Thursday, May 27, 2010

Everything I Know I Learned from Jim Thorpe

This week ((May 18) marks the 122nd birthday of Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe.

The title "World's Greatest" something or other is heard pretty regularly these days and its meaning has cheapened with its overuse. But Jim Thorpe was the real deal. He was one of the most versatile athletes ever seen, having played professional football, baseball, and basketball, and competed in track and field at the Olympic level. In 1950 he was named the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century, and came close to being named top athlete of the entire century.

He first won international attention in 1912 when he competed in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, where he won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon. In the fifteen combined events in which he competed, he placed first in eight of them. His point total in the decathlon set an Olympic record which stood for two decades.

His outstanding accomplishment impressed no less than King Gustav of Sweden who, as he presented the medals to Thorpe, told the athlete, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world." Thorpe's answer has become part of his legend: "Thanks, King."

But really, what more was there to say? Ah, to have the courage to be so succinct in my own writing!

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