Athletics icon Ronnie gives sound advice to Delvin kids

Athletics icon Ronnie gives sound advice to Delvin kids

Sporting talent is a “gift from God” and should be pursued to the last, Irish Olympic gold medallist Ronnie Delany told the children of St Tola’s National School, Delvin last Thursday.

Wicklow native Delany, who represented Ireland with great distinction in middle-distance running, claimed a gold medal in the 1500m at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, and set a world record in the distance.

Delany (84) fielded questions from St Tola’s pupils, and told them to “explore the talents they have”, adding that he wasn’t sure until the age of 18 that he wanted to forge a career in running (before that, he had played tennis, Gaelic football and rugby).

“I then moved from being an ordinary athlete, to realising that I had a great talent and to using it as much as I could,” he said, pointing out that at the end of his gold medal-winning race in Melbourne, he blessed himself.

“I had achieved my destiny and capitalised on making the most of all my talent, and I was thankful,” he said.

Delany told the pupils that he went between early 1955 and the spring of 1959 without losing a race. “For five years I ran in venues like Madison Square Garden in New York, where they have the wrestling now, and in places like Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, against all the best American and European athletes.

“I used to run between 30 and 40 races a year, so by about 1958 I was tired,” he added. Delany retired from professional running in 1962, at the age of 27. He won a European bronze medal in 1958.

Last week was a hugely successful one for the children of St Tola’s NS, in which they won Cumann na mBunscol titles in hurling and camogie.

“Isn’t Cumann na mBunscol marvellous?” Delany said, saying that he was in awe at the “attendance and organisation” at a schools athletics event in Santry on Monday. “You young people are marvellous to take part in that sort of a competition.”

He recalled being on the winning team at a 4x100m relay competition at Croke Park during the 1940s. One of his teammates was Niall Brophy, who went on to play international rugby for Ireland and for the British Lions.

Delany encouraged his young listeners to “be proud of your teachers and people who train you, and your mummies and daddies. Never forget what they did for you, even when you get old.”

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