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BANNISTER PASSES LANDY

For the next three days, rugby sevens will be the highlight of the Commonwealth Games contested in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. This event began in 1930 when they were known as the British Empire Games. They are open to all countries within the Commonwealth, and other nations with supplementary status and historical United Kingdom association.

The competition was last scheduled in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2014 when more than 6,000 female and male athletes participated, coming from 71-countries. Eighteen sports are included, in addition to some para events. On the agenda also are lawn bowling and netball, two sports not played universally in the world.

The rugby championship (gold, silver, and bronze medals) lists the usual global sevens participants but also Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, and Zambia making its Commonwealth Games rugby sevens debut.

The rugby Women will kick off April 13, the Men on April 14, and the two finals will be held on Sunday, April 15.

Following the international decline in the interest in Track and Field over the last two decades, the importance of the Commonwealth Games has also diminished. Historically, the greatest Track and Field race occurred in the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada, when, for the first time, the two milers who had recently broken the mythical four-minute mile barrier, raced against each other. This would prove to be a battle for the ages - called the “Miracle Mile” - and was covered extensively by every print and broadcast medium in the world.

The duel pitted Englishman Dr. Roger Bannister who had been the first runner to break the four-minute mile with a 3:59.4 breakthrough at Iffley Road, Oxford University on May 6, 1954. His record stood for barely one month when Australian John Landy reduced the mile time to 3:57.9 in Turku, Finland, on June 21.

The world awaited the confrontation at the Commonwealth Games, the race scheduled for August 7, 1954. Every seat was filled in the 37,000 Empire Stadium in Vancouver. Throughout the globe, millions of television sets tuned in for the live coverage.

Landy’s strategy was to outrun Bannister, anticipating a blistering pace would sap his opponent’s dangerous sprint finish. After the first quarter mile, Landy surged to the front, leading at a half mile timed in 1:58. The Aussie continued to lead at the three-quarter mark, the time of 2:58.7, still under the four-minute mile pace.

Bannister closed the gap in the final 400. With 200 yards remaining, Landy looked quickly over his left shoulder just as Bannister ran around him. The Englishman kicked into the lead and won, collapsing at the finish. Both men had run the mile race in under four-minutes, the first time this feat had ever been accomplished. Bannister's time was 3:58.8 and Landy's at 3:59.6.

The next day, the photo of Landy looking over his shoulder for Bannister was featured in every newspaper in the globe. For the affable Landy, there would be further embarrassment to come: A bronze statue of the  two runners stands outside the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, which commemorates the moment Landy turned around. He jested that Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back: “I am probably the only one ever turned into bronze for looking back.” To view the race access https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jP_NzZP_LK0.

The Men's mile record today stands at 3:43.13 set by Hicham El Guerrrouj of Morocco at Rome in July 1999.