Midsummer’s Day 30 years ago brought me agony and ecstasy. In the past hour, my family have presented me with a surprise cake to mark the anniversary. So, what’s it all about?
On Midsummer’s Day 1984 I was on Long Island, New York competing at the Olympics for the Disabled, now known as the Paralympic Games.
My friend and team-mate John Kelly ran in the first heat of the 1500m. He smashed the Irish Record for vision impaired at 1500m in a time of 4 minutes and 19 seconds. The record was to last just 5 minutes as I smashed in in Heat 2 to qualify for the Final four days later. The time of 4 minutes and 17 seconds stands to this day. My 5000m time was set 31 years ago and, amazingly, still stands too!
So there was the ecstasy and dream come true. I could now rest down and get ready for the 5000m final in a few days and follow this up with the 1,500m final.
Within an hour of breaking the 1,500m record in NYC, I felt an ankle twinge. By evening time I was limping. The Irish team had no official physiotherapist, so Australia’s official physic stepped in and treated the injury. It was an Achilles tendon pull.
Three days later I lined up for the 5,000m final and felt terrific. I led for the first five laps and then ping, the twinge was as bad as ever. I finished fifth I returned for the 1,500m final the next day with my ankle held by a support. I lasted just over half the race before the Irish management ordered me off on the basis that I could do permanent damage.
Today, I can have my cake and eat it, thanks to my family remembering. They say I never let them forget as I’m obsessed with 1984.
So there you go: A midsummer’s dream turns into a nightmare. No regrets. It was a wonderful honour to represent my country.
– JOE GERAGHTY