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Tributes pour in for trailblazer Landy

The athletics world is mourning the loss of legend and trailblazer John Landy, who died aged 91. (AAP)

Tributes have poured in for John Landy, the athletics icon and trailblazer who gave Australia one of its finest sporting moments.

Landy, who became only the second man in the world to break the four-minute barrier for the mile, has died at the age of 91.

He held the world records for the 1500m and the mile, and won Olympic bronze in 1956 in the 1500m, and Commonwealth Games silver in 1954 Commonwealth Games for the 1600m.

Athletics Australia President Jan Swinhoe said Landy's contribution to Australian athletics was immeasurable and his loss will be deeply mourned by both the athletics community and the wider Australian community.

"We are incredibly saddened to learn of John's passing and our sincere condolences are with Lynne, Alison and Matt, as well as the many people within the athletics community who were touched by John's talent and humility," Swinhoe said.

"John knew what it took to excel at the highest level, and his determination to reach new heights has inspired generations of Australian distance runners.

"His athleticism was only matched by his sportsmanship and his service to others, and those qualities have allowed him to leave behind a powerful legacy."

Outside of sport, the Athletics Australia Hall of Famer was also the 26th Governor of Victoria from 2001 to 2006.

But he is most famously remembered for his performance in the 1500m final at the 1956 Australian Track and Field Championships.

Both his talent and sportsmanship came into play, when during the mile, a number of athletes fell in the third lap, with junior 1500m world record-holder Ron Clarke among them.

Landy stopped to check if Clarke was uninjured, before deciding to chase down the leaders to win the event.

It was a testament to his athletic prowess that he won the race in a time of 4:04.2.

The win is often considered one of the greatest moments in Australian sporting folklore and was voted the Finest Sporting Moment of the century at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Gala in 1999.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said Landy was one of the great pioneers of the golden age of middle-distance running in the 1950s.

"He lit the spark that led to the legendary chase for the four-minute mile between 1952 and 1954 and was one of main protagonists in that quest," said Coe, the two-time 1500m Olympic gold-medal winner.

"Ultimately Roger Bannister got there first but was also the first to recognise that Landy's excellence inspired him to reach that historic landmark.

"Landy followed up by breaking Bannister's world record in Finland just six weeks later.

"Their race for the world record and their iconic meeting at the 1954 Vancouver Commonwealth Games captured the imagination of the world and did more to globalise our sport than any other event of that era."

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