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Bob Tisdall Irish Olympic Hero Amazing Story

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Irish Sports News Discussion:     Bob Tisdall Irish Olympic Hero Amazing Story

Bob Tisdall Irish Olympic Hero Amazing Story

A very appropriate time for this.

Now whilst not many have won Gold for Ireland, there are plenty of Irish blood who have for other Nations especially the USA.

One fascinating story of one of only 3 Gold Irish field and track' medalists, that is being discussed here a lot recently for good reason- that of Bob Tisdall maybe Ireland's greatest ever Athlete.

Bob Tisdall born May 16, 1907 in Sri lanka of Irish parents. He won a gold medal in the 400m hurdles at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

This Amazing man who had hardly run a 400m hurdle race before went on and won the gold medal for Ireland at the 1932 Olympic Games in a world record time of 51.7 seconds.
Even more so as he acquired the skills by hurdling sheep on the family farm Laughing

A little of the story of Bob Tisdall
from a variety of sources and memory after listening to the stories of him here.

His family returned to Ireland and he was raised in Nenagh, County Tipperary

He was by accounts both dashing and extremely intelligent (throughout his life). Inspired by the acrobats on a visit to circus as a young boy, he developed an interest in physical culture that was to last all his life. For weeks afterwards he spent all his free time doing cartwheels,walking on his hands and using the branches of a tree as a trapeze.

After leaving school at just 14 years old, he went to work in an office in London but after only ten months of city life an x-ray showed he had deposits of soot in his lungs. He was advised to live in the country and it was only then that a university career was considered. But he had no formal qualifications from which would have gained him entrance and was refused a sports scholarship at Oxford. He worked hard for and passed the entrance exam to Cambridge in 1928.

Whilst at Cambridge A very successful athletics career followed and in his final year, 1931, Tisdall was elected CUAC president charged with the responsibility of selecting the team for the annual match against Oxford. He played a captain’s part winning four of the eight individual events – a feat only equalled 60 years later. He could have won a fifth, his strongest event the 220 yards hurdles, but showing his measure as a man he stood down so that a friend would have the opportunity of winning a full-blue. Still on that cold March day in 1931 he became a national figure in England when he won four events in the annual Cambridge-Oxford athletics match. The events were the high hurdles, long jump, shot and 440 yards. Asked for the reason for his all-round talents, "I trained on beer."

Soon after Bob wrote to General Eoin O'Duffy, the then head of Irish Olympic committee, asking to be considered for the Irish team for Los Angeles. He nominated the 400 metres hurdles, an event of which he had no experience. O’Duffy was so taken by the tone of the letter, he immediately invited the Nenagh man over to run in Ireland’s Olympic Trials at Croke Park. To pursue his Olympic dream, Bob promptly left his job and moved with his wife to Sussex where he lived in a disused railway carriage in an orchard and trained by running around the rows of trees.

In the trials at Croke Park he could only manage a moderate 56.2, but O'Duffy gave him another chance and Tisdall qualified for the Irish team and htis time he made no mistake, by winning the National 440 yards hurdles title at the Irish Championships also held in Croke Park.

After two weeks at the Irish Olympic training camp at Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, he faced the tortuous 14 day journey to California. According to contemporary accounts the temperatures crossing the deserts of Nebraska and Colorado had registered in excess of 118°F (53°C). Tisdall whose normal racing weight was 11st 11lb (75kg) lost sevenpounds (3.5kg). He had also slept badly during the 14 day journey and was anxious on account of having only raced over the 400 metres hurdles three times previously in his lifetime. In Los Angeles he lost another three pounds and amazed everyone by spending 15 out of every 24 hours in bed Laughing.

Even more surprisingly, he never put on a running shoe or ran a yard! Three days before the heats he tried a jog but discovered that A foot injury sustained twelve months previously had recurred on him. Had the Games been held today he would probably have withdrawn but in a less Sophisticated era he merely attributed his symptoms to nerves.

So he slept for 15 hours a day until the morning of the first heat, Two hours later he won the semi-final in 52.8 seconds, equalling the Olympic record and thus making the gold medal a reality.

So on Monday, August 1st, he lined up in the Olympic final along with the five greatest hurdlers in the world - including the previous two gold medallists. It was only his seventh ever race at the distance and yet he was a class apart, approaching the last hurdle five yards ahead of the field.

"At that moment," he later recalled, "I experienced a strange feeling of loneliness. I began to wonder if the rest of the field had fallen over."

With those thoughts disaster nearly struck. He practically tripped over the last hurdle, and just about recovered to take the gold in 51.7 seconds - the fastest time ever run then

Under the then rules, however, hitting the last hurdle meant the world record couldn't be ratified, and so that went to Hardin in second place, who clocked 51.9.

Within the next hour Tisdall was standing close to the hammer circle to not just watch but helped file the spikes of Dr O'Callaghan who was defending his Olympic title with his last throw of 53.92 metres.

The Tipperary man did not any waste time celebrating but immediately made for the throwing area. There he encouraged his friend and team mate Dr Pat O'Callaghan who had trailed Finn Ville Porhola for five rounds in the hammer to win a second Irish gold with his last throw of the competition. It completed Ireland's greatest ever hour in the Olympic Arena winning two gold medals in only the country's second Olympiad.

As if that was not an amazing enough story Bob was back in the Olympic stadium four days later for the decathlon. He won three disciplines and tried three more for the first time and ended up in eighth place.

And it was in his blood! His father won the All-Irish Sprint Championship ; his mother played hockey for Ireland.

Bob was a real world traveller and lived in South Africa amongst other places, finally moving to Australia. He admits to running in his last race at the age of 80 and ran in the Sydney Olympic torch relay.

He was present in Nenagh in 2002 when a statue was unveiled in memory of his achievements.

More amazing!

At the age of 96 he fell down a steep set of rock stairs and broke his shoulder , ribs and ruptured his spleen. and survived.

Bob died in his sleep last week aged 97

Rest in Peace Bob

One of the most remarkable Irishmen to have lived.

Come on the Irish Americans tell us about the many of Irish blood who have won Gold or were special athletes.

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