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Football Legend Has His Olympic Gold Medal Victory Restored More Than 100 Years Later

This American legend is getting his Olympic gold medals fully recognized — more than 100 years after they were stripped away. The International Olympic Committee on Friday recognized Jim Thorpe as the sole winner of the 1912 Stockholm Olympics decathlon and pentathlon events, according to Indian Country Today. Thorpe’s gold medals in the contests were revoked in 1913 on the grounds that he’d violated the Olympics’ strict requirement of amateur competition. Thorpe played minor league baseball in 1909 and 1910, accepting compensation that rendered him ineligible under Olympic standards at the time. The athlete accepted a pittance to play baseball in summer leagues under a pseudonym, which was common for college baseball players of that era. Some have argued that discrimination against Thorpe, a Native American, played into the decision to take away his medals. Critics of the IOC’s decision pressured the organization into declaring Thorpe a co-champion of the 1912 decathlon and pentathlon in 1982. The two second-place athletes who were declared the winners in Thorpe’s stead always considered the American the true champion. They refused to accept their gold medals, according to NPR. The IOC’s Friday decision established Thorpe as the sole winner of the two competitions. The previous co-winners of the gold medals officially became co-winners of the silver medal. Thorpe is most known as a running back in the United States, having played for numerous professional football teams in the sport’s earliest days. Prominent Native Americans have fought to restore Thorpe’s Olympic victories for decades. “Jim Thorpe is now the greatest athlete in the world, being the single holder of those two gold medals,” said Billy Mills, an Olympic gold medalist and a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. “He’s the gold medalist in the pentathlon and decathlon.” “He rightfully reclaims being considered the greatest athlete in the world,” Mills added. King Gustav V hailed Thorpe at the 1912 medal ceremony, in a quote the Swedish Olympic Committee pointed to when asked for comment on the situation. “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world. I would consider it an honor to shake your hand,” the king told Thorpe. Thorpe struggled to provide for his family later in life, especially during the Great Depression, and sometimes found work as an extra in Hollywood productions, and he served a brief stint in the Merchant Marines during World War II. He died of a heart attack in 1953 at the age of 65. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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