Olympics reinstates Thorpe as sole gold medal winner
Another #winning day for the original GOAT.
Editor’s note: We’ve added the IOC’s press release to the comments below, as well as a statement from Bright Path Strong. Pull quote: “The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will henceforth display the name of Jim Thorpe as the sole gold medalist in pentathlon and decathlon at the Olympic Games Stockholm 1912. This change comes on the very day of the 110th anniversary of Thorpe’s medal in decathlon.”
Here’s a follow-up to our recent coverage of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) controversial handling of Jim Thorpe’s two gold-medal wins from 1912.
The Sac and Fox and Potawatomi citizen — considered the original American Olympic GOAT (greatest of all time) by some due to his athleticism across a wide-range of sports — is no longer listed in official Olympic history as sharing the gold for his wins in the July 1912 pentathlon and decathlon events in Sweden.
The IOC has made the change after originally reinstating Thorpe’s medals 40 years ago — and providing his family with replicas — but while still listing him as sharing the gold with two other athletes in both events.
Controversy arose after Thorpe’s victories because he had been paid for sporting while he was an amateur baseball athlete, which is against Olympic rules.
But recent research by the Doug Williams Center for the Study of Race & Politics in Sports highlighted evidence that showed Olympics leaders had violated their own policies in this case and that the payments to Thorpe were nominal and related to his forced attendance at assimilation-rooted American boarding schools.
The real reason for initially removing Thorpe’s wins and then restoring them with the caveat of allowing two other athletes to share them appeared to be racism, according to tribal citizens and researchers.
After 110 years, the IOC has now taken the full record into account, and it has updated its Olympics websites to list Thorpe as the sole winner in both events.
“This is a most exceptional and unique situation, which has been addressed by an extraordinary gesture of fair play from the National Olympic Committees concerned,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.
Thorpe himself passed away in 1953 at the age of 65 after becoming an extra in westerns.
Nedra Darling, a former longtime spokesperson for the U.S. Interior Department, has worked closely with the Doug Williams Center to support its research. She has also highlighted a related petition asking the IOC to take action. Over 75K people have signed the petition to date.
A citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Darling is also producing an upcoming film about Thorpe’s life and times through her work with the Bright Path Strong non-profit organization.
Thorpe was a friend of her dad.
Darling tells Indigenous Wire that she is excited by the news of IOC’s decision, and she expects her organization to issue a press release later today.
“We are so grateful this nearly 110-year-old injustice has been corrected. Finally, there is no confusion about the most remarkable athlete in history,” Darling said in a statement.
Stay tuned to this space — particularly the comments — as we will update with more information from both the IOC and Bright Path Strong as it becomes available.
Happy Friday, Wiredians!
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