One hundred years ago, Jim Thorpe won the Decathlon and the Pentathlon. Everyone knows that, except perhaps the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC web site, www.olympic.org, cites the gold medal winner of the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Men's Decathlon as Hugo K. Wieslander of Sweden, and the gold medal winner of the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Men's Pentathlon as Ferdinand Reinhardt Bie of Norway.
This injustice continues, even though Jim Thorpe's world record performance bested both Wieslander's and Bie's scores by an incredible 10 percent, and Thorpe's medals were reinstated in 1982. Yet, as far a the IOC's record books are concerned, Jim Thorpe is a co-winner, and his achievements are an asterisk in the record books.
"It's a bit surprising," said Anne Marie Fitzpatrick of the Jim Thorpe Birthday Weekend Committee. I though that was corrected when the Wheelers got Jim Thorpe's medals returned."
But with the centennial of the 1912 Olympics approaching, the issue again is in the public eye-as noted in the recent www.smithsonianmag.com article, Why Are Jim Thorpe's Olympic Records Still Not Recognized?
The article concludes, "It's commonly believed that Thorpe at last received Olympic justice in October of 1982 when the IOC bowed to years of public pressure and delivered two replica medals to his family, announcing, 'The name of James Thorpe will be added to the list of athletes who were crowned Olympic champions at the 1912 Games.' What's less commonly known is that the IOC appended this small, mean sentence: 'However, the official report for these Games will not be modified.'"
"In other words, the IOC refused even to acknowledge Thorpe's results in the 15 events he competed in. To this day the Olympic record does not mention them. The IOC also refused to demote Wieslander and the other runners-up from their elevated medal status. Wieslander's results stand as the official winning tally. Thorpe was merely a co-champion, with no numerical evidence of his overwhelming superiority. This is no small thing. It made Thorpe an asterisk, not a champion. It was lip service, not restitution."
"On this 100-year anniversary of the Stockholm Games, there are several good reasons for the IOC to relent and fully recognize Thorpe as the sole champion that he was."
Jim Thorpe competed in four events. Besides the Decathlon and the Pentathlon, he tied for fourth in the Men's High Jump and placed seventh in the Men's Long Jump.
Although the 2012 Olympics will be held in London, there is a centennial event, a 2012 Jubilee Marathon to be held in Stockholm, Sweden on July 14. It is expected to draw 21,000 runners.
According to Fitzpatrick, Jim Thorpe's grandson, John Thorpe, son of Charlotte Thorpe has been invited to Stockholm to participate, and perhaps to hear the retelling of the story where King Gustav V proclaimed to Jim Thorpe, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world."
If ever there was a time, now is the time to set the record books straight. And with Jim Thorpe, Pa. achieving recognition as the Best of the Road - Rand McNally/USA Today Finalist, One of the USA's Top 50 Places to Live and Play, One of the USA's Top 100 Adventure Towns, and ranked #1 by Yahoo for Fantastic Towns for Fall, the town has proved that it can make things happen.
By Al Zagofsky