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Trinity’s Exceptional Wave of Olympic Sportspeople

With less than 80 days to go to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, let’s look back at Trinity’s Olympic history.

Published:11th May

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games were postponed for the first time in their history due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo will now be held on 23rd July 2021. With less than 90 days to go to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, let’s look back at Trinity’s Olympic history, a total of 57 graduates have taken part in the pinnacle of sporting representation, dating back to the London Games in 1908 and as recently as the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

James Parke:

Sport: Lawn Tennis

Olympics: 1908, London

Trinity College Dublin: BA (1904); LLB (1906)

James Parke was an outstanding all-round sportsman and hailed by many as ‘Ireland’s greatest sportsman’. He was born in Clones, Co. Monaghan on 26th July 1881, he entered Trinity in 1901. Parke played for DUFC First XV from 1901-02 through 1906-07 and captained DUFC to its Leinster Senior Cup win in 1904-05. Between 1901 through 1908 he gained 10 caps for Leinster. He won 20 caps for Ireland through 1909, captaining Ireland three times while still a student at Trinity.

Parke won the Irish Lawn Tennis Singles title 8 times – 1904, 1905 and 1908–1913 and the Men’s Doubles title 5 times – 1903 and 1910–1913. He added two European singles titles in 1907 and 1913. Parke was impressive at Wimbledon – singles semi-finalist twice (1910 & 1913) and men’s doubles finalist 4 times (1911-1913 & 1920). In 1914 he won the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles with Ethel Larcombe. He played for the British Isles in the Davis Cup 4 times (1908, 1912, 1913, & 1920). Proud of his Irish heritage he always wore a sprig of shamrock on his tennis shirt.

In the 1908 London Olympic Games singles tournament, Parke went out in Round 3 (last 16) to the eventual Silver medallist Otto Froitzheim (GER). In the Men’s Doubles Parke was partnered by Josiah Ritchie. They reached the final where they were beaten 3-0 by George Hillyard-Reginald Doherty (GBR) to take the Silver medals.

Dennis Cussens

Sport: Athletics

Olympics: 1928, Amsterdam

Trinity College Dublin: BA (1924); BAO, BCh, MB (1925) MD (1946)

Denis Cussen was born in Limerick on the 19th July 1901, as well as being an accomplished sprinter, he was also a talented Rugby player. He played for Blackrock College and Dublin University Football Club and was capped 15 times for Ireland between 1920-21 and 1926-27, scoring 5 tries from the wing. At the I.A.A.A Championships in 1921, he won Gold in the 100 yds (10.2 secs), 220 yds (24.2 secs) and Long Jump (20ft 1in – 6.38m). At the 1922 Championships, Cussen retained his 100 yds (10.6 secs) and Long Jump (22ft 1in – 6.73m) titles. In 1925 at the N.A.C.A.I. Championships in Croke Park, Cussen won Gold in the 100 yds in a time of 10.0 sec. At the same event in 1928, he was a Gold medallist over the same distance in 9.8 sec (IR), the first Irishman to break 10.0 sec for 100 yards. This Record was to stand for many years – equalled by Fred G. Moran in 1937 at Lansdowne Road at the first A.A.U.E. Championships.

Cussen represented Ireland at the IX Olympic Games in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 1928. He won his heat of the 100m and came 5th in his quarter final heat.

Cussen was a Founder Member of the British Association of Sport and Medicine and was Medical Officer to the British Olympic Team for the Games in Melbourne (1956) and Rome (1960).

Alfred Delaney

Sport: Sailing

Trinity College Dublin: BA (1933); BAO, BCh, MB (1935); MD (1943)

Trinity College Dublin: BA (1933); BAO, BCh, MB (1935); MD (1943)

Olympics: London, 1948 and Helsinki, 1952

Alfred Delany was born in Mohill, Co. Leitrim on 16 May 1911. He was first selected to represent Ireland at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, where he competed in the Swallow Class, Mixed Two-Person Keelboat (included for the first time in the Olympic Sailing Programme). The event took place at Torquay, Devon, England and there was a total fleet of 14 boats. Scoring over the 10 nautical miles course (1 nautical mile = 1,852m) was based on the best six of seven races. Delany’s best race placing was 5th and he finished in 11th place overall.

He became a double Olympian when he was selected for the 1952 Games in Helsinki and competed in the Finn Class, Mixed One-Person Dinghy. There were 28 boats in the competition, held at the Helsinki Sailing Society, Liuskasaari, Helsinki. The single-handed event was staged on the 5.4 nautical-mile long course and scored on the best six of seven races. Delany’s best race placing was 4th and he finished in 21st place overall.

