Olympic Bio of the Day – Murray Riley

B. 5 October 1925



1952,ROW,Double Sculls,3 h1 r4/5 (w John Rogers),

1956,ROW,Double Sculls,3 (w Merv Wood),Bronze


Many of our Olympian bios tell stories of great heroics and often great careers after the Olympics. Here’s one that didn’t turn out so well.

See also http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/ri/murray-riley-1.html.


Murray Riley partnered Merv Wood to a bronze medal in the 1956 double sculls, after the pair had won gold medals in the doubles at the 1950 and 1954 Commonwealth Games. At the time the two were both police officers, but their careers would take decidedly different courses. Wood eventually became New South Wales (NSW) Police Commissioner in 1976, but stepped down in 1979, partly because of his association with Riley who had by then turned to a life of crime.

Riley joined the NSW police force in 1943, when only 17 years old, and he eventually rose to detective-sergeant, 3rd class. Major drug investigations in the 1960s found that Riley was associated with managers of several illegal gambling casinos in Sydney and Wollongong and it led to his involvement in drugs. In 1966 he was jailed for a year in New Zealand on charges of attempting to bribe a police inspector, after he was found to be involved in drug importation and cashing stolen American Express checks. After his release he linked up with well-known Australian crime figure Wally Dean and the two became supervisors for the Sydney League Clubs, and began scamming the clubs, extorting their services at very high fees in return for protection.

Riley disappeared for a few years but emerged in September 1974, helping Dean in an unsuccessful attempt to get elected to the South Sydney City Council. In October 1984, Riley came into the employ of Lennie McPherson, noted drug dealer, looking after collections from various gambling clubs and bookmakers, and providing protection for them.

Riley was also involved in the Nugan Hand Bank Scandal, which was a complex arrangement fronted by the United States CIA, and former US Green Beret Michael Hand, as a front to help catch drug dealers and exporters. It was found that in April 1976, Nugan Hand made cash transfers to Riley in Hong Kong, totaling about $1.2 million. Riley used the cash to take delivery of heroin shipments. The Australian Joint Task Force on Drugs, concluded, “Throughout 1976 Hand was knowingly involved in drug activity with the ‘Riley’ group in that he permitted and even encouraged the use of Nugan Hand facilities for the movement of drug money.”

Riley was finally caught in June 1978, when he was arrested after 4.3 tons of cannabis was found onboard the yacht Anoa at Polkington Reef, east of Papua New Guinea. Riley pleaded guilty and was sentenced by Judge Kenneth Torrington to 5-10 years in jail.

In January 2008, historian Dr. John Jiggens of the Queensland University of Technology, deepened the crime connection of Riley with the publication of his book ___The Sydney Connection: Nugan Hand, Murray Riley, and the Murder of Donald Mackay___. Mackay was a furniture store owner in the NSW town of Griffith, who in 1975, tipped off police about a large marijuana plantation at Coleambally, south of Griffith. Mackay was murdered outside the Hotel Griffith on 15 July 1977, as his bloodstained car and spent .22 cartridges were found in the hotel carpark the next day, although his body was never recovered. Jiggens notes in the book that Nugan and Riley were key figures in an international drug-smuggling group supplying the United States market in the 1970s.

Olympian Rhodes Scholars

Olympic athletes are known as the greatest of athletes. Yet, perhaps the term student-athletes can be applied to many of them. Fully 34 of them have won a Rhodes Scholarship, one of the highest academic awards possible, to study at Oxford University in England. There are others than on this list, who competed at the Paralympics but our databases cover only the Olympic Games. Here is the list of Olympian Rhodes Scholars. More information on these can be found here or by following the links below.


