- Ask Steven
Bannister's major races
Is it true that Roger Bannister never won a race at a major championship? asked Brian Ward
It's not true, no. Roger Bannister - who famously broke the four-minute barrier for the mile in 1954 - won gold medals in both the European Championships and the Empire (now Commonwealth) Games. Bannister did just fail to collect a medal at the Olympics, though. In 1952 - two years before his most famous feat - he was fourth in the 1500 metres at the Helsinki Games, in a race that produced a shock winner in Josy Barthel, who remains Luxembourg's only Olympic gold medallist.
The four-minute mile came at Oxford, where Bannister was studying medicine, in May 1954. Later that year - by which time he'd already been relieved of the world mile record by Australia's John Landy - Bannister won Great Britain's only track gold medal at the European Championships in Berne, in Switzerland, in the 1500 metres.
A few weeks later Bannister met Landy in a famous race - dubbed the "Miracle Mile" - in Vancouver, in Canada. The Empire Games events were then still run over imperial distances, so the new mile record-holder faced his predecessor in the final (it was the only time they ever met on the track). Landy made the early running, but Bannister steadily closed the gap - and the race was probably settled when Landy looked over his left shoulder just as Bannister made his move on the right. Both of them broke four minutes again, the first time two men had done so in the same race.
Bannister retired from the track shortly afterwards to concentrate on his medical career, and did not take part in the Melbourne Olympics of 1956 - where the home favourite Landy lost again, this time to Ron Delany of Ireland.