Jim Thorpe reinstated as sole 1912 Olympic gold medalist


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Jim Thorpe, one of the greatest athletes in history and the victim of what many considered centuries of Olympic injustice, was reinstated as the sole winner of the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Games.

Thorpe, who excelled in a dozen or more sports, dominated two of his competitions at the 1912 Stockholm Games but was stripped of the medals after it was revealed he had made a few dollars playing professional baseball before his Olympic career. American officials, thought by historians to be a mixture of racism against Thorpe, who was a Native American, and fanatical devotion to the idea of ​​amateurism, were among the most vocal supporters of his disqualification.

Thorpe’s IOC recognition, announced Friday, comes 40 years after he reinstated him as co-winner of both events. But the restoration in 1982 was not enough for his supporters, who campaigned on behalf of Thorpe, an American icon especially revered in Native American communities.

The athletes declared champions by the IOC—Hugo Wieslander, the Swede runner-up in the decathlon, and Ferdinand Bie of Norway, who finished behind Thorpe in the pentathlon—expressed great reluctance to accept their gold medals after Thorpe was stripped of his victory in 1913. . The IOC said it had consulted with both Sweden, the surviving members of Wieslander’s family, and the Norwegian Olympic committees before reinstating Thorpe as sole champion of both events.

“This is an exceptional and unique situation,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “This is being addressed by an extraordinary gesture of fair play on the part of the National Olympic Committees concerned.”

The decision to name Thorpe as the only winner in the decathlon and pentathlon was reported on Thursday by Indian Country Today, which noted that Olympic officials quietly ranked him number one on the Games’ official website.

The restoration of the Thorpe medals has long been a cause for Native Americans and other activists, who in recent years have resumed petitions and lobbied for change at the IOC. Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma and attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, and his exploits in various sports became legendary in Native American circles.

“Is there half justice?” asked in 2020 Nedra Darling, a Prairie-born Potawatomi whose father was a longtime friend of Thorpe. “It’s outrageous that the records weren’t corrected in 1982.”

Bright Path Strong, a foundation named after Thorpe’s native name, led the effort to restore Thorpe’s status.

“We applaud the fact that, thanks to the active involvement of Bright Path Strong, a solution has been found,” Bach said.

Thorpe’s exploits on the football field were legendary: in 1911, Carlisle upset Harvard largely thanks to Thorpe playing halfback and also hitting four field goals.

Thorpe traveled to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm to compete in the decathlon and another now-defunct athletics competition, the pentathlon. He won both, gained international acclaim, and joined the Olympic Star Parade on Broadway in New York. The Times reported that Thorpe received the most cheers alongside Pat McDonald, a shot putter who was a traffic cop in Times Square.

But the following year, it was revealed that a few years earlier, Thorpe was making $25 a week playing minor league baseball. According to the strict rules of amateurism of that era, he was deprived of gold medals.

With his amateur status revoked, Thorpe began a major league baseball career, playing in the field from 1913 to 1919 for the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds, and Boston Braves. Notably, he switched to professional football in 1920 and played for six teams until the age of 41, including the New York Giants.

Thorpe died in 1953. The New York Times obituary called him “probably the greatest natural athlete the world has seen in modern times.”

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