John Landy

John Michael Landy, AC, CVO, MBE, FTSE (born 12 April 1930) is a retired Australian middle-distance runner and state governor. He was the second man to break the four-minute mile barrier in the mile run, and held the world records for the 1500-metre run and the mile race. He was also the 26th Governor of Victoria from 2001 to 2006.

John Landy

Landy in 1954
26th Governor of Victoria
In office
1 January 2001  7 April 2006
MonarchElizabeth II
PremierSteve Bracks
LieutenantLady Marigold Southey
Preceded bySir James Gobbo
Succeeded byDavid de Kretser
Personal details
Born (1930-04-12) 12 April 1930
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Spouse(s)Lynne Landy (née Fisher)
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
OccupationAthlete, governor
John Landy
Ron Delaney and John Landy (right) at the 1956 Olympics
Personal information
Height182 cm (6 ft 0 in)
Weight69 kg (152 lb)
Event(s)1500 m – 3 miles
ClubGeelong Guild Athletics Club, Belmont, Victoria
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)1500 m – 3:41.8 (1954)
3 miles – 13:27.4 (1956)[1][2]


Born in Melbourne, Victoria, on 12 April 1930, John Landy attended Malvern Memorial Grammar School and Geelong Grammar School. He graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1954, receiving a Bachelor of Agricultural Science.


During his school years, Landy enjoyed watching middle distance track events. He became a serious runner during his college years, joining the Geelong Guild Athletic Club in 1949; he was a member of the Australian Olympic team at both the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki and 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, taking the Olympic Oath at the 1956 Olympics.[3]

On 21 June 1954, at an international meet at Turku, Finland, Landy became the second man, after Roger Bannister, to achieve a sub-4-minute mile, recording a world record time of 3:57.9, ratified by the IAAF as 3:58.0 owing to the rounding rules then in effect. That record held for more than three years.

Worldwide, Landy is probably best known for his part in a mile race in the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, held at Vancouver, British Columbia. Landy ran his second sub-4-minute mile in the race, but lost to Roger Bannister, who had his best-ever time. This meeting of the world's two fastest milers was alternately called "The Miracle Mile", the "Race of the Century", and the "Dream Race"; it was heard over the radio by 100 million people and seen on television by millions more. On the final turn of the last lap, as Landy looked over his left shoulder, Bannister passed him on the right. A larger-than-life bronze sculpture of the two men at this moment was created by Vancouver sculptor Jack Harman in 1967 from a photograph by Vancouver Sun photographer Charlie Warner and stood for many years at the entrance to Empire Stadium; after the stadium was demolished, the sculpture was moved a short distance away to the Hastings and Renfrew entrance of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) fairgrounds. In 2015, it returned to the site of the stadium.[4] Regarding this sculpture, Landy quipped that "While 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."[5]

In Australia, Landy is remembered for his performance in the one mile final at the 1956 Australian National Championships prior to the Melbourne Olympic Games. In the race, Landy stopped and doubled back to check on fellow runner Ron Clarke after another runner clipped Clarke's heel, causing him to fall early in the third lap of the race. Clarke, the then-junior mile world record holder, who had been leading the race, got back to his feet and started running again; Landy followed. Incredibly, in the final two laps Landy made up a large deficit to win the race, something considered one of the greatest moments in Australian sporting history. Said the National Centre for History and Education in Australia, "It was a spontaneous gesture of sportsmanship and it has never been forgotten."[6] Sculptor Mitch Mitchell created a bronze sculpture of the moment when Landy helps Clarke to his feet. It has recently been moved from the north west corner of Punt Road and Swan Street to Olympic Park, Melbourne.

Governor of Victoria

On 1 January 2001, Landy was sworn in as the 26th Governor of Victoria, succeeding Sir James Gobbo. He was appointed by Premier of Victoria Steve Bracks, who remained premier throughout his term.

