Olympic Challenge Trophies

It is not well known, but in the early years of the Modern Olympic Games, from 1906-1920, a number of IOC Challenge Trophies were awarded. These were special trophies that were donated, usually by quite prominent persons, and the trophies were given to the winners of the various events on a temporary basis. The trophies were in addition to the gold medal awards, and had to be returned to the IOC prior to the next Olympic Games.

At the 1908 Olympic Games in London there were 12 challenges. Three more were donated at the 13th IOC Session (1910). When further challenges came to the IOC in 1911 it was then decided that no further Challenge Trophies would be accepted. Some of the challenge trophies were not awarded and strangely, a few of the challenges were for the same events. The last three challenge trophies that were donated were never awarded and the event for which they were to be given was also never announced.

At the 22nd IOC Session in Rome on 12 April 1923, the IOC discontinued the practice of awarding challenge trophies. Most of the trophies still reside in the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. In 1946, the Baroness de Coubertin, widow of Pierre de Coubertin, donated a final challenge trophy that was never awarded. The other two trophies that were never awarded were donated by the Czechoslovakian President and the Italian Gymnastics Federation.

The most well-known challenge trophy was that won by Jim Thorpe in 1912 for the decathlon, given by the Russian Emperor. When Thorpe’s medals were returned by the IOC in 1982, the family questioned if they should also receive the challenge trophy, but as stated, these were to be temporary and returned to the IOC at the next Olympics, so after 1920, Thorpe’s family had no official claim to them.

Here are the lists of all the Challenge Trophies awarded, from 1906-1920:

Donor (Event) 1906
Unknown Donor (ancient pentathlon) Hjalmar Mellander
Donor (Event) 1908
Mme. de Montgomery (discus throw) Martin Sheridan
Gold & Silversmiths (heavyweight wrestling) Richárd Weisz
The Football Association (football) Great Britain
Brunetta d’Usseaux (coxed eights rowing) Great Britain
Brunetta d’Usseaux (1500 swimming) Henry Taylor
Lord Westbury (clay trap shooting) Walter Ewing
King of Greece (marathon footrace) Johnny Hayes
The English Fencers (épée team) France
City of Prague (individual gymnastics) Alberto Braglia
French Government (6 metre yachting) Great Britain
Prince of Wales (100 km cycling) Charles Bartlett
Hurlingham Club (polo) Great Britain
Donor (Event) 1912
Mme. de Montgomery (discus throw) Armas Taipale
Gold & Silversmiths (heavyweight wrestling) Yrjö Saarela
The Football Association (football) Great Britain
Brunetta d’Usseaux (coxed eights rowing) Great Britain
Brunetta d’Usseaux (1500 swimming) George Hodgson
Lord Westbury (clay trap shooting) James Graham
King of Greece (marathon footrace) Kenneth McArthur
The English Fencers (épée team) Belgium
City of Prague (individual gymnastics) Alberto Braglia
French Government (6 metre yachting) France
King of Sweden (pentathlon) Jim Thorpe
Swedish Calvary (overall equestrian) Sweden
Pierre de Coubertin (modern pentathlon) Gösta Lilliehöök
King of Italy (show jumping team) Sweden
Contessa Casa de Miranda (women’s platform) Greta Johansson
Russian Emperor (decathlon) Jim Thorpe
German Emperor (show jumping team) Sweden
Austrian Emperor (dressage individual) Carl Bonde
City of Budapest (sabre team) Hungary
Géza Andressy (show jumping individual) Jean Cariou
Donor (Event) 1920
Mme. de Montgomery (discus throw) Elmer Niklander
Gold & Silversmiths (heavyweight wrestling) Adolf Lindfors
The Football Association (football) Belgium
Brunetta d’Usseaux (coxed eights rowing) United States
Brunetta d’Usseaux (1500 swimming) Norman Ross
Lord Westbury (clay trap shooting) Mark Arie
King of Sweden (pentathlon) Eero Lehtonen
Swedish Calvary (overall equestrian) Sweden
Pierre de Coubertin (modern pentathlon) Gustaf Dyrssen
King of Italy (show jumping team) Sweden
Contessa Casa de Miranda (women’s platform) Stefanie Clausen

 

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