Dr. Pat O'Callaghan: 'Double' Olympic Champion
Dr. Pat O’Callaghan, Olympic Gold Champion at successive Olympics, 1928 Amsterdam and 1932 Los Angeles, hailed from the north Cork barony of Duhallow. Born at Derrygallon, near the town of Kanturk, he was an astute pupil who strolled through his formative education at primary and secondary levels. He studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, and qualified in 1926, aged just twenty. Following graduation he entered the Medical Corps of the British Royal Airforce and returned to live in Ireland in 1928 to set up his own practice in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.
As a youth he played gaelic football with Dromtariffe and hurling with Castlemagner. His family and siblings had an abiding passion for many sports and athletics played a prominent part in their lives. Life around rural Duhallow meant living did not come easy and Pat O’Callaghan endured a 32 mile return trip on a bicycle to attend secondary school in Mallow. Two brothers, Seán and Con, also excelled in sporting arenas, but it was the youngest son of the O’Callaghans, who made world headlines.
Following his time in Dublin he developed a keen interest in hammer throwing and to improve his skills and strength, he spent week - ends at Duhallow, testing his stamina with heavier hammers than those used in competitions. After winning several local and national titles, Dr. Pat was making rapid progress, but still considered to be outside international ranking. This dedication would reap great dividends and international fame for the aspiring athlete.
As the 1928 Irish champion, he was qualified to represent Ireland at the Amsterdam Olympics. By the time he departed Irish shores for the Olympics, his throw had now reached 166' 11" and at just twenty two he was competing against the world’s best throwers. In his final throw he used an opponents hammer as a psychological implant to his game and landed a record throw of 168' 7". The owner of the hammer fell four feet short and was devastated as Dr. Pat claimed Gold.
That medal was historically Ireland’s first ever gold as a free nation and ironically, he paid all his own expenses to travel and stay in Amsterdam.
Two of Dr. Pat’s brothers also qualified and they also paid their own way. The famous Corkman was back again for the Los Angeles Olympics and by now he had perfected a regular throw of over 170'. The rule makers for hammer throwing had made a far reaching decision, which was only recognised by Dr. Pat, as the event commenced. Instead of the normal grass or clay arena, he was faced with a cinder surface that required major alterations to his spiked shoes. Without the necessary time to find alternative shoes, Dr. Pat still managed a plausible throw of 171' 3" to qualify for the final on his third throw. As other events were progressing, the inventive doctor found his own cure for his shoes. With a borrowed hacksaw and file, he found time to reduce the length of his spikes.
In the final throw off rounds, and on his second throw, he reached a mighty 176' 11" to leave his opponents truly bewildered. Another gold for Ireland and Dr. Pat O’Callaghan. Earlier in the 400mtr. Hurdles, Bob Tisdall, had won another gold for Ireland.
In 1933 Dr. Pat was regarded as the world’s greatest hammer thrower and he continued winning European titles. However his career was interrupted by a split in the athletics governing body and he did not defend his title at the Berlin Olympics as a consequence. He did not agree with a proposed split in the ranks of the legislators.
In a competition at Fermoy, Co. Cork, in 1937, he threw a mighty 195' 4" but this historic throw was not recognised due to the authorities governing bodies ongoing dispute.
He was awarded the Texaco Hall Of Fame Award in 1960. Dr. Pat O’Cllaghan died on 1st December 1991 and is buried at Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.