Alfred’s son, Owen Delany, would follow in his father’s footsteps to become an Olympian in 1972 at the Munich Games, also in the sport of Sailing and is featured as a Trinity Olympian.

Maeve Kyle

Sport: Athletics

Olympics: 1956, Melbourne; 1964, Tokyo; 1960, Rome

Trinity College Dublin: BA (1950) – Natural Science MA (1977)

Maeve competed in the 100 m and 200 m at the XVI Olympiad in Melbourne, Australia in 1956 and qualified for the Rome Olympic Games in 1960, competing in the 100m and 200m. She became Ireland’s first triple Olympian at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 at age 36, where she reached the semi-finals of both the 400m and 800m. In 1961 she became the first Irish women to win a British AAA title at 440 yds in 56.3 sec. Maeve set a British 400 m record in 1961, a World Indoor 400 m record at Wembley, London in 1962 and an Irish 800m record in 1964.

In 1966 at the inaugural European Indoor Athletics Championships in the Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany (then called the European Indoor Games), Maeve Kyle won a Bronze medal in the 400m in a time of 57.3 sec. That same year she also represented Ireland at the 8th European Athletics Championships in Budapest at 400m and 800m.

At the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1970, representing Northern Ireland at age 42, she placed 8th in the final of the 400 m and 7th as a member of the 4 × 100 m relay.

Shirley Armstrong Duffy

Sport: Fencing

Olympics: 1960, Rome

Trinity College Dublin: BA (1984) – TSM: History of Art & Classical Civilisation; MPhil (2007)

Shirley Armstrong competed in the Foil discipline. Although she had medalled at the Irish National Fencing Championships (Bronze, 1960), the Irish Open Fencing Championships (Bronze, 1960) and the South of Ireland Open Championships (Silver, 1958 & 1959), she claimed her first senior title in 1961 at the East of Ireland Open Championships in Kilkenny.

She won 9 medals in Foil at the Irish National Fencing Championships (6 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 Bronze). The first of her Gold medals at this event was won in 1962. At the Irish Open Fencing Championships, she also captured a total of 9 medals (5 Gold, 2 Silver and 2 Bronze) up until 1978. Five of her Irish Open medals were won at the Trinity College Gymnasium. In 1966, Shirley completed a season’s treble of National, Irish Open and East of Ireland Champion. She was selected to compete for Ireland at two World Fencing Championships – 1965 in Paris and 1971 in Vienna.

Shirley Armstrong was one of only two women selected for Ireland to go to the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960 (the other is fellow Trinity Olympian Maeve Kyle).

David Wilkins

Sport: Sailing

Trinity College Dublin: BAI (1972)

Olympics: 1972, Munich; 1976, Montreal; 1980, Moscow; 1988, Seoul; 1992, Barcelona

David Wilkins is Ireland’s most capped Summer Olympian. In 1972, Wilkins sailed with Seán Whitaker, both from Trinity. They sailed a Tempest Mixed Two-Person Keelboat. There was a total fleet of 21 boats and in Race 5 of the series, the pair were the first ever Irish sailors to win an Olympic race. They achieved a final placing of 8th.

Wilkins sailed with Derek Jago in the Tempest class at the 1976 Games where there was a fleet of 16 boats and the Irish pair were placed 11th overall. In 1980, Wilkins teamed up with fellow Trinity alumnus Jamie Wilkinson in the Flying Dutchman class, a Mixed Two-Person Heavyweight dinghy.

At the Moscow Games, Wilkins became Ireland’s 2nd Triple Summer Olympian – Ireland’s only other Triple Olympian at that time was Maeve Kyle (another TCD graduate). They achieved 4 second-place finishes in the races and won the Silver Medal, Ireland’s only Olympic medal in yachting since Ireland first competed in this sport in 1948.

For the 1988 Games in Seoul and at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Wilkins teamed up with Peter Kennedy, who was an Oxford Medical student. In Seoul, Wilkins achieved a record 4th appearance in the Summer Games by an Irishman at that time, and with four different crew members. In winning Race 5 of the regatta Wilkins became the only Irish sailor to win a race at two Olympic Games regattas (Munich & Seoul). The crew finished 10th overall in 1988. Their 1992 boat in Barcelona was called ‘Work, Rest & Play’ and from a fleet of 23, they achieved a final placing of 11th overall.

Gerard Macken

Sport: Two-man Bobsleigh

Trinity College Dublin: BA (1980) – Natural Sciences– Geology; HDipEd (1980)

Olympics: 1992, Albertville

Gerard Macken was one of the four competitors, plus two reserves, who pioneered Ireland’s first appearance at the Winter Olympic Games at Albertville in 1992 with Ireland-1 [Pat McDonagh (driver) Terry McHugh (brakeman)] and Ireland-2 [Gerard Macken (driver) & Malachy Sheridan (brakeman)] in the 2-man bobsleigh.

