Jim's dominance over his intercollegiate rivals in football was paralleled by his records as a member of the Carlisle track team. He ran sprints, he ran hurdles and he ran distance races. He high jumped and he broad jumped. He threw the javelin, he threw the discus and he put the shot....And he performed all these feats at single meets, averaging six firsts every time out.All quotations from: Jim Thorpe, World's Greatest Athlete by Robert W. Wheeler, University of Oklahoma Press.
He was selected for the United States Olympic team in 1912 and went to Sweden with the team for the Games. Every morning during the ten day voyage to Stockholm, a pack of runners circled the deck of the ship. Leading the group on their monotonous journey was a strapping, broad-shouldered Indian. Seeing his strong, square jaw set firmly in fierce determination, everyone knew it was Jim Thorpe.
The 5' 11, 180 pound Jim entered the Pentathlon competition, a test of skill in five events: long jump, javelin, 200-meter dash, discus and 1,500-meter race; and the Decathlon, a series of ten events: the 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter run, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500-meter race. Though most athletes were utterly exhausted by the Decathlon alone, Jim finished first in both events. He tripled the score of the runner-up in the Pentathlon and finished 688 points ahead of his nearest competitor in the Decathlon.
Even more remarkable from a historical perspective, it took forty years of onslaught, involving improved diets, training procedures, hurdling techniques and equipment to break all of his times and distances.
Jim's Herculean feat of sweeping both the Pentathlon and the Decathlon and his score in the former will never be matched; after the 1924 Olympics, the Pentathlon was dropped from the official program.
"At no time during the competition was I worried or nervous," remarked Jim, "I had trained well and hard and had confidence in my ability. I felt I would win."
The Fifth Olympiad drew to a close with the presentation of honors. When Jim stood before the King of Sweden, Gustav V, to receive his Pentathlon award, the immense crowd, led by the King, cheered itself hoarse. Regaining his royal dignity, the King placed the laurel wreath on Jim's head and presented him with the gold medal.
Later, Jim was recalled to the stand for the Decathlon ceremony. After Gustav had given him the wreath and gold medal, the King would not allow Jim to leave before clasping his hands in friendship. "Sir," said Gustav, his voice shaking with emotion, "you are the greatest athlete in the world!" As Jim extended his hand, his reply was a humble, "Thanks, King." For royal drama and Indian brevity the two statements probably have no peer.
Within a year, he had toppled from Mt. Olympus. It was disclosed that Jim had played baseball three years earlier for pay (two dollars per game). In the eyes of the Amateur Athletic Union, he was branded a professional and therefore ineligible to compete in the Olympics.
Jim wrote a letter to the A.A.U., admitting what he had done but asking for leniency. "I did not play for the money," he wrote, "but because I liked to play ball. I was not wise in the ways of the world...I hope I would be partly excused because of the fact that I was simply an Indian school boy and did not know all about such things...I am very sorry to have it all spoiled in this way and I hope the Amateur Athletic Union and the people will not be too hard in judging me."
The "people," both at home and abroad, had exonerated Jim. Editorials throughout the world believed any trivial violation was accidental rather then [sic - than] intentional. The A.A.U., on the other hand, publicly vilified Jim, ordered him to surrender his gold medals, and had his name stricken from the record books.
But no one could erase the image of Jim from the minds of cognizant sportsmen and women and no one could forget the magnificent words of Sweden's king.
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[Photo captions, from top to bottom and left to right, read]
· Thorpe competes in the shot put in the 1912 Olympic Decathlon.
· King Gustav V of Sweden presenting Thorpe with his medals at the 1912 Olympics.
· Training aboard S.S. Finland bound for the Olympics, 1912.
· Thorpe winning the 440 in 1909.
· Start of the 1500 meter Pentathlon in 1912 Olympics. Thorpe is second from left. Avery Brundage is first[?] on right.
· The Olympic gold medal won by Thorpe in Stockholm.
· Training aboard the S.S. Finland bound for the Olympics, 1912. [possibly mis-labled]