Jim Bailey (athlete)

Last updated

Jim Bailey
Runner Jim Bailey 1956.jpg
Bailey at University of Oregon in 1956
Personal information
Born(1929-07-21)21 July 1929
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died31 March 2020(2020-03-31) (aged 90)
Bellingham, Washington, U.S.
Height178 cm (5 ft 10 in) [1]
Weight69 kg (152 lb)
SportMiddle-distance running
Event(s)800 m, 1500 m, mile
ClubOregon Ducks, Eugene
Coached by Bill Bowerman
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)800 m – 1:48.8 (1956)
1500 m – 3:43.3 (1956)
Mile – 3:58.6 (1956) [1] [2]

James John Bailey (21 July 1929 31 March 2020) was an Australian middle-distance runner. He reached semifinals of the 800 metres event at the 1956 Summer Olympics. [1] While running for the University of Oregon under Bill Bowerman, he was the 1955 NCAA Champion in the mile. He would become the first of a string of sub-4 minute milers under Bowerman. [3]


Bailey (left) overtakes Landy on the last turn of their 1956-mile race John Landy and Jim Bailey 1956.jpg
Bailey (left) overtakes Landy on the last turn of their 1956-mile race
Landy and Bailey at the finish of their 1956-mile race John Landy and Jim Bailey 1956b.jpg
Landy and Bailey at the finish of their 1956-mile race


Bailey was born in Sydney and grew up in the central-west NSW town of Parkes, New South Wales where his father was a health and buildings inspector with Parkes Municipal Council. After a decade in the country, the family moved to Hurstville, New South Wales which allowed Bailey to pursue his running by joining the local St George Athletics Club. [4]

On 6 May 1956, Bailey was part of a mile race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The race was a promotional effort to drum up interest in the 1956 Olympics to be held in Australia. His compatriot John Landy was going to make an attempt to become the first person to break the 4 minute mile on American soil. As the NCAA Champion, he joined other top level participants including Bill Dellinger, Jerome Walters, Lon Spurrier and Ron Delany. The lesser known Delany, who would win the Olympic 1500 later that year ran a fast first lap, separating from the field. Landy caught up with Delany a straightaway (100 yards) short of the halfway point in the race, with much of the field still in contact. As Delany continued to lead the pack, Landy broke away off the front, putting more than 10 yards on the field on the backstretch. As others fell off the pace, Bailey moved up with Delany with a lap to go. By this point Landy had a 15-yard lead. Landy accelerated for his final lap, occasionally looking back to see the size of his lead. Bailey too accelerated for his last lap. Down the final backstretch, he was sprinting much faster than Landy, catching him with about 200 yards to go. Landy did not give up, keeping Bailey to his outside the entire turn. Bailey held the advantage coming off the turn and maintained it to the finish, winning by two steps. Landy succeeded in breaking the 4 minute mile, but the first to do it on American soil was Bailey, a tick of a second earlier, running 3:58.6, a 6-second personal record. [5]

Bailey was ranked #3 miler in the world in 1956. [6] After retiring from competitions he played professional rugby in Australia. He then returned to the United States and lived in the Pacific Northwest for the rest of his life, working as a sportswear promoter in Kirkland, Washington, and then a real estate agent in Bellingham, Washington. [1]

He died on 31 March 2020 in Bellingham, Washington. [4]

Related Research Articles

Jim Ryun Politician and athletics competitor, middle distance runner, U. S. Congressman

James Ronald Ryun is an American former politician and Olympic track and field athlete, who at his peak was widely considered the world's top middle-distance runner. He won a silver medal in the 1500 m at the 1968 Summer Olympics, and was the first high school athlete to run a mile in under four minutes. He is the last American to hold the world record in the mile run. Ryun later served in the United States House of Representatives from 1996 to 2007, representing Kansas' 2nd congressional district for the Republican Party.

Four-minute mile Completion of a mile race in under 4 minutes

A four-minute mile is the completion of a mile run (1.6 km) in four minutes or less. It was first achieved in 1954 by Roger Bannister, at age 25, in 3:59.4. The "four-minute barrier" has since been broken by over 1,400 male athletes, and is now the standard of all male professional middle distance runners in cultures that use Imperial units. In the 65 years since, the mile record has been lowered by almost 17 seconds, and currently stands at 3:43.13, by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, at age 24, in 1999. Running a mile in four minutes translates to a speed of 15 miles per hour (24 km/h).

Roger Bannister British athlete who ran the first sub-4-minute mile

Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister was a British middle-distance athlete and neurologist who ran the first sub-4-minute mile.

Ron Delany Irish middle-distance runner

Ronald Michael Delany, better known as Ron or Ronnie Delany, is an Irish former athlete, who specialised in middle-distance running. He won a gold medal in the 1500 metres event at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. He later earned a bronze medal in the 1500 metres event at the 1958 European Athletics Championships in Stockholm.

Steve Prefontaine American long-distance runner

Steve Roland "Pre" Prefontaine was an American long-distance runner who competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics. While running for the Oregon Track Club, Prefontaine set American records at every distance from 2,000 to 10,000 meters, as he prepared for the 1976 Olympics. Prefontaine's career, alongside those of Jim Ryun, Frank Shorter, and Bill Rodgers, generated considerable media coverage, which helped inspire the 1970s "running boom." He died when aged 24 in an automobile accident near his residence in Eugene, Oregon. One of the premier track meets in the world, the Prefontaine Classic, is held annually in Eugene in his honor. Prefontaine's celebrity and charisma later resulted in two 1990s feature films about his short life.

