Jim Thorpe reinstated as sole winner of 1912 Olympic gold medals

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – Jim Thorpe was reinstated as the sole winner of the 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon in Stockholm – nearly 110 years after he was stripped of those gold medals for violating strict amateur rules in the ‘era.

The International Olympic Committee announced the change Friday on the 110th anniversary of Thorpe’s victory in the decathlon and his subsequent proclamation by King Gustav V of Sweden as « the greatest athlete in the world ».

Thorpe, a Native American, returned to a ticker tape parade in New York, but months later it was discovered that he had been paid to play minor league baseball for two summers, a violation of the rules of the Olympic amateurism. He was stripped of his gold medals in what has been described as the first major international sports scandal.

For some, Thorpe remains the greatest all-around athlete of all time. He was voted the Associated Press Athlete of the Half-Century in a 1950 poll.

In 1982 – 29 years after Thorpe’s death – the IOC gave his family double gold medals, but his Olympic records were not restored, nor was his status as the only gold medalist of both. trials.

Thorpe’s gold medals were first taken away after it was discovered that he had been paid to play minor league baseball.

Two years ago, a Bright Path Strong petition called for Thorpe to be declared the absolute winner of the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912. The IOC had listed him as co-champion in the official record book.

« We welcome the fact that, thanks to the great commitment of Bright Path Strong, a solution could be found, » said IOC President Thomas Bach. « This is an exceptional and unique situation, which has been resolved by an extraordinary gesture of fair play on the part of the National Olympic Committees concerned. »

Thorpe’s Native American name, Wa-Tho-Huk, means « light path. » The organization, with the help of IOC member Anita DeFrantz, had contacted the Swedish Olympic Committee and the family of Hugo Wieslander, who had been elevated to gold medalist in the decathlon in 1913.

“They confirmed that Wieslander himself had never accepted the Olympic gold medal awarded to him and had always been of the opinion that Jim Thorpe was the only legitimate Olympic gold medalist,” the IOC said. , adding that the Swedish Olympic Committee agreed.

“The same statement was received from the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the Sports Confederation, whose athlete, Ferdinand Bie, was named gold medalist when Thorpe was stripped of the pentathlon title,” the IOC said. .

Bie will be silver in the pentathlon and Wieslander with silver in the decathlon.

Jim Thorpe
Thorpe made history as the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States.

World Athletics, the governing body for athletics, also agreed to change its records, the IOC said.

Bright Path Strong praised the IOC for “setting the record straight” on athlete Sac and Fox and Potawatomi.

“We are so grateful that this nearly 110-year-old injustice has finally been corrected, and there is no confusion about the most remarkable athlete in history,” said Nedra Darling, co-founder of the organization. and a citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

At the world championships in Eugene, Oregon, Native American hammer thrower Janee’ Kassanavoid said the announcement was news to celebrate.

“My ultimate goal is to follow in his footsteps, inspire and empower the next generation of athletes to come,” she said.

As the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States, Thorpe « inspired our people for generations, » said Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians.

In Stockholm, Thorpe tripled his nearest competitor in the pentathlon and was 688 points ahead of second in the decathlon.

At the closing ceremony, King Gustav V said to Thorpe, « Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world. »


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