Christopher Chataway, referred to as a “Renaissance man” by Lord Sebastian Coe, was a fine athlete, member of Parliament, broadcaster and aviation professional. He died on January 19, at the age of 82.
In 1954, Christopher Chataway had his finest year in athletics: he paced Roger Bannister in the first sub four minute mile, in May 1954, he took gold in the Commonwealth Games three miler in August 1954, he took silver in the 5,000 meters to Vladimir Kuts at the European Championships in August 1954, and, in the highlight of his year, defeated Vladamir Kuts by .1 in White City, breaking the 5,000 meter world record with his 13:51.6. The exciting race was shown on BBC television, making Chataway the first BBC British Sports Personality of the Year in 1954.
Chataway over Kuts, courtesy of BBC Sports
Sir Roger Bannister told BBC Sports that Mr. Chataway had been a friend for over fifty years and noted that Mr. Chataway was one of his “dearest friends”. Lord Coe noted, that Chris Chataway set four world records, made two Olympic finals, won European and Commonwealth medals on four workouts a week!
Chris Chataway served as an MP, was also in the civil aviation industry and came back to running in his 50s. At the age of 75, Chris Chataway, with an invitation from Brendan Foster, 1976 Olympic bronze medalist and Principal of Nova International, Mr. Chataway ran 1:38.50 for the half marathon!
It should not be underestimated how important the pursuit and success of Roger Bannister running the first sub four minute mile was to Great Britain. Bannister has given much credit and kudos to the late Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway and their support and inspiration to the 3:59.4 mile run on May 6, 1954.
For a country still recovering from the Second World War, the first sub four minute mile, was, as Lord Coe put it in his discussion with the BBC regarding the death of Mr. Chataway, hugely important. Lord Coe compared the first sub four minute mile in significance with the first man to climb Mt. Everest.
Mr. Chataway battled cancer for two and one half years before his death. Bring Back the Mile’s Ryan Lampa called Mr. Chataway a Lion of Sport.
Chris Chataway, circa 1954, photo courtesy of BBC Sports