After winning the All-Around event at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Tom Kiely was not, for some unknown reason, immediately recognized as an Olympic champion. It was not until 1954, following representations from Dr. Ferenc Mező of Hungary, that the International Olympic Committee rectified the mistake. Kiely faced a monumental task in St. Louis; the ten events by which all-around ability was measured were all contested in a single day, in the following order: 100 yards, shot put, high jump, 120 yards hurdles, 880 yards walk, hammer throw, pole vault, 56-lb. weight throw, long jump and the mile. Kiely won four of the events and finished 120 points ahead of the American Adam Gunn, with the hammer thrower and four-time All-American guard on the Penn football team, Truxtun Hare, in third place. When the English authorities learned that Kiely had been invited to the 1904 Olympics, they offered to pay his expenses on the condition that he represented the United Kingdom. Kiely declined the offer saying he would represent Ireland. In fact he entered the competition as “Tom Kiely from Ireland and Tipperary” and traveled to America at his own expense but on his arrival in New York, he was offered further financial inducements by the New York, AC, the Irish-American AC and the Chicago AAC to represent them in St. Louis. Again Kiely declined and it should be noted that apart from the Olympic nature of the St. Louis Games, they also served as the unofficial club championships of the USA; for this reason, the leading American clubs were anxious to have the Irish all-rounder on their team. Tom Kiely was introduced to the sport and subsequently coached by his near neighbors and distant relatives the Davin brothers, Pat, Tom and Maurice, who were among the greatest all-rounders in the history of Irish athletes. Initially Kiely excelled as a triple jumper and hurdler but later, when some of his speed deserted him, he became an outstanding hammer thrower. He won his first GAA athletics title on 10 September 1892 and in that one afternoon won a total of seven titles. He went on to win the AAA hammer title five times and was twice runner-up in seven appearances between 1895 and 1902 and his defeat at the hands of John Flanagan at the 1900 Championships represented one of the major setbacks of his career. Kiely had been training with the Paris Olympics in mind, but after losing to Flanagan by a margin of more than 24 feet (7.32) at the AAA meet, he abandoned his Olympic aspirations and did not make the journey to Paris. In June 1899 he had set a world record of 162-0 (49.38) and although this only lasted for 46 days as a world best, it was the first time that anyone had thrown beyond the 160 feet mark. The winner of the 1904 Olympic All-Around event was also considered to be the American champion for that year, and Tom Kiely again crossed the Atlantic in 1906 and won his second US title. Between 1892 and 1908 Kiely won 70 gold medals in Irish, British, American and World Championship events, ranging from the hammer to the hop step and jump, sprint and hurdles. His last competition was at Buttervant, Co. Cork in 1908 when he broke his shoulder after hitting a hurdle and falling.
Kiely was also a noted Gaelic footballer and Hurler. He was captain of the Grangemockler football team and was also selected to play for Tipperary and in 1896 was selected for the Munster Hurling team that played Leinster in London. He refereed a game between Tipperary and Kilkenny in New York in 1906. To add further to his versatility, Kiely was a fine Irish dancer and fiddle and flute player. After his sporting travels were over, Kiely settled on his farm in native Ballyneal near Carrick-on-Suir, birthplace of one of Ireland’s greatest sporting heroes, cyclist Sean Kelly. In his competitive days, Kiely had done much of his training at the same farm.
Personal Bests: 120yH – 16.0 (1902); LJ – 7.06 (23-2); TJ – 15.11 (49-7) (1892); HT – 47.21 (154-10½) (1908).
Athlete Olympic Results Content
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