Phil Knight: I would have tried to sign Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister

It’s no surprise that Nike co-founder Phil Knight, when asked by USA Today which athlete he wished he could have signed to his company from before it was founded in 1964, picked a track and field star.

His answer to the hypothetical question was Roger Bannister, who in 1954 became the first human to run a mile in under four minutes.

“Track and field has a special place in my heart, No. 1,” Knight, a former University of Oregon runner who announced at age 77 earlier this year he was stepping down, told the newspaper. “No. 1, breaking the four-minute mile …

“A lot of people said it was impossible. I was a junior in high school [when Bannister broke the four-minute barrier] and my history teacher says, ‘The stopwatches were wrong, a human being can’t run that fast.'”

Bannister, now 86, ran a mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds at Oxford on May 6, 1954. He also finished fourth in the 1500m at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and won gold medals in the 1954 Commonwealth Games and European Championships.

His shoes from the sub-4-minute mile were recently auctioned.

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Video: Roger Bannister’s sub-4-minute mile