John Landy Australian athlete

John Michael Landy is an Australian retired 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.

George Derek Ibbotson was an English runner who excelled in athletics in the 1950s. His most famous achievement was setting a new world record in the mile in 1957.

James Tully Beatty is a former American track and field athlete and North Carolina politician who is best remembered as the first person to break the four-minute mile barrier on an indoor track, when he ran 3:58.9 on February 10, 1962, at the Los Angeles Invitational in the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California. He competed in the men's 5000 metres at the 1960 Summer Olympics.

Bill Bowerman

William Jay Bowerman was an American track and field coach and co-founder of Nike, Inc. Over his career, he trained 31 Olympic athletes, 51 All-Americans, 12 American record-holders, 22 NCAA champions and 16 sub-4 minute milers. He disliked being called a coach and during his 24 years at the University of Oregon, the Ducks track and field team had a winning season every season but one, attained 4 NCAA titles, and finished in the top 10 in the nation 16 times. As co-founder of Nike, he invented some of their top brands, including the Cortez and Waffle Racer, and assisted in the company moving from being a distributor of other shoe brands to one creating their own shoes in house.

Athletics at the 1956 Summer Olympics – Mens 1500 metres

The men's 1,500 metres was an event at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, with the final held on Saturday, December 1, 1956. There were a total number of 37 participants from 22 nations. The maximum number of athletes per nation had been set at 3 since the 1930 Olympic Congress. The event was won by Ron Delany of Ireland, the nation's first 1500 metres medal. The silver medalist was Klaus Richtzenhain, the only medalist in the event for the United Team of Germany. John Landy took bronze, Australia's first medal in the event since 1896.

Brian Hewson British middle-distance runner

Brian Stanford Hewson is a retired middle-distance runner, who represented Great Britain at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics. He won the gold medal in the 1500 metres at the 1958 European Championships.

Athletics at the 1960 Summer Olympics – Mens 1500 metres

The men's 1500 metres was an event at the 1960 Summer Olympics, held on 3 and 6 September. Thirty-nine athletes from 25 nations competed. The maximum number of athletes per nation had been set at 3 since the 1930 Olympic Congress. The event was won by Herb Elliott of Australia, the nation's second victory in the 1500 metres and first since 1896. Michel Jazy of France took silver, the third time a French athlete had achieved that mark. Hungary won its first 1500 metres medal with István Rózsavölgyi's bronze.

Jim Grelle American middle-distance runner

James Edward Grelle was an American middle-distance runner. He had his best achievements in the 1500 m event, finishing eighth at the 1960 Olympics, winning a gold and a silver medal at the Pan American Games in 1963 and 1959, respectively.

William Robert Bonthron was an American middle-distance runner who held the world record at 1500 meters for two years.

Mervyn George "Merv" Lincoln was an Australian middle-distance runner who won a silver medal in the mile run at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games and twice competed in the Summer Olympic Games.

Mark Winzenried

Mark Winzenried is an American former middle-distance runner. The 1971 NCAA champion at 880 yards, Winzenried narrowly missed qualifying for the American Olympic team in 1968 and was favored to qualify in 1972 until an injured Achilles tendon spoiled his chances. He held the indoor world best at the unusual distance of 1000 yards from 1972 to 1981, and still holds the world junior best in another non-standard event, 600 meters.

Tracy Evans Smith is a former American distance runner. He was a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team, competing in the 10,000 meters. He was ranked multiple times by Track & Field News as the No. 1 U.S. 5,000- and 10,000-meter runner in the mid- to late ‘60s, and was a six-time AAU National Champion from 1966 to 1973, winning outdoors in the 3-mile, 6-mile and 10,000 meters, and three times in the indoor 3-mile. He was a three-time world record holder in the indoor 3-mile.

Sean McGorty

Sean McGorty is an American runner who specializes in middle-distance and long-distance events. He ran for the United States at the 2014 NACAC Cross Country Championships, where he won the junior men's race. He competed in NCAA Cross Country and Track & Field for Stanford University. Upon graduation, he joined the Bowerman Track Club, which trains in Portland, Oregon.

Kenneth Wood was a British middle-distance runner. He ran one of the early Four-minute mile runs and represented Great Britain at the 1956 Summer Olympics.

Roscoe Divine is a retired American track and field athlete. He was known primarily as a miler but excelled in shorter distances like the 880 yard and in the steeplechase.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Jim Bailey Olympic Results". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  2. James Bailey. trackfield.brinkster.net
  3. Foley, Damian (13 May 2016). "Surviving Bowerman sub-4 milers returning to the UO". University of Oregon. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  4. 1 2 Tarbotton, David (7 April 2020). "Vale: Jim Bailey – 1956 Olympian". NSW Athletics website. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  5. Saplin, Stan (1985). "WHEN A 3:58.6 MILE ADDED TO THE OLYMPIC FUND". New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  6. "Men's World 1500/Mile Rankings By Athlete". trackandfieldnews.com. Archived from the original on 12 March 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2018.