Let me tell you a little story about a great athlete, about a man who managed to do it all, unlike today’s athletes who specialize only at one event. He was a titan at sporting events, doing that before the steroids era, before sports and Olympic become a business and athletes world known celebrities. The name of that fellow is Jim Thorpe, the American born in the small town near Oklahoma, who is still the only men who won both the decathlon and pentathlon in the same Olympics.
The 1912 version of the pentathlon wasn’t much different from the present one and presented all sorts of similarities. The 1912 version consisted of long jump, javelin throw, 200 meters dash, the discus throw and the 1500 meters run. Jim Thorpe was an amazing, great athlete at his time participating and winning all types of sporting events before the Olympics. In fact, he was so versatile in the sporting events he participated, that he alone constituted America’s teams in several team track events.
At Stockholm Olympics he was one of the busiest athletes in history, because he was not only competing in the decathlon and pentathlon events, but he also competed in the long jump and high jump. Besides that, he could also run 100 meters in 10 seconds and vent pole vault, in fact he participated in this event at several competitions before the Olympics. I simply can’t imagine how he managed to do all that, but those were the athletes of that era, simply giants if we compared them with the puny mortals of today. He simply had to run from one event to another and had almost no time to rest at all, never minding the fact that the body needs time to recover. What an amazing athlete!
His first event was at the pentathlon where he won four of the five events and in the meantime still managing to win the trials and qualify for the final of the long jump.
After a day of rest, the decathlon competition followed and to the shock of everybody, he managed to win four of the vents, placing in the top four of all ten Olympic events. Superb achievement from Jim Thorpe! That was his first and only Olympic decathlon.
One decathlon and one gold medal, that’s a pretty good score even for a modern athlete. In total, he managed to win eight of the fifteen individual events. But, this story is far from ending here. To the shock of everybody, the officials canceled his record and took back his medals when they learned that before the Olympics he played professional baseball. That decision will look like a bad joke in nowadays, to cancel one’s record and medals just because he was a professional athlete, especially now when athletes are more celebrities than sportsman. Finally, as a tribute to this great man and to celebrate his record, the Olympic committee decides in 1982 that the medals and the record will be returned postmortem to Jim Thorpe.