Bob Tisdall

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Olympic medal record
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Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1932 Los Angeles 400 m hurdles
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Robert ("Bob") Morton Newburgh Tisdall (16 May 1907 in Nuwara Eliya, Ceylon now Sri Lanka 27 July 2004 in Nambour, Queensland, Australia) was an Irish athlete who won a gold medal in the 400 metre hurdles at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. [1]

Nuwara Eliya City in Central Province, Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya is a city in the hill country of the Central Province, Sri Lanka. Its name means "city on the plain " or "city of light". The city is the administrative capital of Nuwara Eliya District, with a picturesque landscape and temperate climate. It is at an altitude of 1,868 m (6,128 ft) and is considered to be the most important location for tea production in Sri Lanka. The city is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is known for its temperate, cool climate – the coolest area in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Island country in South Asia

Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is historically and culturally intertwined with the Indian subcontinent, but is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.

Nambour, Queensland Suburb of Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Nambour is a town and locality in South East Queensland, Australia, 101 kilometres (63 mi) north of the state capital, Brisbane. The town lies in the sub-tropical hinterland of the Sunshine Coast at the foot of the Blackall Range and has a population of 11,187. It was the administrative centre and capital of the Maroochy Shire and is now the administrative centre of the Sunshine Coast Region. The greater Nambour region includes surrounding suburbs such as Burnside, Coes Creek, and Perwillowen, and has an estimated population of 15,550.


Tisdall was raised in Nenagh, County Tipperary. He had run only six 400 m hurdles when he won the gold medal at the 1932 Olympic Games in a world record time of 51.7 seconds, which was not recognised under the rules of the time because he had a hit a hurdle. Later, because of the notoriety of this incident, the rules were changed and the President of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, presented Tisdall with a Waterford crystal rose bowl with the image of him knocking over the last hurdle etched into the glass. [1] Though the IAAF did not recognize the record at the time, they now recognize the mark, giving Tisdall credit for setting the milestone of being the first man under 52 seconds. [2]

Nenagh Town in Munster, Ireland

Nenagh Irish: Aonach Urmhumhan or simply An tAonach, meaning “The Fair of Ormond” or simply "The Fair", is the county town and second largest town in County Tipperary in Ireland. Nenagh used to be a market town, and the site of the East Munster Ormond Fair.

County Tipperary County in the Republic of Ireland

County Tipperary is a county in Ireland. It is located in the province of Munster. The county is named after the town of Tipperary, and was established in the early thirteenth century, shortly after the Norman invasion of Ireland. The population of the county was 159,553 at the 2016 census. The largest towns are Clonmel, Nenagh and Thurles.

1932 Summer Olympics games of the X Olympiad, celebrated in Los Angeles in 1932

The 1932 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the X Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event that was held from July 30 to August 14, 1932, in Los Angeles, California, United States.

Early career

Following prep school at Mourne Grange, Kilkeel Tisdall went on to Shrewsbury School, where he won the Public Schools 440 yards (402 m), and at Cambridge he won a record four events 440 yards (402 m) and 120 yards (110 m) hurdles, long jump and shot put in the annual match against Oxford. This record was only equalled nearly 60 years later. Tisdall had a chance to compete in five events, but selected Ted Cawston to run for him in the 220 yd (201 m) low hurdles so that Cawston could receive his "blue". Cawston justified his selection by winning the event that Tisdall had won the previous two years. [1]

Kilkeel town, civil parish and townland in County Down, Northern Ireland

Kilkeel is a small town, civil parish and townland in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is the southern-most town in Northern Ireland. It lies within the historic barony of Mourne. Kilkeel town is the main fishing port on the Down coast, and its harbour houses one of the largest fishing fleets in Ireland. It had a population of 6,887 people according to the 2011 Census. The town contains the ruins of a 14th-century church and fort, winding streets and terraced shops. It is located just south of the Mourne Mountains.

Shrewsbury School independent school in Shropshire, United Kingdom

Shrewsbury School is an English co-educational independent school for pupils aged 13 to 18 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, founded by Edward VI in 1552 by Royal Charter. The present campus, to which the school moved in 1882, is on the banks of the River Severn.

