Athletics: Athlete John Walker knighted

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Former Olympic 1500 meters champion and world mile record-holder John Walker was awarded a knighthood Monday in a list of New Zealand civil honors commemorating the birthday of Queen Elizabeth.

Walker won the 1500 meters at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games and became the first man to run the mile in under 3 minutes, 50 seconds when he set a world mark of 3.49.4 at Goteborg, Sweden in 1975.

Walker also became the first athlete to run 100 sub-four minute miles. When he retired aged 39 he had beaten four minutes for the mile on 135 occasions.

In 1996, Walker announced he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He later dedicated himself to community work, becoming a councillor in the city of Manukau near Auckland, heading the children's charity Variety and establishing the John Walker Find Your Field of Dreams Foundation.

Walker's honor, which makes him Sir John Walker, recognizes his contributions to sport and the community. He said his work with sick children had helped him tackle his own illness.

"I'd had this great career in running and then to go into the hospitals and to see kids with leukaemia or heart problems, well, it makes you think," Walker said.

"It helped me tackle Parkinson's because you realize there are people, kids, much worse off."

Walker is the third prominent New Zealand track athlete to be honored after Olympic 5000 meters champion Murray Halberg and three-time Olympic gold medalist Peter Snell.

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