Macken’s background was rowing, having finished 4th in the Lightweight Coxless Fours (LM4–) at the World Rowing Championships in Lucerne in 1982. He also competed in the World Rowing Championships in 1981 (LM4–), 1982 (LM4–) and 1985 in Lightweight Coxed Eights. He was a member of the Trinity crew that won the National Senior Eights in 1981.

Apart from sprinting and working with weights in the gym, the crews practiced their starts at Dublin’s version of an Alpine resort - the ice rink at Dolphin’s Barn! Thanks to a private sponsor the bobsleigh crews were provided with two modern German-built sleds acquired at a cost of almost £25,000. The crews underwent a special training regimen at Calgary in addition to participating in three World Cup events before the Olympic Games. For the record the McDonagh–McHugh pairing placed 32nd of the 46 sleds with a total time over 4 runs of 4:10.93 (best placing 29th in Run 3), while the Macken–Sheridan pairing placed 38th in a total time of 4:13.48 (best placing 32nd in Run 1).

Gearoid Towey

Sport: Rowing

Trinity College Dublin: BA (2007) - Geography

Olympics: 2000, Sydney; 2004, Athens; 2008, Beijing

Gearóid Towey was a member of the Fermoy Rowing Club. His international career began with selection for Ireland to the World Junior Championships in 1994 (Germany) in the Junior Men Double Sculls and in 1995 (Poland) as a single sculler.

He competed in 9 Senior World Championships between 1995 and 2006. At the 1999 Championships in Canada, he won Bronze as part of the Lightweight Men Quadruple Sculls and won Gold at the 2002 Championships in Switzerland with Tony O’Connor in the Lightweight Men Coxless Pair. Two more podium positions were to follow in 2003 (Italy) and 2006 (England) when he was part of the Lightweight Double Sculls and Lightweight Men Coxless Fours, respectively, both of whom achieved Bronze medal honours.

Gearóid has travelled the globe to compete at World Cup Regattas between 1998 and 2008, accumulating 5 Gold, 2 Silver and 3 Bronze medals during this time.

He was selected for his first Olympic Games to represent Ireland in 2000 as part of the Men’s Lightweight Coxless Fours that finished in 11th place overall. In 2004, he rowed with Sam Lynch in the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls and achieved a final placing of 10th. As a triple Olympian in Beijing in 2008, he was selected for the Lightweight Men Coxless Fours crew which placed 10th overall.

Natalya Coyle

Sport: Modern Pentathlon

Trinity College Dublin: BESS

Olympics: 2012, London; 2016, Rio and 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Natalya was Intervarsity Tetrathlon Champion in 2009 and 2010 and has been awarded three Sports Scholarships by Trinity. In 2011 she won National Senior Épée titles, as well as the West of Ireland Épée Championship in 2010. She was chosen to represent Trinity College as a torch bearer in the historic Olympic Torch Relay in Dublin on 6th June 2012.

Modern Pentathlon involves fencing, swimming, equestrian show-jumping, and a combined biathlon of pistol shooting and cross-country running. Natalya’s campaign to compete at the London Olympic Games started in 2010 with the Union International de Pentathlon Moderne [UIPM] Senior World Cup series in Mexico, Great Britain and Germany. She finished 33rd in the World Cup Final in Moscow. That year she also competed in the Senior European Championships and in the UIPM World Junior Championships.

She became the first Irish woman to qualify for and compete in the Modern Pentathlon at the Olympic Games. Ranked 28th in the World in August 2012, Natalya placed 9th at the London Games and 7th in the Rio Games, quite a remarkable achievement. Natalya has qualified to represent Ireland at the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

John Tanguay

Sport: Rowing

Trinity College Dublin: John is currently studying for an MSc in Operations and Supply Chain Management at Trinity Business School

Paralympics: John will represent the US at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics

Trinity Sport Scholarship student athlete, John Tanguay, 22, is currently studying an MSc in Operations and Supply Chain Management at Trinity College Dublin Business School. John completed his undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Columbia University. In 2019, he represented the United States at the World Rowing Championships and qualified the U.S boat for the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics. As an elite athlete who is preparing for the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics John is training hard at present, completing daily ergometer sessions in Trinity Sport and also accessing the gym for his strength and conditioning sessions (he is classified as an elite athlete and permitted to continue his training whilst in Level 5). John Tanguay has been awarded a Podium Level Trinity Sport Scholarship which recognises his exceptional athletic ability and supports him in is preparations for the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics.