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  • Writer's pictureKurtis Tatkenhorst

July 15- Jim Thorpe wins the Decathlon at the 1912 Olympics

1912- On this day in Sports History, Jim Thorpe won the gold medal with a world record score in the Men’s Decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games. Thorpe won four events and never finished worse than fourth in the other six events. His score of 8,212.955 was almost 700 points higher than second place which is a huge margin for the decathlon in the Olympic Games.

There are ten events in the decathlon and the winner has the most combined points at the end of it. The ten events are 100m, long jump, shotput, high jump, 400m, discus, 110m hurdles, pole vault, javelin and 1,500m. It is a combination of events testing strength, speed, and endurance as the winner is often called the “World's Greatest Athlete”.

The 1912 was the fifth Olympic Games and it was held in Stockholm, Sweden. The decathlon began on July 13th and finished on July 15th. Earlier in the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe won the gold medal in the pentathlon (long jump, 200m, 1500m, discus, and javelin). Although this achievement by Thorpe got the world’s attention, he further solidified his greatness in the decathlon by breaking the world record and winning by such a large margin. The four events that Thorpe won were the shotput, high jump, 1500m, and 110m hurdles.

Jim Thorpe’s athletic accomplishments reached farther than the track. Thorpe was the first Native American to win a gold medal at the Olympics. He also played baseball in the minor leagues and played football in college and professionally. In 1909 and 1910, Thorpe played for a minor league baseball team in the Class D Eastern Carolina League. He’d also play track and football at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Back then, the Carlisle Indian School was coached by Pop Warner and was an NCAA school that competed against the top football programs in the nation. Thorpe would go on to play professional football until 1928. In 1950, Thorpe was named the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century by the Associated Press.

In 1913, Jim Thorpe’s Olympic gold medals were taken away after it was discovered that he had previously been paid to play minor league baseball which broke their amateurism rule. Back then, many of the best young athletes used aliases to try and avoid later breaking the amateur rule, but Thorpe had not done so. However, almost 50 years after earning them and 30 years after his death, the gold medals were restored and returned to his family. Jim Thorpe’s athletic achievements, including winning the decathlon gold medal at the Olympics on this day in 1912, have made him one of the best athletes in sports history.

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Sources: Editors. “Jim Thorpe Begins Olympic Triathlon.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 16 Nov. 2009

“Jim Thorpe – a Name Etched in the Annals of the Olympic Games - Olympic News.” International Olympic Committee, IOC, 19 Apr. 2020

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