WASHINGTON – Jim Thorpe swept the pentathlon and decathlon at the Olympic Games in 1912, becoming the first and only Olympian to accomplish the feat. He will always hold that record because the pentathlon is no longer part of the games.
Jim Adams, curator of the “Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics” exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian says Thorpe’s story is the most dramatic of the ones being told there.
Thorpe suffered “one of the great injustices in American sports history,” he says, because his Olympic medals were taken away from him.
It was discovered that he played semi-pro baseball two summers before he participated in the games, an issue that is not a problem for current athletes. His family was able to get the medals back some 70 years later.
The other 1912 Native American Olympians featured in the exhibition are Duke Kahanamoku, Andrew Sockalexis and Lewis Tewanima.
One hundred years later, the museum of the American Indian is celebrating the legacy of the 1912 team and the path they paved for future generations of Native American athletes.
Adams says the museum has six Olympic medals on display – two of them belong to Jim Thorpe.
His medals will be on display through July 9. After, they’ll travel to London for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games where they will be displayed to millions of spectators.