450px-Patrick_Ryan_statuePatrick James ‘Pat’ ‘Paddy’ Ryan (4 January 1881–13 February 1964) was an Irish hammer thrower who won the Gold medal as a member of the U.S. Olympic team at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, winning the event by the biggest winning margin in history. In 1913 he established the first World Record in the event which stood for 36 years and which stood as an American record for forty years, lasting until July 1953. Ryan was part of a group of Irish weight throwers known collectively as the Irish Whales.


Born in Old Pallas, Limerick, Ireland. Ryan won his first Irish hammer title in 1902, beating the great Tom Kiely. In 1910 Ryan emigrated to America. After placing third in the 1911 AAU championship in his first year he improved to take second place in 1912, and won the title in 1913. With the exception of 1918 when he was in Europe with the American Armed Forces he won the AAU title every year from then up to and including 1921, when he retired.

While in New York, Ryan worked initially as a labor foreman but then joined the City Police, and was a member of both the Irish American Athletic Club and the New York Athletic Club. He had not established citizenship in time for the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, and so missed an opportunity. The following year, however, at the curiously named Eccentric Fireman’s Games he established the first official IAAF world record for the event with a throw of 189 ft. 6 1/2″ (57.77m). This remained a world record for 36 years, and was an American record for forty years, being eventually beaten by M. Engel in July 1953. He came close at the AAU on 26 June with a winning throw of 186 ft. 9″ (56.92m),[1] but took the record with a throw of 195 ft. 4 1/2″ (59.54m) [2] on 11 July 1953.

In 1920, Ryan got his chance at the Olympics and won the title by what remains the widest winning margin on record, beating Carl Johan Lind of Sweeden by almost 15 feet. He also took a silver medal in the now discontinued event of throwing a 56 lb. weight for distance, the only time this event was held at the Olympics. In 1924 he returned to Ireland to take over the family farm and remained there until his death in Limerick, where he had been born, in 1964.