A Lifetime in athletics

Dave McKibbin is a former Northern Ireland youth 800m champion who for over 30 years has been the knowledgable voice echoing out loud and clear at races throughout Northern Ireland. With his extensive grasp of local athletics, Dave has presented Annadale Striders with a brief insight into a number of athletic moments that hold particular personal significance to him.

1. Thelma Hopkins, setting a World high jump record with 1.74m at Cherryvale, Belfast in 1956. Thelma represented Great Britain at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, winning the silver medal.

2. Herb Elliott, excelling at the 1960 Olympics, where he won the gold in the 1500m. He recorded a World Record in the mile in 1958 at the Morton Stadium, Dublin with 3.54.5.

3. Derek Graham, arguably Northern Ireland's greatest ever distance runner, participating in the Commonwealth, European and the Olympic Games as well as the International Cross Country (later changed to the World Cross Country Championships). Derek has represented his country with distinction but he has also been a great clubman. He would regularly run at White City in London on a Friday night and would then turn out for his club 9th Old Boys the following day. (For further information on Derek refer to the interview section.)

4. Mary Peters, a very familiar name to the sporting populace of Northern Ireland, competing for Olympic success in 1972. What may not be such common knowledge is that this was her third Olympic attempt. Her motivation and perseverance was always a shining beacon through all the trying times in her pursuit for Olympic success.

5. Bob Beamon, leaping into immortality at the 1968 Olympics with a jump of 8.90m. He appeared to be in the air for such a long and not surprisingly the record stood for 23 years before Mike Powell broke it in 1991.

6. The Dale Farm Games of the 1980s, being graced by all the legends of World athletics from Said Aouita, Steve Ovett, John Walker, Willie Banks, Colin Jackson. For an all too brief period the picturesque Mary Peters track hosted athletic meetings that rivalled anything on show at Zurich, Monaco or Brussels.

7. Jonathan Edwards, impressing the world with his outstanding athletic prowess. He always conducted himself in a very unassuming fashion and was extremely approachable and pleasant.

8. Maeve Kyle, helping to extend the barriers that existed in athletics for women. When it was almost frowned upon for women to be wearing shorts in public Maeve gained international recognition in athletics and hockey. A three time Olympian as well as earning 58 caps for Ireland in hockey, Maeve was named in the World All star hockey team in 1953 and 1959.

9. John McLaughlin, the diminutive spark of the modern day Annadale Striders representing Northern Ireland in two Commonwealth Games. As a multi title holder, John spent a number of successful months in the early 80's on the lucrative American road race circuit. (For further information on John please refer to the interview section.)

10. Annadale Striders, garnering particular success in Irish athletics and further a field from their inception in 1973. This was exemplified fully in 1990 when the Northern Ireland team for the Commonwealth Games was announced. From a team of 10 athletes, five (Jim Campbell, Dermot Donnolly, Gary Lough, Brian Treacy and Davy Wilson) were from Annadale! Over the years the success of Annadale has helped to promote Northern Ireland athletics.

11. Paul Lawther, an outstandingly talented athlete, recording a solo 8.39 time for the 3000m steeplechase in what was his first attempt at the distance. This remains one of the outstanding 'forgotten' performances in Northern Ireland athletics.(For further information on Paul please refer to the interview section)

12. Woman high jumpers in Northern Ireland in the 1980's, regularly being in the top eight in the U.K. For a small country this was an outstanding statistic. Five in particular, Janet Boyle, Sharon McPeake/Hutchings, Debbie McDowell, Ursula Fay, and Catherine Scott were a precious commodity.

13. John McKeag of Ballydrain Harriers, still regularly competing on the Northern Ireland athletics circuit at the esteemed age of 85! It is refreshing to witness such motivation for athletics .He is quite a fine role model to us all.

14. Tony McKnight, the driving force leading Annadale Striders to emerge as an athletics force. He was an astute and committed man whose ambition and drive brought out the best in his athletes. Those that had the privilege of knowing Tony recognise the massive contribution that he made promoting athletics in Northern Ireland.

Thanks to Dave McKibbin for giving up the time for this article.

Keith McClure

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Keith McClure