Jim Thorpe – great athlete
Jim Thorpe was an American track star and professional football and baseball player. He was also an Olympic gold medal winner and a national hero. He excelled not only at football, baseball, but also at basketball, boxing, lacrosse, swimming, and hockey.
James Francis Thorpe was born on May 28, 1888 in an Indian Territory that is now Oklahoma. He was a Native American. His Native American name was Wa-tho-huck meaning Bright Path.
In his childhood he liked to fish, hunt, swim, and play games outdoors. He was strong and healthy child. Jim had a twin brother who died of pneumonia when he was nine years old. The death of his twin left Thorpe with a deep emotional wound.
Jim went to a special school in Pennsylvania for Native American children. It was famous for its football team.
Jim was a star athlete in several sports, including baseball, running, wrestling, and football. He won many awards for his athletic ability, mainly for football.
At the age of 24, in 1912, Thorpe became part of the U.S. Olympic team. He competed in two very difficult events: the pentathlon and the decathlon. People thought it was impossible for an athlete to compete in both sports and everyone was surprised when Thorpe won gold medals in both events. In January 1913, a reporter learned that Thorpe had played baseball for pay in North Carolina a few years earlier. People who earn money for playing sports are called professionals and they couldn’t compete in the Olympics. So, the Olympic Committee took away his medals and removed his name from the record books.
In 1913 he married Iva Miller. Their first son died at the age of four from polio. Twice divorced, he had one boy and three girls of his first marriage and four boys from his second marriage in 1926 to Freeda Kirkpatrick. His third marriage was to Patricia Askew in 1945.
In 1950, Jim Thorpe was named the greatest American football player and the best athlete of the first half of the twentieth century.
In 1951, Thorpe became sick with cancer.
Jim Thorpe died of a heart attack on March 28, 1953. He was 64 years old.
Thirty years after his death, the medals were finally returned to the champion. His name was also put back in the 1912 Olympic record books.
Thorpe is considered the greatest American male athlete in history. He was named “The Legend” on the all-time NFL team; his statue graces the lobby of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and his portrait hangs in the Oklahoma State Capitol.
In 1996, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games honored his memory by routing the Olympic torch relay through his birthplace of Prague, Oklahoma. In 1999, the U.S. House and Senate passed resolutions designating Thorpe America’s Athlete of the Century.
His story of life was shown in the film Jim Thorpe: A Real American (1951), where Burt Lancaster played the main role.