Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jim Thorpe: 20th century's greatest athlete

It is the birthday of Jim Thorpe (1888), who is considered the greatest athlete of the 20th century. He won two Olympic gold medals (pentathlon and decathlon) in 1912, and played college football as well as professional football, basketball, and baseball. Though he lost his gold medals when it was revealed he had played semi-pro baseball before competing in the Olympics, they were restored in 1983. Thorpe’s father was Irish and Sac and Fox Indian. His mother was French and Potawatomi. He was born in Indian Territory in Oklahoma. At 16, he was coached by the legendary Pop Warner, who was reluctant at first to let his best track and field man play rough and tumble football. Thorpe outran the defense team in practice and made the team. His career ended as the Great Depression began. His sad last years were spent in a variety of odd jobs, including ditch digger, bouncer, construction worker, and security guard. He died at age 64, a victim of heart disease and alcoholism.

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