Sir Chris Chataway: Former British 5,000m world record holder dies

The life of Sir Chris Chataway

Former British athlete Sir Chris Chataway has died at the age of 82.

Chataway, who broke the 5,000m world record in 1954, is more famously remembered as the man who helped pace Sir Roger Bannister to breaking the four-minute mile barrier the same year.

He was named the first-ever BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1954.

Chataway, who won the Commonwealth Games three miles title in the same year, was knighted for his services to the aviation industry in 1995.

Bannister described Chataway, who had been suffering from cancer for two and a half years, as "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."

Double Olympic champion Lord Coe added: "He was a 'Renassiance Man', and although his international career was relatively short, he packed an enormous amount in it.

"He was a four-time world record holder, inspired Roger to the first sub four-minute mile, made two Olympic finals and won the Commonwealth Games title at three miles in Vancouver. He did all this on four training sessions, so had bags of natural talent.

"If he and Roger had not broken the four-minute mile, and it had gone to someone like Australia's John Landy, that distance would have had a different geographical feel.

"It is a very British thing with British record holders, and is still regarded as an extraordinary achievement. More people have climbed Mount Everest than run a sub four-minute mile and that puts it into perspective."

"Chris was one of a kind; throwing himself into every project and achieving so much in so many fields. We have lost a great Briton," added Prime Minister David Cameron.

Chataway was born in Chelsea on 31 January, 1931 and educated at Sherborne School in Dorset. After National Service, he took an honours degree in politics, philosophy and economics and became president of the University Athletic Club at Magdalen College, Oxford.

His career in international athletics lasted only five years with the pinnacle being in 1954 when he set a new 5,000m world record of 13 minutes 51.6 seconds in a televised race at White City.

Chataway beat Russia's Vladimir Kuts by 0.1 secs - the man who he had finished second behind in the 5,000m European Championships final two weeks earlier.

He and Chris Brasher also paced Bannister to the first sub-four-minute mile but just one year on he was dividing his time between athletics and working in the world of broadcasting.

In September 1955, Chataway became the first newsreader on Independent Television, before finishing 11th in the 5,000m at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

He then moved into politics, working as a Conservative MP between 1959 and 1966 and rising to serve in positions as a Parliamentary Private Secretary and junior Education Minister.

Chris Chataway
Chris Chataway (right) and Great Britain team-mate Derek Ibbotson battle in a three-mile race in 1956

Chataway was elected again in 1969 and served further ministerial positions.

In 1974, Chataway retired from politics to concentrate on his business career, becoming managing director of Orion Bank, before leaving in 1988 to work as chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority.

BBC athletics commentator Brendan Foster said: "Sir Chris was a real gentleman and an intelligent man.

"As well as his sporting achievements, he was an expert broadcaster, politician and businessman. He was vice chairman of a London bank and chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority. He truly was a boys' own hero.

"He was thrilled to be the first BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1954. It came after his 5,000m world record was broadcast from White City with that one spotlight on him on the line as he beat European Champion Vladimir Kuts. It brought the sport of athletics into people's living rooms."

Chris Chataway
Roger Bannister (right) presents the Sportsview Trophy to Chris Chataway in 1954

Chataway's son Mark paid tribute to 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 also described his father as "a very compassionate and wise man" and said his father's passion for running remained with him in his advanced years.

"He ran with a couple of my brothers in the Great North Run about three years ago, doing it in a very respectable time."

He also completed the half marathon course of just over 13 miles in one hour, 38 minutes, 50 seconds at the age of 75 in 2006.

Chataway is survived by his sons Mark, Matthew, Adam, Charles, Ben, his daughter Joanna, his wife Carola and his former wife Anna.

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