Side Lines

Bannister, Chataway and Brasher; the four-minute-mile was
something of a team achievement; without his pace makers the good
doctor might never have breasted the tape in time. Had he been
just a fraction slower a foreigner would have taken the plaudits
that Bannister now laps up; there might have been no honours from
a grateful Empire, and no celebration fifty years on at
Oxford’s slightly less famous Iffley Road athletics track. Perhaps there would have been no subsequent British obsession
with middle distance running – an obsession which spawned
the great Cram, Coe and Ovett. Bannister, as he would certainly
be the first to acknowledge, owes his pacemakers a great deal. In fact, so much individual success is actually the result of
teamwork; the result of minions sacrificing themselves for the
good of their superiors. Lance Armstrong, that modern day hero,
is literally pulled up those steep Alpine climbs by his team
mates most of whom will have to drop out because of the sheer
exhaustion of breaking the still air in front of their leader;
Paula Radcliffe’s amazing London marathon records have been
aided by (male) pacemakers and Michael Schumacher’s
victories have so often come at the expense of his team-mates. Of course these three are among the most talented sportsmen
and women of this, or indeed any other, generation. It is this
talent that assures them of their greatness. Even the greatest,
though, have to rely on others from time to time. Individual
records are hardly ever so simple a feat as we are afterwards led
to believe by the historians eager to dramatise events and
glorify names – if it wasn’t you crossing the line then
you hardly count, it seems. At a time when everyone (us included) is quite rightly singing
the praises of Bannister, Cherwell asks that everyone takes a
minute or four to remember those without whom it quite literally
wouldn’t have been possible – Chataway, Brasher and all
your like: we salute you.ARCHIVE: 2nd week TT 2004