Name,NOC,Sport,OlyYr,Oxford Yr-School

Ranjit Bhatia,IND,ATH,1960,1957 Jesus College

Graham Bond,AUS,GYM,1956-64,1961 Balliol College

Munroe Bourne,CAN,SWI,1928-36,1932 University College

Bill Bradley,USA,BAS,1964,1965 Worcester College

John Carleton,USA,CCS/NCO,1924,1922 Magdalen College

Angie Darby,AUS,MOP,2008,2012 Christ Church College

Eddie Eagan,USA,BOB/BOX,1920-32,1922 New College

Alan Hobkirk,CAN,HOK,1976,1974 Jesus College

Simon Hollingsworth,AUS,ATH,1992-96,1997 Exeter College

Don Johnson,CAN,ATH,1924,1923 Balliol College

Rosara Joseph,NZL,CYC,2008,2006 St. John’s College

Wilfred Kalaugher,NZL,ATH,1928,1927 Balliol College

Wilfred Kent-Hughes,AUS,ATH,1920,1915 Christ Church College

Desmond Koh,SIN,SWI,1988-96,1995 Oriel College

Charles Littlejohn,GBR,ROW,1912,1909 New College

Jack Lovelock,NZL,ATH,1932-36,1931 Exeter College

Selwyn Maister,NZL,HOK,1968-76,1969 Magdalen College

Murray McLachlan,RSA,SWI,1960,1961 Wadham College

Tom McMillen,USA,BAS,1972,1974 University College

Tucker Murphy,BER,CCS,2010-14,2005 Merton College

John Misha Petkevich,USA,FSK,1968-72,1973 Magdalen College

Edward Pitblado,GBR,ICH,1924,1920 Queen’s College

Arthur Porritt,NZL,ATH,1924,1923 Magdalen College

Eric Prabhakar,IND,ATH,1948,1948 Christ Church College

Mari Rabie,RSA,TRI,2008,2010 St. Catherine’s College

Bevil Rudd,RSA,ATH,1920,1913 Trinity College

Annette Salmeen,USA,SWI,1996,1997 St. John’s College

Malav Shroff,IND,SAI,2004,1998 St. Peter’s College

Bill Stevenson,USA,ATH,1924,1922 Balliol College

Harvey Sutton,ANZ,ATH,1908,1905 New College

Norm Taber,USA,ATH,1912,1913 St. John’s College

PJ Thum,SIN,SWI,1996,2002 Hertford College

Alan Valentine,USA,RUG,1924,1922 Balliol College

Hugh Ward,ANZ,ROW,1912,1911 New College



Olympic Bio of the Day – Martin Sheridan


See also  http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/sh/martin-sheridan-1.html

B. 3 March 1881; Bohola, Mayo, Ireland

D. 27 March 1918; New York, New York, United States




1904,Athletics,Shot Put,4,

,,Discus Throw,1,Gold

1906,Athletics,Standing High Jump,=2,Silver

,,Standing Long Jump,2,Silver

,,Shot Put,1,Gold

,,Stone Throw,2,Silver

,,Discus Throw,1,Gold

,,Discus Throw Greek,4,

,,Pentathlon (Ancient),AC,

1908,Athletics,Standing High Jump,16,

,,Standing Long Jump,3,Bronze

,,Triple Jump,9,

,,Shot Put,AC,

,,Discus Throw,1,Gold

,,Discus Throw Greek,1,Gold


The Irish-born Martin Sheridan was the greatest all-round athlete of his time and thru 2014, his total of 9 Olympic medals has been bettered by only 11 Americans, and only by Carl Lewis and Ray Ewry in track & field. In addition to winning the discus at the 1904, 1906 and 1908 Olympic Games, Sheridan won the shot in 1906 and the Greek-style discus in 1908.  To these five gold medals he added three silver medals in 1906 in the stone throw and the standing jumps and a bronze medal in the standing long jump in 1908.

Inspired by his older brother, Richard, who won the AAU discus in 1901 and 1902, Martin himself won the title four times. He also won the AAU shot in 1904 and three times was the AAU All-Around champion (1905, 1907, 1909), setting a world record each time. Further proof of his versatility came at the 1908 Olympics when he placed ninth in the triple jump. The discus was undoubtedly his best event; in addition to his three Olympic titles and four AAU championships, he improved the world best in the discus 15 times between 1902 and 1909. Sheridan almost certainly missed another gold medal when he was forced to withdraw from the 1906 pentathlon due to injury.

Apart from his prowess as a competitor, Martin Sheridan has passed into Olympic lore with his remark to the press at the 1908 Olympics, where he was quoted as saying, “This flag dips to no earthly King!” after the Michigan weightman, Ralph Rose, refused to lower the American flag as he passed the Royal Box at the opening ceremony.

Like many of the great Irish-American athletes of the time, Sheridan was employed by the New York Police Department and was the personal bodyguard of the New York governor whenever he visited the city. Sheridan, who had come to America in 1897, retired from active competition in 1911 and died of pneumonia at the early age of 37, during the influenza pandemic of that year. At his death, seven years after he retired from athletics, no less than Jim Thorpe proclaimed that “Sheridan was the greatest athlete in the world.  He could do things I never could.”

