Seamus Connolly — Ireland’s Leading Portrait Sculptor

Paddy Ryan

Patrick “Pat”/“Paddy” James Ryan (4 January 1881 – 13 February 1964) was an Irish American hammer thrower. He competed for the United States at the 1920 Summer Olympics and won a gold medal in the hammer throw and a silver in the 56-pound weight throw. In 1913 he established the first world record in hammer throw, which stood as a world record for 25 years and as an American record for 40 years. Ryan was part of Irish weight throwers known as the Irish Whales.[1]


Statue of Ryan in Pallas Green, Ireland
Born in County Limerick, Ireland, Ryan won his first Irish hammer title in 1902, beating the great Tom Kiely. In 1910 Ryan emigrated to America. After placing third in the 1911 AAU championship in his first year he improved to take second place in 1912, and won the title in 1913. With the exception of 1918 when he was in Europe with the American Armed Forces he won the AAU title every year from then up to and including 1921, when he retired.[1]

While in New York City Ryan worked initially as a labor foreman but then joined the City Police, and was a member of both the Irish American Athletic Club and the New York Athletic Club. He had not established citizenship in time for the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, and so missed an opportunity. The following year, however, at the curiously named Eccentric Fireman’s Games he established the first official IAAF world record for the event with a throw of 189 ft. 6½" (57.77m). This remained a world record for 25 years[2] and an American record for forty years, being eventually beaten by Martin Engel in July 1953. He came close at the AAU on 26 June with a winning throw of 186 ft. 9" (56.92m),[3] but took the record with a throw of 195 ft. 4½" (59.54m) [4] on 11 July 1953.

In 1920, Ryan got his chance at the Olympics and won the title by what remains the widest winning margin on record, beating Carl Johan Lind of Sweden by almost 15 ft (4.6 m). He also took a silver medal in the now discontinued event of throwing a 56 lb. weight for distance, the only time this event was held at the Olympics. In 1924 he returned to Ireland to take over the family farm and remained there until his death in 1964.[1]

ForPallisgreen, Co. Limerick