Moy Valley AC coach, Deirdre Gallagher (Clarke), competed in the 10,000 m race walking final in the Olympic Games in Atlanta on the 29th of July, 1996 – 20 years ago this week. As the Rio Olympics draws near, we can appreciate the athletic experience in our club and further appreciate the fact that this experience is being used to develop the athletes in our new club.
The Atlanta Olympics took place between the 19th of July and 4th of August 1996 in hot humid conditions. Week 1, from an Irish perspective, was dominated by the exploits of swimmer Michelle Smyth in the pool. Week 2 was when the Track and Field programme commenced and Deirdre took to the line at 08:30 on the morning of the 29th of July.
On the night of the 27th July, a bomb exploded in Centennial Park (in the centre of Atlanta) and Atlanta Police maintained a heavy presence on land and air!
The event itself was held on the roads outside the stadium and finished with a full lap of the Olympic Stadium.
Competing against the best race walkers in the world at that time, here are some action shots of Deirdre throughout the race.
Awaiting Deirdre’s arrival in the Olympic Stadium were her proud parents Danny and Breege (RIP) while other family and friends lent their support on the road.
Danny, Breege and Dónal Gallagher were hosted in Atlanta by a local family – John and Susan Rahiya – through a Rotary Club initiative . Within five years, John and Susan’s son, Mark, was appointed one of the first managers of the Ballina Beverages (Coca Cola) plant in Ballina and lived in Ballina for a number of years with his wife Shelley.
This is a selection of photographs taken by Deirdre’s family who went to Atlanta to support her. They were lucky enough to attend some of the most historic performances of those Olympic games.
The Olympic Flame of the Atlanta Games (lit by the late Mohammad Ali)
The centrefield of the Atlanta track was alleged to be so scorched from the summer sun that it had to be painted green.
Carl Lewis prepares to jump in the long jump qualifiers. He went on to win the competition having previously won the competition in 1984, 1988 and 1992.
The stadium alight for an evening of finals.
Michael Johnson, in his trademark golden spikes, won the 200m/400m double at the Atlanta Games.
All athletes stayed in the Olympic Village. Pictured visiting the Olympic village: Irish athlete Maria McMahon from Clare; Deirdre Gallagher and her proud supporters James Clarke, Anne Gallagher, Seán Gallagher.