IOC Restores Olympic Gold Medals Solely to Jim Thorpe

On Friday, Native News Online reported that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will display legendary athlete Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox, Potawatomi) as the sole gold medalist in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm.

This announcement comes 110 years to the day when Thorpe was awarded two Olympic gold medals by King Gustav of Sweden at the conclusion of the 1912 Olympic Games. Upon presenting Thorpe the medals, King Gustav told Thorpe, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

The decision to restore the gold medals solely to Thorpe was made possible, in part, by the nonprofit Bright Path Strong organization, supported by IOC Member Anita DeFrantz. 

The issue came about when the IOC stripped Thorpe of his medals after they discovered he had been compensated for playing minor league baseball prior to his participation in the 1912 Olympics. Back then, the IOC’s rules barred athletes from participating in the games if they had previously been compensated for playing any sport prior to the Olympics. 

In response, the IOC erased Thorpe’s records from the Olympic record books.

Attempts to return the medals were not rewarded until 1982, almost 30 years after Thorpe’s death, when replicas were delivered to his family. Despite this, the IOC did not restore Thorpe’s records in Olympic history.

“We welcome the fact that, thanks to the great engagement of Bright Path Strong, a solution could be found. This is a most exceptional and unique situation, which has been addressed by an extraordinary gesture of fair play from the concerned National Olympic Committees,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.

With this decision, Thorpe’s name will now be displayed as the sole gold medallist in pentathlon and decathlon. 

“We are so grateful this nearly 110-year-old injustice has finally been corrected, and there is no confusion about the most remarkable athlete in history,” Nedra Darling, Bright Path Strong co-founder and citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, said in a statement. 

Thorpe represented the U.S. at the Olympic games 12 years before Native Americans gained U.S. citizenship. On the transatlantic trip to Stockholm, Thorpe and a Jewish teammate were forced to travel in the bottom of the ship, while the white American Olympic athletes received first-class accommodations.

Even after he arrived in Stockholm, Thorpe had to contend with obstacles. On the morning of the decathlon, his shoes were stolen shortly before his first event. Wearing shoes found in a trash can — one too big, the other too small — Thorpe won the gold in the decathlon with a 25-yard lead.

Anita Thorpe, granddaughter of Jim Thorpe, Vice Chairman/Sac and Fox Gaming Commission, and BPS Honorary Board Member, said in a statement: “A moment 110 years in the making to finally hear the words officially spoken again, ‘Jim Thorpe is the sole winner of the 1912 decathlon and pentathlon.’ A glorious time of celebrations to all of his friends, family, and supporters. Hooray!!!”

You can read the full story here.

Source: Native News Online. “IOC Restores 1912 Olympic Gold Medals Solely to Jim Thorpe.” July 15, 2022