Personal Bests: TJ – 14.21 (1905); SP – 14.74 (1908); DT – 44.01 (1908); HT – 162-8 (49.58) (1906); JT – 120-3 (36.65) (1908).


On a personal note, each of us who write on this blog have our own favorites. The author (Mallon) of this post confesses that Martin Sheridan is his favorite Olympic athlete, so much that he sleeps next to him every nite. See the picture below – the Chocolate Lab is Martin Sheridan “Marty” Mallon, while the Westie is Barney Rubble Mallon.

Barney and Martin 1

Olympic Bio of the Day – Ray Ewry

Taken from http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/ew/ray-ewry-1.html

Born 14 October 1873 in Lafayette, Indiana (USA)
Died 29 September 1937 in Long Island, New York (USA)

Olympic record
Track and Field Athletics
1900 Paris
Standing High Jump – Gold
Standing Long Jump – Gold
Standing Triple Jump – Gold
1904 St.Louis
Standing High Jump – Gold
Standing Long Jump – Gold
Standing Triple Jump – Gold
1908 London
Standing High Jump – Gold
Standing Long Jump – Gold
(1906 Athens)
Standing High Jump – Gold
Standing Long Jump – Gold

Ray Ewry was paralyzed by polio as a child, but by dint of diligent exercising he developed immense strength in his legs and became the greatest exponent of the standing jumps that the sport has ever seen. He attended Purdue from 1890 to 1897, where he captained the track team and also played football. After gaining a graduate degree in mechanical engineering he competed briefly for the Chicago AA before moving to New York, where he worked for the city as a hydraulics engineer and joined the New York AC. He won the first of his 15 AAU titles in 1898 at the age of 25 and the last in 1910. He was undoubtedly deprived of many more titles when the standing jumps were dropped from the AAU program from 1899 to 1905. He attempted a comeback in 1912 but, not surprisingly some of the spring had gone from his legs as he approached his 40th birthday and he failed to make the Olympic team. Ewry’s 10 gold medals was an absolute Olympic record that stood until 2008.

Personal Bests: sHJ – 1.675 (1900); sLJ – 11-4¾ (3.47) (1904); sTJ – 35-7¼ (10.86) (1901).

Olympic bio of the Day – Wes Santee

Taken from http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/sa/wes-santee-1.html

Wes Santee
Wes Santee

Born 25 March 1932 in Ashland, Kansas (USA)
Died 14 November 2010 in Eureka, Kansas (USA)

Olympic record
Track and Field Athletics
1952 Helsinki
5000m – 13th in heat – DNQ for final

Wes Santee was the top American miler in the 1950s and was considered a threat to be the first man to run a mile under four minutes. He ran for the University of Kansas, where he won NCAA titles in the mile (1953), 5,000 metres (1952), and cross-country (1953). Santee was AAU Champion in the 1,500/mile in 1952-53 and 1955, and placed second in the 3-mile in 1951. Shortly after Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, Santee ran a mile in 4:00.6 in Compton, California, but his intermediate time for 1,500 metres set a world record of 3:42.8. The next night he ran 4:00.7 in Stockton, California, which at the time gave him three of the four fastest miles ever run, surpassed only by Bannister’s barrier-breaker. Santee also set two indoor world records for the mile (1954/55). In 1955 he won a silver medal in the 1,500 at the Pan-American Games.

Santee would never run a four-minute mile, running his career best of 4:00.5 in 1955. Then early in 1956, he was banned from amateur competition by the AAU for taking excessive expense money, despite a US senator taking up his cause. Santee served in the US Marine Corps for two years during his career, joining in July 1953. He then spent 30 years in the Marine Corps Reserves, later serving as president of the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association. He made his career in the insurance business in his native Kansas. Santee also served several terms on the President’s Council for Physical Fitness.

Personal Bests: 800 – 1:48.3 (1953); 1500 – 3:42.8 (1954); Mile – 4:00.5 (1955); 2 miles – 8:58.0 (1954); 5000 – 14:32.0 (1952).

