I still had uncharted paths to explore.   Though a four minute mile was never in my repetoire, I have Sir Roger Bannister to thank for setting me off in a new direction.  

Thank you , Sir Roger

George Brose

The First Four Minute Mile  Clik Here

I expected this.  Another link to the past is gone.  One that provides me with many memories from watching him run in London in 1952 to meeting him ( and Landy) in Victoria at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.  He probably had an influence on every person involved in track from that seminal day in 1954 until today.  Regards.  Geoff

thanks, George, a pleasant memory.  funny that of the 3 Bannister was the only one who did not get an olympic medal.  Dick Trace

Great job, George.  I remember it the same way.  Something significant, something seemingly impossible, something that crossed a magical barrier happened that day  but I was in no position to appreciate the full impact.  Roy

   I had the honor of speaking with him in 1976 at the T&F News hospitality room near the stadium.  He was very British but walked with a limp the result of a traffic accident.  He certainly took the time with an insignificant track fan just as one might expect of him.     Bill


Well penned tribute to Sir Roger Bannister.  I remember when he beat Landy in Vancouver, and both ran under 4 minutes.
The Seattle Times had a photo taken at or near the finish line and I recall Landy looked over his left shoulder as Bannister passed him on the right.
Hope life is treating you well this winter.  I can’t wait for Spring and Summer and warmer weather.


Jim Allen

1 comment:

skwilli said...

I always found it really cool that the official timer at the finish line was Harold Abrahams of "Chariots of Fire" fame. He is in the famous pic.

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