The Indian Jim Thorpe is one of the most famous athletes of the 20th century and the hero of the 1912 Olympic Games, where he won the pentathlon and decathlon by a huge margin in world records. The legendary athlete died exactly seventy years ago, but his remarkable story continued even after his death.
Thorpe became the only athletics all-around winner at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, winning by an incredible 688 points over second-placed Swede Hugo Wieslander.
The athlete, whose native name was Wa-tho-huck, or Bright Path, was ahead of his time and even in London 1948, his performance would have been enough for a silver medal.
After the second Stockholm triumph, King Gustav V of Sweden called Thorpe the greatest athlete in the world.
After returning to the US, he enjoyed great popularity. However, this was not desirable at the time due to his Native American ancestry, so an incriminating document was found showing that he played for a minor professional baseball club in 1909 and 1910 and that he was paid $15 a week for it. In total, you came up with a few tens of dollars…
Even so, he was disqualified for it and his Olympic records were wiped off the charts.
Thorpe remained faithful to the sport and played baseball professionally. He worked in the American elite baseball competition MLB, where he changed the jerseys of the New York Giants, Boston Braves and Cincinnati Reds, and was formally the first president of the American football league NFL.
After the end of his sports career, however, he struggled with poverty and alcoholism. In 1951, a biographical film was made about Thorpe’s story, in which the famous athlete was portrayed by the American actor Burt Lancaster.
Thorpe died on 28 March 1953 aged 65.
However, his story did not end there. In 1983, it was rehabilitated in memoriam and the IOC returned the medal to Thorpe’s descendants.
His daughter received a copy of the gold medals, and the IOC ranked him tied for first ever since.
Last July, the Olympic Committee declared Thorpe the only athletics all-around winner at the Stockholm Olympics after 110 years.
And the famous Indian was not forgotten by the fans either. In the giant poll about the best athlete of all time, they ranked him in a great seventh place.