Rhasidat Adeleke pays tribute to ‘amazing man’ on the death of first coach Johnny Fox

Texas-based star sad to hear of the passing of Johnny Fox, a lifelong servant of Tallaght AC, who was hugely influential in her early career

Rhasidat Adeleke has paid tribute to her first coach Johnny Fox, who died over the weekend at the age of 83 after a lifelong service to Irish athletics.

Speaking from her training base at the University of Texas at Austin, Adeleke recalled the “passionate” influence Fox had on her early running career, when she first joined Tallaght Athletics Club as a 12-year-old.

“He was my first coach at Tallaght since I was about 12, 13, and he built me up so much,” she said. “Not just as an athlete, but my characteristics as an individual. He showed me the values to have in life, and he is so wise.

“He lived through so many experiences and shared those with me so I can learn from those experiences and not have to endure certain things myself. He did so much for me.”


Fox was one of the founding members of Tallaght AC, and later he also helped found the Darkness Into Light campaign.

“He’d take me to practice, to competitions, if my mam was at work or something,” added Adeleke.

“He just invested in me so much and he saw my talent and he spoke to me, motivated me, made sure I was going to be on the right path, making sure I was going to be doing the best for myself. I appreciate him so much. Through all my big decisions, like me coming to America, I spoke to him and he gave me the best advice.”

“He was very, very cheerful. He’d always crack jokes, always in a good mood. He was so passionate about track and field, so invested. He was a volunteer for over 50 years at Tallaght and he just was so invested in his athletes, making sure they were progressing.

“He was just there for everyone. If you called him, he was going to answer the phone, he was going to make sure you were all right if you were having a bad day, put a smile on your face. He was just an amazing, amazing man and the whole community would say the same thing.

“Everybody knows him in Tallaght and beyond. He helped Pieta House, he just had so many projects he was doing to better the world and make the world a better place. That’s what he did, every day.”

After opening her outdoor season as part of the Texas professional relay team that broke the 4x200m world best earlier this month, Adeleke will race another relay at the famed Mount Sac Relays this weekend.

“Training has been going really well,” she said. “Texas Relays was a really fun meet, it was so nice to be able to be on the relay again and compete with my team-mates, because I love the relay aspect to track and field, I love the fun aspect of competing with a team.

“I was really happy to be able to break the world best in the 4x200m because that was something my coach emphasised we could do. It gave us a really good indicator of where the legs are, how we feel, going into the season.”

Before the Olympics in Paris, she has also confirmed her participation at the European Athletics Championships in Rome in June.

“My coach [Edrick Floreal] has a couple of competitions down. We have World Relays, the Texas Invite meet, it’s going to mainly be in America, maybe post-Europeans we might go to Europe and do a couple of races. That’s the rough plan now but we need to nail that down to get into meets, [and] contact organisers, but that’s what it’s looking like.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics