In the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, Jim Thorpe won both the Pentathlon and Decathlon events. He also placed fourth in the high-jump and took seventh place in the long jump in the individual events. That’s 17 events in a span of a week!
In 1913, the IOC unanimously decided to strip Thorpe of his Olympic titles, medals and awards and declared him a professional.
The 1912 Decathlon included competitors such as future International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Avery Brundage and local favorite Hugo Wieslander who went on to Hollywood fame.
Avery Brundage is the only American to hold the office of the IOC President (1952-1972). As long as Brundage was President, Jim Thorpe would never see that Gold medal.
However, in October 1982, the IOC Executive Committee approved Thorpe’s reinstatement, as “co-winner” of the Decathlon. It sort of reminds me of the judging error in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics with Canadian synchronized swimmer Sylvie Frechette and American Kristin Babb-Sprague. To this day, both are awarded the Gold medal.
The First Decathlon
1912 was not the first Decathlon ever held. The 1904 Olympics in St. Louis held a similar event called the “All-Around Championship” with the Gold medal awarded to Tom Kiely.
All ten events were held on the same day, and the events consisted of:
- 100 yard
- Shot Put
- High Jump
- 800 yard walk
- Pole Vault
- 120 yard Hurdles
- 56lbs Weight Throw
- Long Jump
The Modern day decathlon replaced the Hammer Throw and 56lbs Weight Throw with the Discus and Javelin.
They even replaced 800 yard walk with a 400 meters! You can’t be a true All-Around Athlete without running the 400 meters, right?
Fred Altieri says
Yep. I was a youngster when Avery ruled in his second decade. The sun never seemed to shine during his regime as he was a classic throwback to the Cold War days. It seemed the athletes were always under some kind of threat from the Committee. There were some incredible performances despite the dark umbrella which covered those 20 years. That’s why I consider the 1968 Smith / Carlos demonstration the first mighty blow for athletes against what was a long running dictatorial machine.
The hammer throw had to have been one of the coolest events ever just from a male’s point of view. The visions of Thor taking on the Gods with a hammer are endless. It must have been a potentially dangerous event, though. How many of the other athletes on the field were looking over their shoulders when these guys were practicing their throws?
My favorite on your old-time decathlete list is the 56 lbs. weight throw. Who came up with the idea in the first place (was there a precedent)? What was the weight shaped like? And why on earth “56 lbs”?
All ten events on the same day?! They should have all received a medal. “And the winner of the ninth place Zinc medal goes to…”
Jimson Lee says
@Fred – my best guess is 1 stone = 14 pounds, so 4 stones = 56 lbs.
Just like the weight room where plates are set in 5 lb increments.