Olympic Bio of the Day – Bill Irwin

Taken from http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/ir/bill-irwin-1.html

Born 24 March 1920 in Winnipeg, Manitoba (CAN)
Died 9 February 2013 in Vernon, British Columbia (CAN)

Olympic record
Sankt Moritz 1948
Alpine Skiing – downhill 60th, slalom 50th, combined 36th
Ski jumping – individual 39th
Cross Country Skiing – 18km 81st
Nordic Combined – individual 37th

Alongside his brother Bert, Bill Irwin rose to prominence in the Canadian amateur skiing scene during the late 1930s and early 1940s, capturing first place in the Western Canadian Championships in 1937, 1939, 1941, and 1942, and the Vancouver Ski Classic in 1940, 1941, and 1942. After serving in the Canadian Army from 1943 through 1945, he quickly returned to form and qualified for 1948 Winter Olympics in six events: the downhill, the slalom, and the combined in alpine skiing, the 18 kilometers in cross-country skiing, the individual in Nordic combined, and the normal hill, individual in ski jumping. This meant that he missed only one individual event at the Games, the 50 kilometer cross-country ski. Despite his versatility, however, his best finish was 36th in the alpine combined competition. Coming up short at the Olympics, however, does not diminish his accomplishments, as he won over 200 trophies across all of the skiing disciplines, nationally and internationally, until his retirement from active competition in 1955.

Irwin began skiing at the age of nine, influenced by his father Bert “Pop” Irwin, who was manager of the Amber Ski Club and builder of Canada’s first cable-handle rope tow in 1934. Bill’s career was a winning one from start to finish: he won his first “Potato Race” in 1930 and his last “Over the Hill Downhill” in 1983. Outside of competition he taught Scottish Commandos how to ski and founded the Loch Lomond Ski Area and Club near Thunder Bay, Ontario. He was awarded the Ontario Tourism Award in 1975 for his promotion of skiing, and was inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame in 2000. His son Dave became an Olympic skier himself (1976 and 1980) and was a member of the Crazy Canucks, a group of Canadians who, during the 1970s and 1980s, gained a reputations as fast and reckless skiers.

Sochi – the National Leaders

OK, a couple weeks ago we reviewed all the new individual bests and records that were set in Sochi. Let’s look now at how the nations did in Sochi and has this affects the historical record.

First a word about national medal lists. The Europeans / Internationals and the Americans list their national medal lists differently. Internationally, the list leaders are those with the most gold medals, followed by silver medals, followed by bronze medals. In the United States and Canada, the list leaders are those with the most total medals, then sorting by gold, silver, and bronze. So when these differ we will try to mention that.

  • Either way you look at it, Russia led the medal lists. They had the most medals, with 33, and the most gold medals, with 13. Norway was second with 11 gold medals, followed by Canada with 10, while the United States had the second most total medals, with 28.
  • Going by gender, Russia led the men’s lists with 10 gold medals and 20 medals, followed by the Netherlands’ 14 medals and Norway’s 6 gold medals. The United States women had the most medals, with 13, followed by Norway with 12 and Canada with 11, but Canadian women won the most gold medals with 6, trailed by the United States and Norway, with 4 each. In mixed events, Russia was again pre-eminent in both systems, winning 5 medals and 2 gold medals. The United States, Germany, and Canada each won 2 mixed medals.
  • In all, 26 nations won medals in Sochi, equalling the record set in 2006 and 2010. Oddly, no nations won a Winter Olympic medal for the first time in Sochi. And only Slovenia won their first Winter Olympic gold medals, with 2 won by Tina Maze in Alpine skiing. Had Slovenia not done that, Sochi would have been only the 3rd Winter Olympics at which no nation won their first Winter Olympic medal and no nation won their first Winter Olympic gold medal. That has only happened in 1960 at Squaw Valley and 1984 at Sarajevo.
  • How did Russia’s 33 medals won in Sochi rank all-time? Well, here is the all-time list, showing that this was 4th best total medals ever won by one nation at one Winter Olympics:



2010,United States,9,15,13,37


2002,United States,10,13,11,34



1988,Soviet Union,11,9,9,29



2014,United States,9,7,12,28

1976,Soviet Union,13,6,8,27


  • However, there were 98 events in Sochi, after only 86 events in Vancouver. And going way back, there were only 16 events at Chamonix in 1924 and 14 in 1928 and 1932. How does 33 medals rank all-time if we compare it to the number of possible medals won? Well, its not really close to the top if we look at medals won as a percentage of possible medals won. In fact, Russia won 12.6% of possible medals in Sochi, the lowest percentage ever by the leading medal-winning nation at a Winter Olympics. That list is dominated by the early Winter Olympics – fewer nations, fewer events, more chance to win a high percentage. Here is the list of the leading medal winning nations with the percentage of medals won:





