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Olympic Games 1980

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The Olympic Games, Moscow ~ The 1980 Olympic Games will be remembered for the American led boycott. The USA withdrew in protest at the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, other countries that supported the boycott included – New Zealand, West Germany, Norway and Canada.

The rowing events took place from 20th to 27th July 1980 at the Trade Union Olympic Sport Centre, Krylatskoye District, Moscow. The Garda Club were well represented on the Irish Olympic Team, which included – coxless pair of Willie Ryan and Pat Gannon, Christy O’Brien paired up with Denis Rice (Fermoy) and cox Liam Williams (Neptune) in the coxed pair, coxed IV members Ted Ryan and Joe Homan, substitute Andy McDonough, Coaches Jim Muldoon, Brendan Duane and Team Manager Peadar Casey.

Willie Ryan and Pat Gannon won the Petite Final and finished seventh overall. This was the second successive Olympic Games for a Garda crew to finish in seventh position in an open event, a standard not surpassed to this day. Frustratingly, our time in the Petite Final would have placed us fifth in the Grand Final. Christy O’Brien and Denis Rice (Fermoy) showed early promise, but unluckily, like many of the other Irish athletes took ill and did not row in the Petite Final. The coxed IV which included Ted Ryan and Joe Homan (Cox) finished in eleventh place.

Petite Final – Coxless Pair

1st Ireland 6.54
2nd France 6.55
3rd Austria 6.58
4th Australia 6.59
5th Italy 7.00

Grand Final – Coxed Pair

1st Germany 6.48
2nd URS (Slovenia) 6.50
3rd Great Britain 6.51
4th Romania 6.53
5th Czechoslovakia 7.01
6th Sweden 7.02


The IARU Olympic report stated:

The living conditions were satisfactory. The change in climate and food was probably the cause of a number of cases of stomach upset, mostly of a minor nature, quickly taken care of by the Medical Officer. The rowing facilities and organisation for the Regatta were magnificent.

With fifteen countries entered the coxless pairs was the largest event of the regatta. In a heat with no stars, Ireland’s coxless pair of Willie Ryan and Pat Gannon, were leading at halfway and comfortably took the third qualifying place into the semifinals, with Italy and France in front of them and Sweden and Guatemala behind them. In their semifinal, current form indicated that East Germany’s Landvoigt twins, the World and Olympic title holders, would qualify with a terrific tussle between Austria, Ireland, Italy and Sweden for the final qualifying place. At 500 metres Ireland was in that crucial third place, but they slipped in the middle of the course to finish fifth with Sweden the third qualifier for the grand final. In the Petite Final Ireland raced well to take the lead at 1,500 metres, from where they held off a French challenge to win. Finishing in seventh place overall. East Germany won the Gold Medal, with USSR second and Great Britain third.

Irish Olympic Coxless Pair

Bow     Pat Gannon

Str.      Willie Ryan

Coach             Brendan Duane


(Coxed Pair) The year’s form indicated that East Germany the reigning Olympic Champions would be almost impossible to beat, but the competition for the other medals would be a titanic one between Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, the Soviet Union and the sole challenger from the west, Ireland. Ireland’s two silvers in Lucerne, ahead of the World Silver and Bronze Medallists and the other Olympic boycotting nations, excited everyone and the goodwill towards the Irish was enormous. In their heat they slipped back to finish only ahead of Cuba. It transpired that Christy O’Brien had been struck down with an upset stomach. Fortunately the repechage system gave a second chance and they had two days to throw off the effects of the illness. Unbelievably, Denis Rice was hit the same way the night before the repechage. They needed only to be second. They raced bravely showing their potential to lead Yugoslavia and Bulgaria at 500 metres, but the debilitating illness took its toll and from there they dropped back progressively to fourth place, behind a British crew that hadn’t lived with them all year. Five days later Denis had still not recovered and the team Doctor advised that they should withdraw from the petite final. The Gold Medal was won by the East Germans with U.S.S.R. second and Yugoslavia finishing third.

Irish Olympic Coxed Pair

Bow     Christy O’Brien

Str.      Denis Rice (Fermoy)

Cox                 Liam Williams (Neptune)

Coach             Jim Muldoon


(Coxed IV) With a total of twelve entries for this event, only one would qualify for the final from each heat and two from each repechage. In their heat Ireland was fifth for three-quarters of the race and came through Yugoslavia to take fourth. They finished fifth in the Petite Final ahead of Cuba and eleventh overall. East Germany won Gold with USSR second and Poland third.

Irish Olympic Coxed IV

Bow     Ian Kennedy (Lady Victoria)    (3)        Ted Ryan (Garda)

(2)        Pat McDonagh (Commercial)   Str.      David Gray (Lady Victoria B.C.)

Cox                 Joe Homan (Garda)

Coach             John Holland (Neptune)



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