Delany’s gold in Melbourne ’56

The Australian gold rush of ’56

Yesterday I had the honour and pleasure of meeting Ron Delany, who won gold for Ireland in the 1,500 metres at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

One of the true old-school gentlemen, he was kind enough to chat with me for a while about the previous night’s Morton Mile and the Olympic chances of Ciaran O’Lionaird.

Delany’s 1956 victory is still the last Irish gold medal on the Olympic track. Since then Sonia O’Sullivan, John Treacy and Eamonn Coghlan have all come close but have just fallen short.

What about our prospects of a track gold in London, or even any medal? Well, perhaps Rob Heffernan in the walking events may go better than his two fourth place finishes in the 2010 European Championships. Apart from him, reaching finals and breaking national records may be the height of our track team’s ambitions. O’Lionaird, for instance, has struggled with Achilles tendon problems so far this year – at the Morton Mile he ran under four minutes but due to poor positioning he never had a clear run at the leaders.

Winning his gold medal in Melbourne, Delany ran a textbook race – he sat back for the first three laps, moved up the field down the back straight and then unleashed his attack coming around the final bend. In doing so he beat Australia’s John Landy, the favourite and the perennial runner-up, having been pipped by Roger Bannister for the first sub-four minute mile two years earlier.

Here’s Delany’s gold-medal run in colour, with narration by Irish sport commentator Jimmy Magee:

YouTube credit: jimbojimjimbo via The Score

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