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Last Updated: Monday, 1 December, 2003, 08:52 GMT
Q&A: Sir Chris Chataway
As the 50th anniversary of BBC Sports Personality of the Year approaches, past winners share their memories.


Sir Chris Chataway (athletics)
First Sports Personality winner 1954

What were the highlights of the year you won?

It was a busy season which began when I was one of Roger Bannister's pacemakers as he became the first person to break the four-minute mile.

Then I headed to the Empire and Commonwealth Games before competing in the European Championships in Berne.

My main aim there was to beat Emil Zatopek, who had not been beaten in five years at any distance.

I managed that but it didn't count for much because a previously unknown Russian, Vladimir Kuts, finished 100 yards ahead of both of us, breaking the world record in the process!

That was his first appearance on the world scene and when he went rushing out into the lead, Zatopek and I both let him go because we just thought he was a youngster who didn't know what he was doing.

How did you get your revenge?

A special meeting where London faced Moscow was set up in October.

Chris Chataway
Sir Chris Chataway features on Simply the Best, BBC 1,
1900-1930 GMT, Fri 12 Dec

My plan was to hang onto him as long as I could because I felt that I probably had a faster finish than he did.

I did that for the first four laps (of 12) and I felt pretty good but then Kuts started to throw in the most extraordinary bursts - which had never been seen before in distance running.

After he'd done that once or twice I didn't feel good anymore!

By the time we reached the last lap I was more tired than I'd ever been before and I was beginning to wonder if I would finish the race, let alone pass him.

But at the beginning of the final straight, he seemed just to falter slightly and I gathered up reserves of energy I didn't know I had and won by a matter of inches.

Were you surprised to beat Roger Bannister to Sports Personality of the Year?

Of course. I think Roger was unfortunate in two ways.

Firstly, he broke the four-minute mile at the beginning of the year, a long time before the voting.

Secondly, the race I actually consider to be his best of the year when he beat John Landy at the Commonwealth Games, was not on peak-time television.

DID YOU KNOW?
Athletics is represented more than any other sport among Sports Personality winners

If it had been, I think Roger would have won.

My race against Kuts was shown on BBC One, which was the only channel at the time, so everyone was watching and it was fresh in their minds three weeks later when they came to vote for Sports Personality of the Year.

Was there any rivalry between you and Roger on the night of the awards?

No, we were good friends and we have been in the 50 years since. I don't remember exactly what was said on the night but I'm sure there was no rivalry.

Where does the award rate compared with your other honours?

I didn't pick up too many accolades in my career, because I had retired by the time I was 25, so the BBC award, which ended a perfect year, was the absolute peak of my career.

Who is your all-time Sports Personality?

Sir Bobby Moore. The World Cup is the holy grail of sport and he was a great player and a tremendous role model.


Sir Chris Chataway was speaking to Caroline Cheese





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