IOC reinstates Jim Thorpe as sole winner of 1912 Olympic decathlon and pentathlon

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Leroy N. Soetoro

Jul 24, 2022, 1:43:56 PMJul 24

Jim Thorpe, stripped of his 1912 gold medals because he'd been paid to
play minor league baseball, was reinstated Thursday as the sole winner of
that year's Olympic decathlon and pentathlon by the International Olympic

Thorpe, voted the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century
by The Associated Press, won the decathlon and pentathlon at the Stockholm
Olympics. However, because he had played minor league baseball in 1909-10
-- earning a reported $2 per game to $35 per week -- he was stripped of
the medals in 1913 for violating the existing amateurism rules. The
Amateur Athletic Union in the United States withdrew Thorpe's amateur
status, and the IOC unanimously stripped Thorpe for being a professional.

The decision has been controversial ever since, especially to Native
American communities. Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, and
was the first Native American to win a gold medal.

After years of lobbying, the IOC Executive Committee reinstated Thorpe in
October 1982, but said he was the co-champion with Hugo Wieslander
(decathlon) and Ferdinand Bie (pentathlon). On Thursday, he was restored
as the sole champion.

"This is a most exceptional and unique situation," IOC president Thomas
Bach said. "It is addressed by an extraordinary gesture of fair play from
the concerned National Olympic Committees."

"We are so grateful his nearly 110-year-old injustice has finally been
corrected, and there is no confusion about the most remarkable athlete in
history," said Nedra Darling, the co-founder of Bright Path Strong, a
group created to share Native American voices and a leading organization
that fought for Thorpe -- who died in 1953 -- to regain his medals. She is
also a citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

"Jim Thorpe is a hero across Indian Country, and he is an American hero,"
she said. "He represented this country before it even recognized Native
Americans as citizens, and he did so with humility and grace. Even after
he was wronged by his coach, the American Athletic Union, and many others,
he never gave in to bitterness and led with a spirit of generosity and
kindness. I pray that Jim, his family, and our ancestors are celebrating
that the truth has been respoken today, on this 110th anniversary of Jim
being awarded his Olympic gold medals."

A petition on the Bright Path Strong website, asking the IOC to reinstate
Thorpe as sole champion in both events, drew 75,000 signatures.

The news of Thorpe's reinstatement was first reported by Indian Country

Thorpe played professional baseball with the New York Giants, Cincinnati
Reds and Boston Braves. He returned to football with the Canton Bulldogs,
and was a member of the NFL's first all-decade team in 1931. He retired
from professional football in 1928 at age 41 and is a member of the Pro
Football Hall of Fame.

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