Tributes flood in for athletics hero Sir Roger Bannister

Two years later, on a windy afternoon in Oxford, Bannister clocked the mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds over four laps at the Iffley Road track on May 6, 1954 - the equivalent of 15 miles per hour.

He would lose his place as the only sub-four minute runner just over a month later, but got revenge on new world record holder John Landy at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancover in a race dubbed the Miracle Mile.

In 2011, the Olympian was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. "He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends".

Roger Bannister about to cross the tape at the end of his record-breaking mile run at Iffley Road, Oxford.

"Sir Roger Bannister was a great British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all".

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But Bannister's achievement has continued to inspire athletics enthusiasts, with the shoes he wore to break the four-minute barrier selling for a record.

"He was running on cinder tracks, not tarmac tracks", he said.

"None of my athletics was the greatest achievement", he once said.

He might not have set the milestone but for the disappointment of finishing without a medal in the 1,500 meters, known as the metric mile, in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. "Life has its physical challenges, but I take every day as it comes", he said. "The first person you're taught to look up to is Roger Bannister".

He was named the first chairman of the English Sports Council in 1971, and remained in that position until 1974.

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After retiring from competitive racing, Bannister spent two decades as a neurologist in private practice, then turned full-time to research, specializing in autonomic failure - illness characterized by the failure of the central nervous system to respond automatically to stimuli.

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

IAAF President Sebastian Coe said Bannister's death represented a "day of intense sadness both for our nation and for all of us in athletics".

"There is not a single athlete of my generation who was not inspired by Roger and his achievements both on and off the track".

Bannister returned to Oxford in 1985 to become Master of Pembroke College, a position he held until 1993. With his wife, Moyra Jacobsson, a portrait painter and daughter of a Swedish economist, he had four children.

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  • Jill Young