JOHN TREACY’S SILVER medal win at the Los Angeles Games of 1984 is remembered as both a truly great Irish sporting moment and an encapsulating piece of television commentary.
The Waterford runner had just finished ninth in the 10,000 metre final when he decided to embark on his very first marathon run.
Well down the field for much of the race, Treacy made his move into the top six around the 20km mark and by the time they entered the LA Coliseum, he was right in contention – placed third alongside Portugal’s Carlos Lopez and Charlie Spedding of Britain.
Jimmy Magee, who was on duty for RTE, sensed how significant a day it was turning out to be and took it upon himself to honour sporting greats of the past during the final moments of the race. We’ll let him take it up from here…
Magee: It was remarkable. Treacy had nothing to base that run on as it was his first ever marathon. To do that in his first try was a colossal achievement.
Treacy: I was trying to make it difficult for myself by running the 10,000m beforehand. I never tried to do things the easy way. So I dusted myself off and prepared for the marathon. I had trained in the heat and was ready but I’d never run one before.
Magee: What left such a lasting impression was that he was on the track the same time as this Englishman Spedding.
Treacy: I said what I would do was try to follow some of the favourites. So I followed (America’s Alberto) Salazar for the first 5km before realising he wasn’t going very well. I then so (Japan’s Toshihoko) Seko up the road so followed him instead. You try to bury yourself in the pack in a race like that and drink plenty of water early on.
At halfway, I found myself still up with the leaders. Charlie Spedding was the first to make a move then four of us got away.
I’m thinking if I can hang in here then I can get a medal. About three miles to go, Lopez makes a move. I was trying to sprint to keep up but had to let him go.
Magee: As they made their way into the stadium, I was sure he was going to win a medal. It was very dodgy to do what I tried to do. I backed myself to be able to remember all of these fellas who had won medals for Ireland in the past.
Treacy: Even though we were looking to beat each other, Charlie and myself knew that if we stayed together, we would both get a medal and drag each other along. I attempted to burn him off coming into the stadium because I wanted to enjoy the last lap. But he caught me again.
Magee: I made up my mind with 300m to go that I’m going to do it. I was saying to myself how long would it take to get them all in. Lopez had already finished so it meant it was a head-to-head between these two guys. Ireland v England is always a great contest to watch.
Treacy: I had him on my shoulder but with 300m to go, I moved away again.
Magee: I was thinking to myself ‘well you’d do three words every second and if he runs the last 110m in so many seconds, then I’ll just squeeze them in before the end’. And I was nearly dead on.
Treacy: In the end, I beat him by three seconds – running the last lap in 67 seconds.
Magee: It was courageous that I even tried to do it but it worked out on the day, thankfully.
YouTube credit: jimbojimjimbo
(John Treacy quotes from interview with Run247tv, Jimmy Magee in inteview with TheScore)