Oxford University Athletics Club went back in time on Thursday
to relive the momentous occasion when Sir Roger Bannister, then a
medical student in Oxford, became the first man to run a mile in
under four minutes, a feat that had been regarded by experts as
beyond human limitation. Fifty years after breaking this barrier, Sir Roger returned to
Iffley Road for the anniversary match between the Oxford
University athletics team and the Amateur Athletics Association
U23 team, with some guest competitors including Sonia
O’Sullivan and John Mayock. The events on the track dominated the day, beginning with the
men’s 110m hurdles. Despite the fact that there were only
two competitors, Richard Baderin swept past the line in 14.9
seconds. The only victory for Oxford came in the men’s 200m
where Oxford alumnus, Finlay Wright ran an impressive 22.17
seconds, with Toleme Ezekiel finishing in 23.06 seconds. Both men
also performed well in the 100m. In the women’s races, there were good efforts in both
sprints from Helen Edmundson, who came second in both the 100m
and 200m, and Katy Whear, who came third in the 100m and fourth
in the 200m. The placings were similar in the 400m – Sophie
Scamps, Lizzie Braithwaite and Katherine Sams finished second,
third and fourth respectively. In the men’s race, Jonan Boto
finished strongly in 49.86 seconds to take third place, followed
by Robert Lawton, Michael Lokale and Chris Wright. The familiar voice of BBC commentator Paul Dickenson also kept
spectators informed about the progress of the field events. In
the shot putt, Oxford’s Stephen McCauley came third with a
Blues distance of 14.03m, while Tom Hayman, Jenny Duff, Olivia
Reade and Rota Vavilova all putted well too. The high jump was
more closely contested, with Sean Gourley and Oliver Card jumping
1m85 and 1m80 respectively; in the women’s event Ailsa
Wallace cleared 1m65, followed by Danielle Fidge jumping 1m60. The elite mile races formed the highlight of the competition.
The women’s race was won convincingly, and unsurprisingly,
by guest star Sonia O’Sullivan in 4:27.79. Oxford’s
representatives, Emily Crowley and Clare Martin, finished in
fifth and sixth places. The gun for the men’s race was fired at 6pm –
exactly the same time as the race began 50 years ago, and
Bannister rang the bell used in the historic 1954 race to signal
one lap to go. The race was won by Craig Mottram of Australia in
3:56.64, a new track record and a time which, in 1954, would have
beaten Bannister into second place. Notable performances were
also put in by OUAC captain, Fraser Thompson in 4:07.88, and Nick
Talbot in 4:12.53. Since Sir Roger broke the fourminute barrier with a time of
3:59.4, nearly 1000 athletes from 60 countries have followed in
his footsteps. Perhaps this is why Sir Roger remains so modest about his
accomplishment, “None of my athletics was my greatest
achievement of my life”, he said. “My medical work has
been my achievement, and my family.” His balanced approach
remains an inspiration to aspiring sportsmen worldwide.ARCHIVE: 2nd week TT 2004