Jim Thorpe was arguably the greatest all-round athlete of the 20th century. He was probably the unluckiest.
At an admirably organised Games which introduced electronic timing and a public address system, the awesomely talented native American won the pentathlon and the decathlon. He also gained the admiration of King Gustav of Sweden who presented Thorpe with a bust of himself and a silver chalice in the shape of a Viking ship, commenting: "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world." According to contemporary reports, Thorpe replied: "Thanks, King."
Six months after his triumph, a newspaper reported he had breached his amateur status by playing semi-professional baseball in North Carolina in 1909 and 1910. The punishment was savage. Thorpe's records were eliminated from the books, his gold medals taken away and he died a miserable death as an alcoholic in a Californian trailer park.
The other great athlete in Stockholm was the first of the flying Finns, Hannes Kolehmainen, who won the 5,000, 10,000 and cross-country races.
** Japan became the first Asian country to participate in
the 1912 Stockholm Games.
** During the 1912 Games the
boxing event was not held for the first and only time in the Olympics since
hosts Sweden did not allow boxing contests in their country.
** Englishman Charles Perry, who was responsible for the
tracks for the 1896 and 1908 Games laid the track at Stockholm in 1912.
** For the first time in the 1912 Games an electrical
timing equipment was used for the running events.
1912 Games was the first to use the public address system.
The modern pentathlon was introduced for the first time in the 1912
Games. In the fifth place of this event was one Lieut. George S Patton (USA),
who later became a controversial general during the second World War.
** American Ralph Craig who took both the sprints in the
1912 Games, should not have won as under the current rules he would have been
disqualified for making three false starts to the race.
The only one cycling event of the 1912 Games was the longest race of any kind
ever in Olympic history - a distance of 320km (199 miles). It was won by South
African Ruloph Lewis in 10 hours 42 minutes.
** During the
1912 Games some of the wrestling bouts lasted more than 10 hours! In the
Greco-Roman middleweight category a bout for the silver medal between Russia's
Martin Klein and Finland's Alfred Asikainen went on for a record 11hr 40min. In
the light-heavy weight finals the judges had to halt the fight after the bout
had gone for over 9 hours. Both the wrestlers were given silver medals, with no
** During the 1912 Games, Swedish shooters
Carlberg brothers Wilhelm and Eric, became the first twins to win Olympic gold.
** During the 1912 Games, a rare sibling combination came
in the 6m class yatching when the French winner "Mac Miche" was crewed by the
three Thube brothers.
** American Indian Jim Thorpe who had
won the athletic pentathlon and decathlon with consummate ease during the 1912
Games, had his gold medals taken back and his performances removed from Olympic
annals, six months later, when it was reported that he had played some minor
baseball as a professional. Twenty years after his death in 1953 the American
Athletic Union reinstated him as an amateur, but IOC stubbornly refused to
acknowledge his performances. It had been suggested that Thorpe's cause was not
helped by the fact that then president of IOC from 1952 to 1972 Avery Brundage
was a team-mate of Thorpe in 1912 and with the disqualification of the latter,
Brundage was placed fifth from the earlier sixth. Finally, in October 1982
Thorpe, the man who had been voted in 1950 as the greatest athlete of the first
half-century, was pardoned by the IOC and the medals presented to his family.
** Portugal's Francisco Lazzaro collapsed and died during
the marathon event of the 1912 Games.
** Otto Herschmann,
who won the silver in the team sabre fencing event in the 1912 Games, was the
president of the Austrian Olympic Committee. He remains the only sitting
national Olympic committee president to win a medal in the Olympics.
Incidentally he died in 1942 in a Nazi concentration camp.