1912 Olympics – Jim Thorpe perseveres to win gold

Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics

It was the summer of 1912, the Olympics in Sweden. Jim Thorpe, a Native American from the Sac and Fox tribe, was representing the U.S. in four events, including the decathlon, which would determine the greatest athlete in the world.

The decathlon took place over three days. On the morning of day two, when Jim went to gather his track shoes for the competition, they were missing.

Without a store to purchase new shoes, he and his track coach went scouring trash bins looking for a discarded pair. His coach found two mismatched shoes that were of different styles and different sizes. One shoe fit fine. The other was too big. But given time constraints, this was his best option. Jim put two pairs of socks on the foot with the big shoe.

Wearing these track shoes, Jim came in first place. And he didn’t just win, he dominated, winning by a margin of about 700 points.

Jim returned home to a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in N.Y. His name was in the papers, the pride of a nation. He was the greatest athlete in the world.

Note: post updated on February 3rd, 2021.