1932,United States,12,40,14,30.0%





1956,Soviet Union,16,66,24,24.2%

1960,Soviet Union,21,75,27,28.0%

1964,Soviet Union,25,96,34,26.0%


1972,Soviet Union,16,99,35,16.2%

1976,Soviet Union,27,105,37,25.7%

1980,German Demo. Rep.,23,108,38,21.3%

1984,Soviet Union,25,111,39,22.5%

1988,Soviet Union,29,128,46,22.7%






2010,United States,37,232,86,15.9%



  • Now we noted in a post on the last day of Sochi that Russia won 33 medals in 2014, after winning only 15 in 2010, an improvement of 18 medals. Was that a record? Nope. In 2002 the United States won 34 medals, after winning only 13 in 1998, an improvement of 21 medals. Note that both the USA in 2002 and Russia in 2014 did this on home soil. Also notable in 2014 was the improvement by the Netherlands, with 24 medals, after only 8 in Vancouver, an improvement of 16 medals, and the 3rd best NOC improvement ever from one Winter Olympics to the next.



1998,United States,13,

2002,United States,34,21







2006,United States,25,

2010,United States,37,12

1972,Soviet Union,16,

1976,Soviet Union,27,11






  • If we look at it by sport, the leaders are as in the table below. Note that in 13 of the 15 sports / disciplines, the national leaders were the same in both systems. But in bobsledding and short-track speedskating, they were different.





BOB,1,3,United States,-,1,3,4














SNB,1,1,United States,3,-,2,5



  • Most noteworthy, of course, is the Netherlands winning 23 medals in speed skating, of the 32 available to one nation (there are 12 events, but in team pursuit a nation can win only 1 medal). This is fully 71.9% of all available medals. How does this rank all-time? One needs to remember that there were 12 speed skating events in Sochi. If we look at single-sport performances by a nation all-time and limit it to sports in which there are 3 or more events at the Winter Olympics, we get the following for the best ever. You can see that the Netherlands ranks only 5th in this table.

















  • But take a look at the number of events in that table – 3 or 4 in all cases except for the Soviet Union in 1988 cross-country skiing, which had 8 events. If we limit the search to national performances in Olympic year-sports with 8 or more events the Netherlands 2014 speed skating dominance was easily the greatest ever. Here is that table:















  • Otherwise, not too many surprises in the leaders by sports – Austria in Alpine skiing, Germany in luge, Canada in ice hockey, Norway in biathlon, cross-country and Nordic combined. Mostly what we have come to expect.
  • But speaking of Germany, while we usually try to highlight the best and the brightest in these lists and posts, what happened to Deutschland in Sochi? They won only 19 medals in Sochi, after 30 in Vancouver, and were only 6th in the national medal list in Sochi, by either system. Since re-unification, here is how Germany has done at the Winter Olympics:











  • So this was definitely the worst German performance at the Winter Olympics since the Berlin Wall fell. But why? They dominated in luge, as they always do. But the only other sport in which they topped the medals was ski jumping, and there are only 4 events in that sport. But look at 3 sports in which they normally win a lot of medals – biathlon, cross-country skiing, and speed skating. And remember, there were 35 events just in those 3 sports in 2014, with 91 possible medals to be won. Let’s look at those 3 sports and how they have done just since 2002:







Cross-Country Skiing,2002,1,2,2,5

Cross-Country Skiing,2006,-,3,1,4

Cross-Country Skiing,2010,1,4,-,5

Cross-Country Skiing,2014,-,-,1,1










  • So those 3 sports are almost entirely responsible for the fall-off in German performance in Sochi. In fact, looking at those 3 sports, while the drop-off in Sochi for Germany might have seemed precipitous, it was coming. As you can see Germany won 22 medals in BIA/CCS/SSK in Salt Lake City, 18 in Torino, and only 14 in Vancouver. There were signs that Germany’s overall performance in these sports was declining, but I think 0 speed skating medals was still somewhat surprising. In fact, if you give Germany the same 22 medals in these sports that they won in 2002, they would have won the following total medals since then: 2002 – 36; 2006 – 33; 2010 – 38; 2014 – 37. Almost no difference.

