Irish Olympian grateful for ‘God-given talent’

Ronnie Delany fell to his knees and prayed after gold medal win

Ireland’s most famous Olympic gold medallist has spoken of how faith has played an integral role in his life.

Ronnie Delany famously fell to his knees, blessed himself and offered a prayer of thanks after winning the gold medal for the 1,500m race in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 at the age of 21.

Speaking at a conference on Ethics and Sport organised by the Department of Religions and Theology in Trinity College Dublin last weekend, the sporting hero said he was thankful for the “God-given gift” of his talent and that prayer helped him towards his famous win.


“I have a great sense of faith. I didn’t pray so much to win, I did say ‘God give me the ability to run to the best of my ability’. I knew if He gave me that gift I would win, so it was a bit of a cheeky way to go about it,” he said.

“No apology. I prayed before 120,000 people, before the world, because I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for the gift. Thank you too for the ability to explore my talent because if I hadn’t that, if I hadn’t taken key decisions in my life, if I hadn’t listened to my coach, if I hadn’t done the work he asked me to do, history would not have been written in terms of my participation in the Olympics.”

The 78-year-old veteran also talked about the importance of respect in sport, saying it was one of the great lessons he learned. “Respect for the colours you wear, respect for your club, you county, your country, your province. Respect is an enormous attribute for the younger athlete I think. Now arrogance prevents that respect coming through.

“Often times they don’t have respect, they disrespect, their values are different,” he said.