Posted: 05 December 2006
Ireland’s most famous Olympian, Ronnie Delany honoured by UCD
In recognition of his lifetime achievements which inspired and continue to inspire the Irish nation and Irish people worldwide, Ronnie Delany was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by University College Dublin at a ceremony in O’Reilly Hall, Belfield, on 4 Dec 2006.
One of Ireland’s greatest ever sportsmen and ambassadors on the world stage, Ronnie Delany won the Olympic Gold medal in the 1,500 metres at Melbourne Cricket Ground on 1 Dec 1956, setting a new Olympic record in the process.
After receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws from UCD at an award ceremony in O'Reilly Hall, Belfield on 4 Dec 2006, Ireland's most famous Olympian, Ronnie Delany gets a kiss from his granddaughters Hollie 12 and Jodie 14
The victory remains one of the greatest days in the history of Irish sport. It had a momentous impact on the depressed Ireland of the 1950s and caught the imagination of the Irish nation. The sentiment surrounding Delany’s Olympic victory is perhaps best described by Tony O’Reilly in his forward to Ronnie Delany’s book “Staying the Distance” where he states: “Delany’s win in Melbourne… made us all feel that we had achieved something unique, that we could compete against the best in the world.”
To win the olympic gold medal, Ronnie had defeated the cream of world athletics, including the hometown athlete and hot favourite, world record holder John Landy. Many legends have emerged from the excitement of the 1,500 metres Olympic race that year, including one that says the race was so exciting that the official omitted to ring the bell for the last lap.
Ronnie Delany was born on 06 March 1935, near the town of Arklow in County Wicklow. After secondary school, he gained admission to the Irish Army’s Cadet College. But instead of following an Irish Army officer’s career and attending university in Ireland, Ronnie took the pioneering step of going on an athletics scholarship to Villanova, Philadelphia, in 1954, from which he graduated with a BSc in Economics.
At Villanova, under the tutelage of the legendary Jumbo Elliot, one of the greatest athletics coaches of all time, Ronnie Delay’s athletic prowess and career blossomed. Elliot coached a total of 5 Olympic Gold Medal winners including - Charles Jenkins (1956, 400 m), Don Bragg (1960, pole vault), Paul Drayton (1964, 4x100 m relay), Larry James (1968, 4x400 m relay) and Ronnie Delany (1956, 1,500 metres).
Delany’s athletic career also included an unprecedented and unsurpassed 40 straight victories “indoors” in America from 1956 to 1959 including 33 mile races. He was the Indoor Mile World Record Holder from 1958 to 1962. His achievement in American Collegiate athletics also remains unsurpassed, he won numerous American NCAA and IC4A titles including ‘Delany Doubles’ in half-mile/mile and 1000 yards/two miles. In 1961, representing Ireland, he was World University Games Champion at 800m, Ireland’s first ever Gold Medalist at this level. In 1958, at Stockholm, he was the first Irishman to win a medal in the European Championships in the 1500m. He was one of the participants in the legendary ‘Miracle Mile’ at Santry on August 6, 1958 where the first four home all broke the existing world mile record.
Ronnie working career began with Aer Lingus in America. Following this, for almost 20 years he was Assistant Chief Executive of B&I Line with specific responsibility for the marketing and operations of the Irish Ferry Company based in Dublin. In 1998, he established his own highly successful Marketing / Sports Consultancy Business. He has also held numerous directorships and positions of note. The dedication in his book to his loving wife Joan, his wonderful children Lisa, Ronnie, Jennifer and Michelle and their partners, and his much-loved grandchildren clearly shows his commitment to his family.Ronnie Delany was awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin in 2006.