Olympic Bio of the Day – Fereidoun Esfandiary

Taken from http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/es/fereidoun-esfandiary-1.html

Olympic Record
1948 London
Iran 14th

Fereidoun Esfandiary played basketball in the Olympic Games for Iran in 1948, but it was only a footnote to a much larger life. The son of Iranian diplomats, he was born in Belgium and lived in 17 countries as a child. From 1952-54 he served on the United Nations’ Conciliation Commission for Palestine. During the 1960s he wrote several works of fiction, notably The Day of Sacrifice, The Beggar, and Identity Card. In 1970, Esfandiary legally changed his name to FM-2030. He did it because he expected to live to be 100, in 2030, and in order to break free of naming conventions that he considered a relic of humankind’s tribalistic past. He noted, “The name 2030 reflects my conviction that the years around 2030 will be a magical time. In 2030, we will be ageless and everyone will have an excellent chance to live forever. 2030 is a dream and a goal.” FM-2030 taught at the New School for Social Reseach in Manhattan, UCLA, and Florida International University, and served as a corporate consultant to Lockheed, JC Penney, and Rockwell International.

FM-2030 made many predictions of the future and considered himself to have been born in the wrong century, stating, “I am a 21st-century person who was accidentally launched [born] into the 20th. I have a deep nostalgia for the future.” His predictions about future life, that have already come true, included in vitro fertilization, genetic engineering, teleconferencing, teleshopping, and telemedicine. He also predicted what he termed a “Santa Claus machine” that would effectively be a Xerox machine for three-dimensional objects, and thought that free energy from the sun would someday produce limitless resources and limit the need for competition. FM-2030 also began writing non-fiction books in the 1970s, which included Optimism One: The Emerging Radicalism and Are You a Transhuman? Monitoring and Stimulating Your Personal Rate of Growth in a Rapidly Changing World. FM-2030 died from pancreatic cancer in 2000, but in an effort to continue his life, his body was frozen and placed into cryonic suspension at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona

Olympic Bio of the Day – Jim Thorpe

Taken from the http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/th/jim-thorpe-1.html written by Bill Mallon


Olympic record
Track and Field Athletics.
1912 Stockholm
Pentathlon – Gold
Decathlon – Gold
High Jump – 4th
Long Jump – 7th

He was born “Wa-tho-huck”, a Sauk and Fox name meaning “Bright Path”, though his Christening certificate listed him as Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe. But he is known to the modern world simply as Jim Thorpe – possibly the greatest athlete of all time. He was born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma, near the town of Bellemont to Hiram P. Thorp, the son of Hiram G. Thorp, a trapper, and No-ten-o-quah, a member of the Thunder Clan of Chief Black Hawk of the Sauk and Fox Tribe. His mother was Charlotte Vieux, who had been brought up as a Potawatomi Indian, but she was the daughter of a Frenchman, and an Indian woman, Elizabeth Goslin, who had both Potawatomi and Kickapoo blood. Jim Thorpe was one of 11 children, and had a twin brother, who died when he was only eight.

In 1898, at age 11, Jim Thorpe was sent to the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, one of the two Indian schools that had been set up by the U.S. Government and Military, where he remained until 1904. In June 1904, Jim Thorpe entered the second Indian school, Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There he became a legend as both a football player and track & field athlete. Thorpe’s football career at Carlisle has been well documented. He is considered the greatest American football player pre-World War I. He primarily played running back, but apparently could do everything on the football field.

Less has been written of his track & field career. Thorpe was undefeated in the decathlon – he competed in only one, that being the 1912 Olympic decathlon. The first decathlons in the United States were the 1912 Olympic Trials, but Thorpe did not compete. There were only two entrants in the decathlon Eastern Olympic Trials, so Thorpe was added to the team based on the strength of his performance in the pentathlon trial the week previously. On 18 May, Thorpe had taken part in the pentathlon Olympic Trials. He won three of the five events and finished second in the other two to win the trials with a score of 7 pts.

In Stockholm he first won the pentathlon on 7 July, winning four of the five events and taking third in the javelin to win easily with only seven points. The next day he competed in the Olympic high jump, finishing equal fourth, and four days later, he took seventh in the long jump. On 13 July, he started the decathlon, in that year a three-day affair. His performance there is well-known as he set a world record which would have stood until 1926, had it not been struck from the books. The King of Sweden gave him his gold medals and told him, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

He returned to America and a hero’s welcome. On 2 September he competed in the AAU All-Around Championship, the early American forerunner of the decathlon, which he won, breaking Martin Sheridan’s world record in the process. He scored 7,476 points and won by over 3,000 points. His track & field career was over.

