King Of The Fling – Terry McHugh

Terry McHugh is indelibly etched on Olympic history as the only Irish athlete to qualify for six Games thanks to his dual talents in javelin and bobsleigh. Born in Clonmel, he started athletics with Nenagh Olympic AC before his family moved to Meath and the 21-time national javelin champion still remains the only Irishman to break 80 metres.

Throughout the 1990s he regularly mixed it with javelin legends like Jan Zelezny and Steve Backley, ranked inside the world’s top 25 and finishing 10th in the 1993 World Championships and seventh at the 1994 Europeans. He set a new Irish record of 76.46m at his first Olympics (Seoul, 1988) and also qualified for Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000). 1992 remains a special season for him as he competed in two Olympic Games in one year, before the IOC split their calendar. As one of Ireland’s pioneering Winter Olympians McHugh competed in the two-man bobsleigh in Albertville and in the two and four-man bob in Nagano (1998).

Mixing both sports, he now reflects, wasn’t the wisest thing for his javelin career but in 2000 he found a rich vein of form. At the age of 37 he landed his enduring Irish record of 82.75m in London, six weeks before his fourth Summer Games. He really felt at the peak of his powers in Sydney, recalling: “I threw 82m and 83m with ease in the warm-up but then they told us to leave the throwing area a half-hour too early and I also had no stadium pass for my coach. I’d managed to buy him a ticket, but he was so far away we had no effective communication.”


At 10am, before a capacity 98,000 crowd, he threw 79.90m. It would have made every previous Olympic final but 82.25m was needed to qualify that day.

McHugh moved to Switzerland 17 years ago where he is their national coach for javelin/discus and the athlete manager for World Athletics’ Continental Tour meet in Lucerne every July. He remains particularly helpful to young Irish athletes and believes 21-year-old Mayo thrower Conor Cusack. a student in UL, has the potential to break his 24-year-old Irish record.

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