On 15 March 2006, in the final month of his term as governor, Landy was the final runner in the Queen's Baton relay during the 2006 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony at the Melbourne Cricket Ground stadium in Melbourne, presenting the baton to the Queen by placing it in its specially constructed holder.

Landy retired as governor on 7 April 2006, being succeeded by David de Kretser.

Other accomplishments

Landy worked as senior manager at ICI Australia, and had a successful public speaking career. For eight years (1971–78) Landy served on the Victorian Land Conservation Council, contributing to debates and recommendations about the balanced use of public land across Victoria.[7] An avid naturalist, Landy has written two books on natural history.

"Close to Nature" (1984) and "A Coastal Diary", Pan Macmillan Australia, 1993. The latter contains his many excellent photographs of the west coast of Victoria, along with a detailed description of his methodology and the commitment required to obtain them.

Landy was Commissioner-General for the Australian exhibit at Expo 92.

On 12 February 2009 Landy was appointed the chair of the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund Advisory Panel.[8] He stood down from the position on 7 September that same year.

Honours and awards

In 1955, John Landy was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to sport,[9] was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000,[10] and in 2001 he was awarded the Centenary Medal,[11] made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC),[12] and a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. In 2006 he was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) during the Queen's visit to Australia.[13] Landy was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.[14]

Over the years, Landy has been awarded numerous honorary degrees, the first being a Doctor of Laws from the University of Victoria in 1994. Then, in 1997, a Doctor of Rural Science from the University of New England, followed by a Doctor of Laws from the University of Melbourne in 2003 and Doctor of Laws from Deakin University in 2009.

On 12 July 2008, John Landy was the guest speaker at his club's Centenary Dinner held at North Geelong. Landy has been a Life Member of the Geelong Guild Athletic Club since April 1958. Named after Landy, Landy Field in South Geelong is the Geelong region's major athletic facility.

East Doncaster Secondary College has a VCE centre dedicated in Landy's honour.

Central Park, in Malvern East, Melbourne has a sports oval dedicated to Landy with a plaque which reads in part "Named in honour of John Landy, resident of Central Park Road, who used this oval for his training..."

In media

In the 1988 television mini-series The Four Minute Mile, detailing the rivalry between Landy and Roger Bannister, Landy was portrayed by actor Nique Needles.

Personal life

Landy married Lynne Fisher in 1971, and they have two children, Matthew and Alison.[15]

See also


  1. John Landy.
  2. John Landy.
  3. IOC 1956 Summer Olympics. (6 September 2016). Retrieved on 2017-09-20.
  4. The rebirth of Empire Fields. (17 July 2015). Retrieved on 2017-09-20.
  5. Archived 26 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. The Finest Sporting Gesture in the History of Sport? . Retrieved on 20 September 2017.
  7. Danielle Clode (2006) As if for a thousand years: A history of Victoria's Land Conservation and Environment Conservation Councils, Victorian Environmental Assessment Council
  8., Bereavement fund for bushfire victims
  9. It's an Honour – Member of the Order of the British Empire
  10. It's an Honour – Australian Sports Medal
  11. It's an Honour – Centenary Medal
  12. It's an Honour – Companion of the Order of Australia
  13. It's an Honour – Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
  14. "John Landy AC CVO MBE". Sport Australia Hall ofFame. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  15. John Landy. IMDb

Further reading

  • FitzSimons, Peter (2006). Great Australian Sports Champions. Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-7322-8517-8.
  • The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It, by Neal Bascomb, 2004, ISBN 0-618-39112-6
Preceded by
Wes Santee
Men's 1500 metres World Record Holder
21 June 1954 – 28 July 1955
Succeeded by
Sándor Iharos
László Tábori
Gunnar Nielsen
Preceded by
Roger Bannister
Men's Mile World Record Holder
21 June 1954 – 19 July 1957
Succeeded by
Derek Ibbotson
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir James Gobbo
Governor of Victoria
Succeeded by
David de Kretser
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