The Miracle Mile at Vancouver


In a crowd, neither man would have been singled out as an athlete. Yet on May 6, 1954, British medical student Roger Bannister made history by becoming the first person to break the coveted four-minute mile at 3:59.4. The following mouth, Australian John Landy set a new world’s record at 3:58.0. Seven weeks later, Bannister would have a chance to reclaim the record against seven other runners at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.

Scores of news photographers and 32,000 fans filled the newly constructed 2-million dollar Empire Stadium to witness the “Duel of the Four-Minute Men”. Many photos were taken of Bannister and Landy on the track but only one, that of Mark Kauffman (Sports Illustrated) entered the annals of history. Bannister was lagging the entire time but he was known for his last-minute kick. Kauffman captured this split second as Bannister shot into the lead, tearing right into the camera.

Bannister won with 3:58.8 and Landy also broke the four-minute mile at 3:59.6. Kauffman’s picture appeared in the led story of Volume 1, Number 1 of the new magazine, Sports Illustrated, August 16, 1954. Another Kauffman photo of Bannister at Vancouver race appeared, this time on the cover, in Sports Illustrated when the magazine named Bannister ‘the Sportsman of the Year’.

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