August 1, 2004 by

Bob Tisdall


Categories: Sports

Robert Morton Newburgh Tisdall, the world’s oldest track and field Olympic gold medalist, died in his sleep this week. The exact date of his death was not released. He was 97.
Born in Ceylon to an Anglo-Irish family, Tisdall was a natural athlete who set South African, Canadian and Greek records in the hurdles. While studying at Cambridge University, he wrote an impassioned letter to Gen. Eoin O’Duffy, the president of the Irish Olympic Council, to request an audition for the Irish Olympic Team. His try-out was granted.
Tisdall’s first run failed to impress, but during his second attempt, he ran the 400m hurdles in 54.2 seconds and qualified for the 1932 Olympics. He prepared for the competition by leaping over sheep grazing in England’s South Downs.
At the Los Angeles Games, Tisdall won the 400m hurdles race in 51.7 seconds and became the second Irishman in history to win a gold medal for his country. He actually broke the world record time in the event, but his accomplishment was not recorded because he knocked over the last hurdle before crossing the finish line. Tisdall also came in eighth place in the decathlon. After his victory, he attended a celebratory dinner and shared a table with pilot Amelia Earhart and actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
His remaining years were spent growing coffee in Tanzania and raising cattle in Australia. Tisdall also ran a gymnasium in South Africa, which he converted into a nightclub in the evenings. He was 93 years old when he ran in the 2000 Olympic torch relay in Sydney.

5 Responses to Bob Tisdall

  1. Shauna Nichole Tisdall

    My Great Great Great Uncle was an amazing man, I never had the chance to meet him unfortunately but have read much about him. If anyone has more information about him or his other surviving family please contact me! I am traveling to Ireland in 3 weeks and want to know if there are any relatives I can visit! Shauna Nichole Tisdall

  2. Bernard O'Connell

    There is a story in my family that my grandfather who was a Tailor in Listowel Co. Kerry Ireland in 1932 actually made thr Track Suit that Bob wore at the 1932 Games.

  3. David Newland

    When he retired my Father bought the Sail Inn in Dromineer County Tipperary. Bob Tisdall was staying with a relative in “the big house” and I met him in the bar one evening. He was a truly charming gentleman who on being asked admitted that he only gave up smoking and drinking a few weeks before a major event! So much for healthy living!
    my address is

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