Tuesday, 14 August 2012

An Olympic Legacy

2012 marks the one hundred year anniversary of (the part-Native American athlete) Jim Thorpe’s performance at the Olympic games. Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon in Stockholm in 1912, and on his return to New York, became a household name. Even the King of Sweden called Thorpe the “greatest athlete in the world”, and in the 1950’s Thorpe was rated the top athlete in a nationwide poll, way ahead of Babe Ruth. This is an incredible feat, considering that most Native Americans didn’t have the right to vote until 1924. After the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe became a champion in college football; but devastatingly his Olympic medals were taken from him because he played professional baseball before the international games. Thorpe’s medals were given back to his family posthumously (since his baseball career was not actually filed until a year after the Olympics), but another legal battle over the final resting place of his body is still being debated in court. Two towns in Pennsylvania originally laid claim to his body; these were combined to form the town ‘Jim Thorpe’ (which I went to four years ago). However, Thorpe's descendants from the Sac and Fox nation of Oklahoma are suing the town for refusing to return the body to them. Other family members demand the body stay in Pennsylvania. Currently, Thorpe’s body remains in a mausoleum with soil from his home in Oklahoma and soil sent from the Stockholm Olympics stadium...

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