LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – Jim Thorpe has been reinstated as the only winner of the 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon in Stockholm – nearly 110 years after he was stripped of those gold medals for violating strict amateur rules at the time.
The International Olympic Committee announced the change on Friday on the 110th anniversary of Thorpe’s victory in the decathlon, and King Gustav V of Sweden declared him “the world’s greatest athlete”.
Thorpe, a Native American, returned to a strip parade in New York, but months later it was discovered that he had been paid to play minor league baseball over two summers, a violation of amateur Olympic rules. He was stripped of his gold medals in what was described as The first major international sports scandal.
For some, Thorpe remains the greatest athlete ever. He was voted as an Associated Press athlete for half a century in a 1950 poll.
In 1982—29 years after Thorpe’s death—the International Olympic Committee awarded his family repeat gold medals, but his Olympic records were not restored, nor was his status as the only gold medal winner at the two events.
Two years earlier, a Bright Path Strong petition called for Thorpe to be declared the outright winner in pentathlon and decathlon in 1912. He was listed by the International Olympic Committee as a co-champion in the official record book.
“We welcome the fact that thanks to the great participation of Bright Path Strong, a solution can be found,” said Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee. “This is an exceptional and unique situation, which was addressed by an extraordinary gesture of fair play from the respective National Olympic Committees.”
Thorpe’s Native American name, Wa-Tho-Huk, means “shining path.” The organization, with the help of IOC member Anita Devrantz, contacted the Swedish Olympic Committee and the family of Hugo Weslander, who was promoted to gold in the decathlon in 1913.
“They confirmed that Weislander himself never accepted the Olympic gold medal allotted to him, and they always saw Jim Thorpe as the only legitimate Olympic gold medalist,” the IOC said, adding that the Swedish Olympic Committee agreed.
“The same announcement was received from the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the Sports Confederation, whose athlete, Ferdinand B., was named the gold medalist when Thorpe was stripped of his pentathlon title,” the IOC said.
Bie will be listed as a silver in the pentathlon, and Wieslander as a silver in the decathlon.
The International Olympic Committee said the governing body for athletics has also agreed to amend its records.
Bright Path Strong praised the IOC for “setting the record straight” around the Sack, Fox and Pottawatomie athlete.
“We are so grateful for this 110-year-old injustice that has finally been rectified, and there is no confusion about the most famous athlete in history,” said Nidra Darling, co-founder of the organization and citizen of Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.
At the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Native American hammer thrower Janie Casanavuid said the announcement was news to celebrate.
“My ultimate goal is to follow in his footsteps, to inspire and empower the next generation of athletes,” she said.
Von Sharp, president of the National Congress of the American Indians, said Thorpe, as the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States, “inspired our people for generations.”
In Stockholm, Thorpe tripled the result of his nearest competitor in the pentathlon and got 688 points more than the second-placed in decathlon.
During the closing ceremony, King Gustav V said to Thorpe: “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.”
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