WELLINGTON: Former Olympic 1,500m champion John Walker was knighted yesterday in New Zealand honours commemorating the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.
The 57-year-old won the Olympic title in Montreal in 1976 after becoming the first athlete to break the three minute, 50 second barrier for the mile a year earlier.
Walker was the first to run 100 sub-four minute miles and he retired at the age of 40, a year before being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Since his retirement, he has served in local government and carried out community work, including setting up a charity to encourage children to get involved in sport.
He said he welcomed the honour but had never become involved with running for the sake of rewards.
“I ran for the sake of running, because I loved it. I wish I could have done it until I was 60,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
Community work has helped him overcome his own health problems, he said.
“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.
“It helped me tackle Parkinson’s because ... you realise there are people, kids, much worse off.” — AFP