Jim Thorpe also played professional baseball. It has been written that he was a poor excuse for a major league player, but this is probably unwarranted denigration. He was no star, but he was an adequate major leaguer. In his final major league year, 1919, he batted .327 for 62 games. His career major league average was .252. But most of his early baseball career was spent in the minor leagues. He played for the Rocky Mount Railroaders in 1909-1910, pitching and playing the outfield. After the 1912 Olympics, he was signed by the New York Giants and began a 7-year major league career, playing 6 seasons with the Giants, some time with the Cincinnati Reds, and finishing one year with the Boston Braves in 1919. In 1920-22 he extended his career, playing Triple A ball in the three major Triple A leagues, with the Akron Buckeyes (International League), the Toledo Mud Hens (American Association), and the Portland Beavers (Pacific Coast League).

Jim Thorpe later played professional football, but by then he was definitely in the twilight of his athletic brilliance. When Thorpe starred for Carlisle on the gridiron, there was no true professional football league, although there were scattered barnstorming teams. While still playing major league baseball, Thorpe signed with one of them in 1915, the Canton Bulldogs. He was paid the then astronomical sum of $250.00 (US) per game. He played for the Bulldogs from 1915 through 1919 while they were still an independent team. By then he was 32 years old, but still the most feared runner in the game. On 20 August 1920, the National Football League (NFL) was established among four barnstorming professional teams from Ohio – Akron, Canton, Cleveland, and Dayton. Because of his name and prominence, Thorpe was appointed as the first president of the National Football League. Thorpe continued to play as well, since he was the biggest drawing card in the nascent league. Jim Thorpe played in the NFL from 1920-26 and again in 1928. How good was he as a football player? As did many other magazines, Football Digest produced an end of century special in June 1999, listing the Top 100 football players of all time. Thorpe was ranked 17th.

When his athletic career ended, Thorpe turned to Hollywood. He worked as an extra and stuntman in numerous movies, but never earned much money from his acting career. He later turned to drinking heavily, and he would eventually die, while living only in a trailer, far from auspicious surroundings for the one-time greatest athlete in the world.

In early 1913, it was revealed that Thorpe had played minor league baseball in the United States, as described above. For this he was retroactively declared a professional by the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) and the IOC and his records at the 1912 Olympics were declared void. He had to return his gold medals, and his Challenge Trophies. What is not so well known is that Thorpe should never have been disqualified in the first place.

Over the years numerous attempts were made to get the IOC to reverse the decision, mostly started by Thorpe’s children. Some efforts succeeded gradually. In 1973, the AAU restored Thorpe’s amateur status for the years 1909-1912. This was followed in 1975 by the United States Olympic Committee making a similar restoration.

In 1982, the Thorpe family, aided by Bob Wheeler, one of Thorpe’s biographers, and his wife, Florence Ridlon, succeeded in their long struggle to have Jim Thorpe’s medals restored by the International Olympic Committee. It was revealed in Sports Illustrated that a key factor in this decision was a discovery by Ridlon, who found a pamphlet in the Library of Congress which gave the rules and regulations for the 1912 Olympic Games. It stated that the statute of limitations for a claim against any Olympic athlete’s eligibility in 1912 had to have been made within 30 days after the awarding of the prizes. The announcement of Thorpe’s professional baseball career occurred in January 1913. Thus it was almost six months after the end of the Olympics and his disqualification was completely unwarranted.
On 27 February 1982, Wheeler and Ridlon founded The Jim Thorpe Foundation, expressly for the purpose of moving to have his medals and honors restored. On 13 October 1982, only eight months after the formation of The Jim Thorpe Foundation, but fully 70 years too late, the IOC Executive Board approved, in a sense, the restoration of Jim Thorpe’s medals, declaring him co-winner with Sweden’s Hugo Wieslander (decathlon) and Norway’s Ferdinand Bie (pentathlon). At a meeting of the IOC Executive Board, this time on 18 January 1983 in Los Angeles, commemorative medals were presented to Bill and Gail Thorpe, two of Thorpe’s children.

At least some closure had occurred. Finally, the IOC had seen and admitted what the world had always known. Jim Thorpe was the winner of the decathlon and the pentathlon at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, and despite all the century-ending polls to the contrary, still, over a 100 years later, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

Personal Bests: HJ – 1.956 (1912); LJ – 7.16 (1909); Dec – 6564 (1912).

