Australian running great and Bannister rival John Landy dies

MELBOURNE: Athletics trailblazer John Landy, the second man to break the four-minute mile after arch-rival Roger Bannister, has died aged 91, sporting officials said Saturday (Feb 26).

The Australian former mile and 1500m world record holder passed away at his home on Thursday.

Landy was renowned for his rivalry with England’s Bannister as they both sought to make history and conquer the four-minute mark.

Bannister was first, clocking 3:59.4 in Oxford on May 6, 1954. But Landy went better 46 days later in Finland with a time of 3:58.0 – a record that stood for the next three years.

“If Australia needed a role model, it is John Landy,” said Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates.

“He was a pioneer – and his rivalry with Roger Bannister, as the pair closed on the sub-four-minute mark for the mile, captured not only Australia’s imagination, but that of the world.”

The two-time Olympian will also be remembered for one of the most selfless sporting acts of the 20th century, during the mile at the 1956 Australian championships.

With about a lap and a half to go, young compatriot Ron Clarke tripped and fell.

Landy leapt over him but then turned back to help him to his feet as the field rushed past. Incredibly, Landy was still able to chase down the leaders and win.

It was voted the finest sporting moment of the century at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Gala in 1999.

“John knew what it took to excel at the highest level, and his determination to reach new heights has inspired generations of Australian distance runners,” said Athletics Australia President Jan Swinhoe.

“His athleticism was only matched by his sportsmanship and his service to others, and those qualities have allowed him to leave behind a powerful legacy.”

In later life, Landy served as governor of Victoria state from 2001-2006.

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