Friday 24 November 2017



(Former Olympic rower)

In the 1970s, when former Olympic rower Willie Ryan was competing, his life revolved around rowing. Training was regimented and he never missed a session, it was part of his daily routine. At that time he had just started work as a Garda, he was on shift work so training was planned around that.

"We trained almost every day either before or after work," says Ryan. "There was a lot of endurance training over the winter which was demanding. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays were a run and weights. Sometimes we would take a Tuesday or Thursday off but usually we sculled on those days or did a long run. And at the weekend we'd row twice on Saturday and once on Sunday."

Ryan's work paid off and in 1976 at the age of 22 he qualified for the Olympics in Montreal, finishing seventh in the men's coxed fours. In 1980 at the Moscow games, he became an Olympian again competing in the coxless pairs and the coxed fours. Also during that time he won at the Henley Royal Regatta three times.

There is a real tradition of rowing in the Ryan family. Willie's brother Ted rowed with him at the Moscow Olympics and his daughter Caroline made rowing history in 2008 when she became the first Irish woman to win a trophy at Henley. She was also the first Irish person to win an open event there since the Garda coxed four in 1979, which included the two Ryan brothers. "Henley was a real fabulous event to win, it was a great breakthrough for the club and then for Caroline to also win there was pretty special.

"Rowing has changed quite a bit since I was involved; training is much more intense and they are doing more sessions. When we competed we were a little green when it came to the nutrition side of things but that's all changed now, there is much more support available to the athletes."

Ryan is deputy chairman of the Garda Rowing Club; he isn't coaching anymore but is still actively involved. He has been in the guards since 1972 and is now the chief superintendent over the Westmeath Division, based in Mullingar. He regularly walks and cycles. His daughter Caroline switched from rowing to track cycling. She is in training for the London Olympics and is ranked ninth in the world.

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