Long jump track and field event

The long jump is a track and field event in which athletes combine speed, strength and agility in an attempt to leap as far as possible from a take off point. Along with the triple jump, the two events that measure jumping for distance as a group are referred to as the "horizontal jumps". This event has a history in the Ancient Olympic Games and has been a modern Olympic event for men since the first Olympics in 1896 and for women since 1948.

Tisdall set South African and Canadian records in the 220 yards (201 m) low hurdles in 1929, a year later setting Greek records in the same event. While at Cambridge in March 1932, he decided to try for a place in the Irish Olympic squad and after he ran 54.2 seconds (a record) for the Irish Championship 440 yards (402 m) hurdles in June that year, the authorities agreed to let him run in his new event at the Los Angeles Olympics, where he also came eighth in the decathlon. [3]

South Africa Republic in the southernmost part of Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini (Swaziland); and it surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho. South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th-largest country in the world by land area and, with over 57 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. About 80 percent of South Africans are of Sub-Saharan African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (White), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (Coloured) ancestry.

Canadians citizens of Canada

Canadians are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, several of these connections exist and are collectively the source of their being Canadian.

Greece republic in Southeast Europe

Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, historically also known as Hellas, is a country located in Southern and Southeast Europe, with a population of approximately 11 million as of 2016. Athens is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Thessaloniki.


In 1928, Ireland, as an independent nation, had won its first Olympic gold medal at Amsterdam with Dr Pat O'Callaghan's unexpected victory in the hammer event. At the time he was barely out of the novice class and he had been included in the Irish Team mainly to gain experience of top-class competition. Over the years, he was to develop into one of the world's greatest hammer-throwers and he demonstrated this by winning his second Olympic gold medal at Los Angeles in 1932.

Republic of Ireland Ireland, a country in north-western Europe, occupying 5/6 of the island of Ireland; succeeded the Irish Free State (1937)

Ireland, also known as the Republic of Ireland, is a country in north-western Europe occupying 26 of 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, which is located on the eastern part of the island, and whose metropolitan area is home to around a third of the country's over 4.8 million inhabitants. The sovereign state shares its only land border with Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom. It is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, Saint George's Channel to the south-east, and the Irish Sea to the east. It is a unitary, parliamentary republic. The legislature, the Oireachtas, consists of a lower house, Dáil Éireann, an upper house, Seanad Éireann, and an elected President who serves as the largely ceremonial head of state, but with some important powers and duties. The head of government is the Taoiseach, who is elected by the Dáil and appointed by the President; the Taoiseach in turn appoints other government ministers.

Amsterdam Capital of the Netherlands

Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous municipality of the Netherlands. Its status as the capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands, although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam has a population of 854,047 within the city proper, 1,357,675 in the urban area and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country but is not its capital, which is Haarlem. The Amsterdam metropolitan area comprises much of the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, which has a population of approximately 8.1 million.

Pat OCallaghan athletics competitor

Dr. Patrick "Pat" O'Callaghan was an Irish athlete and Olympic gold medallist. He was the first athlete from Ireland to win an Olympic medal under the Irish flag rather than the British. In sport he then became regarded as one of Ireland's greatest-ever athletes.

This in fact brought a very special moment in Olympic history for Ireland. Within the short space of an hour Ireland won two Olympic gold medals on Monday, 1 August 1932. The first was won by Tisdall.

His father won the All-Irish Sprint Championship; his mother played hockey for Ireland and was a formidable golfer. [1] His Olympic victory had the "element of a fairy tale about it", as one commentator put it.

Field hockey team sport version of hockey played on grass or turf with sticks and a round ball

Field hockey is a team game of the hockey family. The earliest origins of the game date back to the Middle Ages in Pakistan. The game can be played on grass, water turf, artificial turf or synthetic field as well as an indoor board surface. Each team plays with eleven players, including the goalie. Players use sticks made out of wood, carbon fibre, fibre glass or a combination of carbon fibre and fibre glass in different quantities to hit a round, hard, plastic ball. The length of the stick depends on the player's individual height. Only one face of the stick is allowed to be used. Goalies often have a different kind of stick, however they can also use an ordinary field hockey stick. The specific goal-keeping sticks have another curve at the end of the stick, this is to give them more surface area to save the ball. The uniform consists of shin guards, shoes, shorts, a mouth guard and a jersey. Today, the game is played globally, mainly in parts of Western Europe, South Asia, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and parts of the United States. Known simply as "hockey" in many territories, the term "field hockey" is used primarily in Canada and the United States where ice hockey is more popular. In Sweden, the term "landhockey" is used and to some degree also in Norway where it is governed by Norway's Bandy Association.

