Sir Roger Bannister inspired a generation of athletes with his “Herculean” achievement of running the first sub-four minute mile, Lord Coe has said.
Bannister, who has died at the age of 88, managed the feat in a time of three minutes 59.4 seconds at the Iffley Road track in Oxford on May 6, 1954.
Tributes swiftly followed after Bannister’s death was announced by his family on Sunday morning.
Coe, who broke the mile world record three times from 1979 to 1981, is now president of the International Association of Athletics Federations.
He described Bannister as a friend who was clever and modest in equal measure.
“It’s clearly a massive loss for our sport and for many, many of us that would consider ourselves to have been friends with Roger,” Coe told Press Association Sport.
“We will miss him dramatically. He’s one of the cleverest people I’ve ever met but, in equal measure, probably one of the most modest and what he did was Herculean.
“There can’t be an athlete of my generation, particularly an athlete focusing on middle-distance, that wasn’t almost entirely inspired by what he did.
“When we joined our athletics clubs, Roger Bannister was the person that they were talking about.
“And it was only actually when we compared training diaries and what he was doing at that stage in his career that I realised what an enormous talent he was. Because it wasn’t really done on modern-day training techniques, it certainly wasn’t done on synthetic surfaces and it was done off the background of a war-time diet.”
Steve Cram, another former mile world record breaker, said Bannister had been a major role model for his career.
“There was this pioneering spirit around him and Roger was a great athlete,” Cram told BBC One.
“That day was destined to happen almost. Everything came together on that day. When it happened it was also a time when it was filmed, so for the first time the news of what happened very quickly got out, not only to the British public but around the world.
“What he did do, he left this massive, massive legacy. The first person you’re taught to look up to is Roger Bannister.”
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, the London 2012 heptathlon champion, said Bannister was an “incredible inspiration” and a figure “who will never be forgotten”.
UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger, a rowing Olympic gold medallist for Team GB at London 2012, said: “This is a very sad day but it gives us the opportunity to reflect on a great life.
“Sir Roger will always be remembered as a man who set the standard for British sport on the world stage.”
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