Athletics legend Chris Chataway dead, aged 82

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 from cancer.

Chataway, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the aviation industry, had a stellar year in 1954 when he also broke the 5000 metres 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 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 returning to Parliament in 1970 where he was appointed by Minister of Posts and Telecommunications by then Prime Minister Edward Heath.

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.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, the current Conservative Party leader, praised Chataway's varied life by saying: "Chris was a rare politician in that he enjoyed such extensive, wide-ranging and successful careers both before and after he served in Parliament."

Cameron added: We have lost a great Briton, a true Conservative and a man of many talents."

Meanwhile Chataway's son Mark saluted 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 ran with a couple of my brothers in the Great North Run about three years ago, doing it in a very respectable time."

Indeed Chataway completed the half marathon course of just under 21 kilometres in one hour, 38 minutes, 50 seconds at the age of 75 in 2006.

"He became a hero to athletes for what he did in his 70s and older with the Great North Run," said British distance great David Moorcroft, who emulated Chataway by breaking the world 5,000m record in 1982.

"Veteran runners were in awe of him as we were in our prime.

"I am really sad today at his death but very grateful for the friendship of such a special man."

AFP

The story Athletics legend Chris Chataway dead, aged 82 first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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