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Q&A: Sir Chris Chataway

Sir Chris Chataway
Chataway beat Bannister to the prize

Former winners relive the moment they were named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Chris Chataway
Sir Chris Chataway (1954)
Middle distance runner and first Sports Personality winner

Q. What were the highlights of the year you won?

A. 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.

Q. How did you get your revenge?

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

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.

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

A. 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.

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.

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

A. 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.

Q. Where does the award rate compared with your other honours?

A. 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.

Q. Who is your all-time Sports Personality?

A. 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 talking to BBC Sport's Caroline Cheese

see also
Q&A: Sir Henry Cooper
27 Oct 08 |  Sports Personality
Q&A: Virginia Wade
24 Oct 08 |  Sports Personality
Q&A: Robin Cousins
22 Oct 08 |  Sports Personality
Q&A: Steve Davis
20 Oct 08 |  Sports Personality
Q&A: Sir Steven Redgrave
16 Oct 08 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality tickets latest
10 Oct 08 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality facts and figures
09 Oct 08 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality roll of honour
10 Oct 08 |  Sports Personality
Liverpool gets Sports Personality
22 Feb 08 |  Sports Personality


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