Australia 61 years ago, 1956.
Australian John Landy made history when he became the second man to break 4 minutes in the mile, 46 days after Roger Bannister became the first in 1954. Landy is revered in Australia, where he served as the 26th Governor of Victoria, in part because of the mile race he ran at the 1956 Australian national championships. During the third lap, 19-year-old Ron Clarke, who would go on to set 17 world records during his career, tripped and fell. Landy, who was trailing close behind, leapt over Clarke and accidentally scraped his rival’s arm with his spikes in the process. Landy stopped running to make sure that Clarke wasn’t badly hurt before resuming his chase of the pack that had charged ahead. To the amazement of everyone in the crowd, Landy came from behind to finish first in a time of 4 minutes, 4 seconds.
Fifty years after the fact, Landy reflected on the astonishing race. “I reacted on the spur of the moment,” he said. “You do things like an embedded impulse. You don’t ask why.” Today, a bronze statue in Melbourne commemorates Landy’s good deed. It’s titled, simply, “Sportsmanship.”
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