Iconic Olympic athlete Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, has died aged 88.
Bannister made history and captured the world’s imagination as the first man to break the four-minute mark when he clocked three minutes 59.4 seconds at a sports ground in Oxford on May 6, 1954.
Bannister’s family said the sporting great died peacefully after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease..
“Sir Roger Bannister, died peacefully in Oxford on 3rd March 2018, aged 88, surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them,” a family statement said.
“He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May led the tributes to the former athlete Sunday night.
“Sir Roger Bannister was a great British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all. He will be greatly missed,” she said on Twitter.
The Briton’s quest for a sub-four-minute mile was helped by pacesetters Christopher Chataway and Chris Brasher during his record-breaking run.
Australian John Landy surpassed Bannister’s record just a month later with a time of 3:57.9.
Bannister also won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver later that year before retiring from athletics to pursue medical studies full-time.
He became a neurologist and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011.
Bannister revealed he had the neurological disorder in a BBC interview in 2014.
“I have seen, and looked after, patients with so many neurological and other disorders that I am not surprised I have acquired an illness,” he said at the time.
“It’s in the nature of things, there’s a gentle irony to it.”
IAAF president and dual Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe also paid tribute.
“On the 6 May 1954, Roger made the impossible possible,” said Coe in quotes on the IAAF website.
“One year after the coronation of a young Queen Elizabeth II and after man conquered Everest, Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile with the help of his friends Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher.
“His achievement transcended sport, let alone athletics. It was a moment in history that lifted the heart of a nation and boosted morale in a world that was still at a low ebb after the war.
“We have all lost a giant and, for many of us, a deep and close friendship.”
– With AAP