Shane Healy is a 51-year old athlete who competed for Ireland in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
He was eliminated at the semi-final stage of the 1,500 metres which seems unremarkable but for Shane it was extraordinary and he continues to do extraordinary things.
Shane’s mother left the family home when he was only four years old, taking his eldest sister with him. When his father went to England along with Shane’s older brother, he was placed in care homes including Goldenbridge Orphanage.
Although his father returned, Shane never settled in school and left the Irish education system at the age of 13.
Unfocused in his teenage years, Shane went travelling through Europe, the Caribbean and North America, often hitch-hiking to cover huge distances, frequently struggling for funds and occasionally sleeping rough.
Living out of a camper van while attending a Community College near San Francisco, an unlikely series of events saw him run a mile in front of the athletics coach. It was a run that altered the course of Shane’s life as he discovered his previously unknown talent.
In less than two years he was taking on some of the best College runners in America and within six years, through dogged persistence, huge commitment and with the hope that it might entice his mother to make contact, he marched with Team Ireland into the Centennial Olympic Stadium in Atlanta on ‘the proudest day of my life’.
After many years out of the sport, a depressed, unfit, overweight Healy watched the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and was dismayed with the lack of Irish competitors in his favoured middle distance races. He resolved to have a second athletics career and is now a multiple age graded world record holder.
Shane’s work ethic and guts are legendary in the athletics community.
This week’s Documentary on One ‘Shane Healy- Back On Track’ traces Shane’s story and hears from some of those who witnessed it firsthand, including world championship gold medalist Eamonn Coghlan who coached Shane to an Olympic qualifying time and then watched from 4,000 miles away as this unlikely Olympian competed with some of the greatest runners in the world.
Produced by Gary Moran and Tim Desmond.
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland
Documentary on One – the home of Irish radio documentaries
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