Legendary walker Kelly dies, aged 82
ATHLETICS:The death has taken place of the colourful and legendary Irish Olympic walker, John Kelly, who competed in the 50-kilometre event at the 1968 Games in Mexico City. He also held the Irish record for the event for 24 years, from 1968 to 1992.
Born at in Loughmore, Co Tipperary in 1929, he followed a very varied sporting career as well as travelling between Australia and New Zealand while working in the building trade.
He was originally a boxer but entered for the walk at the Australian Olympic trials of 1956 in an effort to make the Irish team. Having failed in that he competed in the hammer but failed to register a throw – with one effort landing on a tram full of people.
He then entered the heavyweight class at the 1956 boxing trials but retired with a cut eye.
Kelly moved to New York where he joined Gleason’s famous boxing gym in the city. But he was soon back running and in 1965 won the Philadelphia Marathon in two hours 37 minutes in desperately warm conditions.
He switched to walking and made rapid progress, clocking 4:22.30 over 50 kilometres in San Francisco which alerted the Irish Olympic selectors. However a flu left him short of his best at the Mexico Games and he failed to finish.
He entered the Guinness Book of Records when he walked the 120 miles though Death Valley in California, a feat designed to help aid the release of five Irishmen who had been wrongly imprisoned in Texas. They were duly released, with Senator Ted Kennedy lending his considerable support.