John Walker (athlete)

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Sir John George Walker, KNZM, CBE, (born 12 January 1952 in Papakura and attended The Manurewa High School) is a former middle distance runner from New Zealand.

Walker is best known for being the first person to run the mile in under 3:50, posting a time of 3:49.4, breaking the existing world record by over 1.5 seconds. He also won the Olympic Games 1500 metres in Montreal in 1976. This achievement came during an Olympic games that were boycotted by 22 African countries to protest against a tour of South Africa by the All Blacks, the New Zealand national rugby team. Although Walker was still hoping to set a world record, the Africans' absence was probably felt. Walker won the race in the relatively high time of 3:39.17, the slowest Olympic 1500 metres finish in 20 years.


1974 Commonwealth Games

Walker had already achieved world prominence in 1974 when he ran second to Filbert Bayi in the 1500 meter run at the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was a remarkable race, since not only did both Bayi and Walker better the previous world record, but also it featured the fourth, fifth, and seventh fastest performances of all time. Its status as one of the all-time great 1500 metre races is assured by virtue of the fact that Walker, 22 at the time, and Bayi, 21, would prove dominant over the distance. Also at the 1974 Commonwealth Games Walker won the bronze medal in the 800 metres in 1:44.92, his lifetime best for the distance, and still the second-fastest New Zealander ever, behind Peter Snell.

Throughout his career as a world-class miler Walker was coached by Arch Jelley, a school principal, and a middle distance runner himself, whose work with runners has been typified by meticulous training programmes on a scientific basis and effective communications in person.

World record breaking runs

Walker broke the World Record in the mile run with a time of 3:49.4 minutes set at Göteborg, Sweden, on 12 August 1975, bettering the previous time of 3:51.0 set earlier that year by Filbert Bayi. It was the first time that the Three minutes and 50 seconds barrier had been broken, and it was a full 10 seconds faster than Roger Bannister's historic sub-Four-Minute Mile of 3:59.4 that was run twenty-one years previous. He was named Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News the same year.

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