Golf sport in which players attempt to hit a ball with a club into a goal using a minimum number of shots

Golf is a club-and-ball sport in which players use various clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course in as few strokes as possible.

Statue of Tisdall and two other Olympic gold medalists (Matt McGrath and Johnny Hayes) in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland Nenagh olympic.jpg
Statue of Tisdall and two other Olympic gold medalists (Matt McGrath and Johnny Hayes) in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland

Tisdall had, in the midst of The Depression, what he describes as "the best job in the world", as an aide to a young Indian Maharaja, escorting him around Europe, showing him the cultural and natural sights. To pursue his Olympic dream, Tisdall had to leave this job and live in a disused railway carriage in an orchard, where he trained by running around the rows of trees. Early in 1932, he wrote to General Eoin O'Duffy, then the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, and asked to be considered for the Irish Olympic Team in the 400 metres hurdles and he also confessed that he had not previously run in the event.

O'Duffy was convinced that Tisdall could achieve a good time and later invited Tisdall to compete in a special Olympic trial at Croke Park in Dublin. Tisdall failed to make the qualifying time, but O'Duffy gave him another chance and Tisdall qualified for the Irish Team by winning the National 440 yards (402 m) hurdles title at the Irish Championships, also at Croke Park. [1] At the team training camp, Tisdall discovered that there were no hurdles, so he collected driftwood from the beach and set up some crude hurdles on the greyhound racing track. This took him much of the morning, but just when he was ready to hurdle, someone activated the mechanical rabbit, which sped around the track rail, promptly knocking all the makeshift hurdles over. Finding out that there were hurdles available at a local girls' school, Tisdall cycled there and back each day, to use the hurdles, as the students were on vacation.

After winning his preliminary Olympic heat in Los Angeles, Tisdall equalled the Olympic record of 52.8 seconds in the semi-finals. As this was only the fifth time he competed at this event, Tisdall says: "I said to myself, 'Well, you've run in the semi-finals and equalled the Olympic record; Bob, you're really getting the hang of this!"

Then in the final, despite stumbling at the final hurdle, he won the Olympic gold medal in 51.7 seconds which would have been a world record but for the fact that he had knocked over the last hurdle, and under the laws prevailing at the time, this ruled out recognition of a world record. It is worth noting that four Olympic hurdles champions appeared in that one race.

"At that moment I experienced a strange feeling of loneliness--everything was strangely quiet--I began to wonder if the rest of the field had fallen over" - Bob Tisdall, approaching the final hurdle of the 1932 Olympic Games 400 m hurdles final, five meters ahead of the field.

After his victory, Tisdall was invited to a dinner in Los Angeles where he was seated next to Amelia Earhart on one side and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. on the other.

Because of the wide reporting of Tisdall's failure to clear the hurdle causing him to lose the record, people are still confused about the current state of the rules of hurdling, even though the rule was changed shortly thereafter.

In 2002, three statues honoring three home town Olympic champions, Matt McGrath, Johnny Hayes and Bob Tisdall were unveiled in front of the Nenagh County Courthouse. [4]

Later life

Later in life, Tisdall lived in South Africa, where he ran a gymnasium during the day, which he converted to a night club after dark. He grew coffee in Tanzania, but moved to Nambour in 1969 with his wife Peggy, where he farmed fruit crops and cattle. He admitted to running his last race at the age of 80, though he ran in the Sydney Olympic torch relay at age 93. At that point he was the oldest living recipient of an individual track and field Olympic medal。

At the age of 96 he fell down a steep set of rock stairs and broke his shoulder, ribs and ruptured his spleen. [1] He never completely recovered and died on 27 July 2004, aged 97. At that time, he was the world's oldest track and field Olympic Gold medalist.

Tisdall did not want a funeral, because "they are altogether too sad." His wake was attended by family and a few friends.

See also

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