LONDON • Britain's Roger Bannister, who has died aged 88, will live forever in the annals of athletics history as the first man to run a mile (1.6km) in under four minutes.
A statement from his family yesterday said: "Sir Roger Bannister, died peacefully in Oxford on March 3, aged 88, surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them.
"He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends."
British Prime Minister Theresa May led the tributes for the former athlete, who later became one of Europe's leading neurologists and was made a knight.
"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.
Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, said Bannister's death marked "a day of intense sadness both for our nation and for all of us in athletics".
"There is not a single athlete of my generation who was not inspired by Roger and his achievements both on and off the track," tweeted the two-time Olympic champion.
Bannister's record-breaking run was on May 6, 1954 at the Oxford University track during a local athletics meeting, with only a few spectators witnessing his destruction of the myth that no human being could run so fast.
He made headlines around the world at the age of 25. His record stood for 46 days but the achievement opened the physical and psychological door for many other milers who have since beaten his time of 3min 59.4sec. In 1999, Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj became the 13th record holder since Bannister, lowering the time to 3:43.13.
Despite being famed for breaking the four-minute barrier, Bannister said he felt a greater sense of achievement winning gold at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, beating his great rival Australian John Landy in a race later dubbed the "Miracle Mile".
He also captured the European 1,500m crown that August.
"I think that racing in the Olympics and Commonwealths is more important than breaking records," he said in 2014. "Vancouver was the pinnacle of my athletics career. It is very difficult to break records during Olympic competition, but winning races was better than holding world records."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE