Ardfert-born Tom O’Riordan, who raced for Ireland at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and went on to have a long and distinguished career as a sports journalist, died aged 84 on Monday.
o an older generation, O’Riordan is best known as an exceptional distance runner who won seven national cross-country titles and 12 national track titles, while breaking Irish track records 13 times. He also ran at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, finishing ninth in his 5,000m heat, then competed at the 1966 European Championships.
For a younger generation, O’Riordan – known as ‘Tommo’ and ‘The Runner’ to his work colleagues – was a distinguished sports journalist for the independent and freelance Irish newspapers for which he covered athletics and sports. Gaelic games for nearly 40 years.
Born in Turbid, in 1937, he grew up in Ardfert and won an All Ireland Schools One Mile title for Tralee CBS in 1956, a result and performance which paved the way for a scholarship to the Idaho State University, who during four years there won an NAIA individual cross-country title and finished fifth in the NCAA cross-country final.
After a brief stint in California, he returned to Ireland in 1962, joining Donore Harriers Athletics Club in west Dublin, where he ran as one of Ireland’s most talented and feared distance runners. Ireland.
In 1964 – the year he ran in the Tokyo Olympics – Tom combined athletics and journalism, occasionally winning races and then dropping his copy off by phone to the Independent’s news desk.
“I had to find out who the winners were, the times, the team race and all that. It was a bit of effort but I managed. I was never sued for writing the wrong things,” he recalled in a 2017 interview.
In this same interview, he spoke about his adventure in Tokyo and his ninth place in his series of 5,000 m.
“It was a bit disappointing now that I didn’t make the Olympic final because I was able and fit enough, but I just didn’t. And that lived with me for quite a while afterwards. It was a big disappointment for me. Huge,” he said.
After his own racing career ended, he coached the Irish team at the 1979 World Championships in Limerick, and he always had a keen eye for emerging talent on the racing course, with John Treacy, Eamonn Coughlan and Sonia O’Sullivan receiving righteous support and criticism. of the runner and journalist in him.
O’Riordan covered several Olympics as an athletics correspondent for the Irish Independent, but always retained a love for the Gaelic Games and often reported on the Kerry Games and All-Ireland Championships throughout. throughout his career.
Over the past few years, Tom has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but has never lost his love for sport, especially athletics, and has retained his bright and joyful outlook on life to the end. .
Son Ardfert, who would have turned 85 next month, is survived by his wife Barbara, daughter Karen and sons Ian, Angus and Donal.