Medals better late than never for cheated Irish trio

Unlike John Treacy, they were denied their place on the podium but at last justice will be done

Silver medallist John Treacy leads bronze medal winner Charlie Spedding of Great Britain during the  Marathon event   at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California during the 1984 Olympics.  Photo:  Tony Duffy/Getty

Silver medallist John Treacy leads bronze medal winner Charlie Spedding of Great Britain during the Marathon event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California during the 1984 Olympics. Photo: Tony Duffy/Getty

Sat, Aug 2, 2014, 11:00

Not long now until the quiet jubilee of the most magnificently spontaneous sporting commentary in Irish athletics history. That is no exaggeration, because surely you all remember where you were when Jimmy Magee treated us to this –

“They’re going for silver, they’re going for bronze, and Treacy has moved away from Spedding . . . John Treacy has 100 metres to go . . .

“In the past Ireland has won bronze medals. John Caldwell. Freddie Gilroy. ‘Socks’ Byrne. Jim McCourt. Hugh Russell. They’ve won gold. Pat O’Callaghan. Twice. Bob Tisdall. Ron Delany.

“They won silvers with John McNally, Fred Tiedt, Wilkins, Wilkinson, and now for the 13th time, an Irish medal goes to John Treacy. The crowd stand for the Irishman from Villierstown in Waterford. The little man with a great heart . . .”

Wow. It still sounds amazing, three decades years later (and if you don’t remember look it up on You Tube). Because next Tuesday week, August 12th, it will be 30 years to the day since Treacy ran into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with Britain’s Charlie Spedding on his heels. The marathon was the final event of the 1984 Olympics, the stadium crammed with 92,500 spectators, and the medal presentation all part of the closing ceremony.

Indeed the picture of Treacy standing on that Olympic medal podium, alongside Spedding and gold medal winner Carlos Lopes of Portugal, still seems beyond any concise praise. Treacy’s performance that day was heroic in every sporting sense, not only because it was his first marathon, in arguably the greatest field ever assembled, but also because he was not expected to medal.

It’s often forgotten that Treacy had run the 10,000m heats, then the final, the week before, finishing a respectable ninth: “I’m still doing the marathon, definitely,” he told reporters, immediately afterwards, some of whom had genuine concerns for Treacy’s chances of surviving another 26.2 miles of running in the heat of Los Angeles.

Which is also why Magee’s commentary – recalling Ireland’s 12 previous Olympic medal winners in the time it took Treacy to run the final 100 metres – was so magnificent: he did realise, about a mile from the finish, that Treacy was going to medal, unless he collapsed, and yet his astonishing display of sporting memory took Treacy’s achievement straight into the sporting pantheon where it belonged.

It’s impossible to imagine that moment being lost now, or, as is happening with increasing frequency, being rewritten by some retrospective readjustment of the result. But imagine Treacy had finished fourth in that Olympic marathon, only to discover, three or four years later, that one of the runners ahead of him was caught doping, and that he was being promoted to the bronze medal position.

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