International Athletics

British athletics great dies

2014-01-19 19:41
Roger Bannister, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher in 1994 (Getty Images)

London - British athletics great Chris Chataway, best known for being one of the pacemakers for Roger Bannister's landmark four-minute mile run in 1954, died at the age of 82 on Sunday after a long battle with cancer.

Chataway, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the aviation industry, had a stellar year in 1954 as he also broke the 5 000m world record.

For that achievement and for his role in Bannister's remarkable effort it was he and not Bannister who was named the first-ever BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1954.

Bannister paid a warm tribute to Chataway, who also won the Commonwealth Games three miles title in 1954, saying he was "one of my best friends".

"He was gallant to the end," Bannister told BBC Sport. "Our friendship dated back over more than half a century.

"We laughed, ran and commiserated together. People will always remember him for the great runner he was but it shouldn't be forgotten that he had an extremely distinguished career off the track.

"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."

After retiring from athletics in 1956 he forged a successful career first as a broadcast journalist for firstly ITN and then the BBC and subsequently in politics.

He was twice elected a Conservative Party MP - losing his seat in 1966 after serving as a junior Education Minister but was returned to Parliament in 1970 where he was appointed by Prime Minister Edward Heath Minister of Posts and Telecommunications.

In that role he was responsible for guiding the Bill introducing commercial radio successfully through Parliament thus ending the BBC's monopoly.

He retired from politics aged just 43 when the Conservatives lost power in 1974.

Chataway's son Mark paid tribute to the resolve shown by his father in later life.

"We were struck by his amazing qualities of humility and strength, especially in these last few years," the 53-year-old said.

He also described his father as "a very compassionate and wise man" and said his father's passion for running remained with him in his advanced years.

"He ran with a couple of my brothers in the Great North Run about three years ago, doing it in a very respectable time."

He also completed the half marathon course of just over 13 miles in one hour, 38 minutes, 50 seconds at the age of 75 in 2006.

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