Further details on his sporting career are available at Baseball-Reference.com and Pro-Foorball-Reference.com

A Few Sochi Records and Bests

  • Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR-BIA) won 2 medals to bring his Winter Olympic total to 13, a new all-time best, bettering the 12 won by his countryman, Bjørn Dæhlie (NOR-CCS). This also moved Bjørndalen to =4th all-time among all Olympians, =3rd all-time among male Olympians, trailing only – Michael Phelps (USA-SWI) (22); Larisa Latynina (URS-GYM) (18), and Nikolay Andrianov (URS-GYM) (15). Bjørndalen is tied with 13 with Borys Shakhlin (URS-GYM), Edoardo Mangiarrotti (ITA-FEN), and Takashi Ono (JPN-GYM).
  • Bjørndalen’s 2 medals in Sochi marked the 5th time he has won 2 or more medals at an Olympic Games (1998/2002/2006/2010/2014). He is only the second Olympian ever to do this, equalling the mark of German canoeing legend Birgit Fischer-Schmidt, who did it in 1988/1992/1996/2000/2004.
  • Marit Bjørgen (NOR-CCS) won 3 gold medals in Sochi, to bring her total for Olympic medals to 10, after 5 in Vancouver, and lone silvers in 2002 and 2006. Her 10 Winter Olympic medals ties her for first among women at the Winter Olympics, with Stefania Belmondo (ITA-CCS) and Raisa Smetanina (EUN/URS-CCS).
  • Victor Ahn won 4 medals in Sochi, making him only the 3rd Winter Olympian to win 4 medals at 2 or more Olympics (2006/14); the others were Lyubov Yegorova (1992-94) and Bjørn Dæhlie (1992-94-98). This has been done 26 times at the Summer Olympics, including 3 times by Larisa Latynina (1956-60-64) and Michael Phelps (2004-08-12). It has almost always been achieved by gymnasts (15) and swimmers (8), but once by an archer (Hubert Van Innis [1900/20]), once by a shooter (Carl Osburn [1912-20]), and once by an athlete (Paavo Nurmi [1920-24]). Ahn is only the second Olympian to have done this non-consecutively after Hubert Van Innis, as noted above.
  • Ahn’s 4 Olympic medals in short-track speed skating is only the 2nd time this has been accomplished at one Winter Olympics. The other time was also by Ahn, as An Hyeon-Su in 2006, representing Korea.
  • Sven Kramer (NED-SSK) won 3 medals in Sochi, after winning 2 in Torino and Vancouver, giving him a total of 7 Olympic medals in speed skating. This equals the all-time record for speed skating medals won by a male, held by Clas Thunberg (FIN) and Ivar Ballangrud (NOR), but its been a long-time as Thunberg finished his Olympic career in 1928 and Ballangrud in 1936.
  • The all-time Olympic speed skating record, male or female, is 9 by Germany’s Claudia Pechstein, who competed in Sochi but did not medal. Three women have now won 8 speed skating medals, including Ireen Wüst (NED), who won 5 medals in Sochi to bring her total to 8, and equal the marks of Karin Enke-Kania (GDR) and Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann-Kleemann (GER).
  • Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser (CAN-ICH) played on the gold medal winning women’s ice hockey team for Canada. This was the 5th consecutive Olympics at which these two have helped Canada win a medal – with 4 golds from 2002-14, after a silver medal in 1998. Their 5 medals in a team sport equals the all-time Olympic record held by Teresa Edwards (USA-BAS) (5/401) and Dezső Gyarmati (HUN-WAP) (5/311).
  • Hefford and Wickenheiser were joined by Caroline Ouellette in Sochi, and the three have now won 4 gold medals in women’s ice hockey. This equals the all-time Olympic record for gold medals won in a team sport, held by USA basketball players Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie.
  • Ouellette became the first Winter Olympian to win 4 or more gold medals, while never losing an event (info courtesy Nick Zaccardi of NBCOlympicTalk). This has been done 19 times at the Summer Olympics, led by Ray Ewry (USA-ATH), with 10, or 8 if you elect not to count 1906 (which is wrong). Kristin Otto (GDR-SWI) won 6 gold medals with no losses. Two athletes won 5 golds while going undefeated – American shooter Bud Fisher and Russian synchro swimmer Anastasiya Davydova.
  • Bode Miller won a bronze medal in Sochi in Alpine skiing, giving him 6 all-time. This moves him to =2nd all-time among Olympic Alpine skiiers, trailing the 8 medals won by Norway’s Kjetil André Aamodt. Miller is tied with 2 women – Croatian Janica Kostelić and Swede Anja Pärson.
  • Three freestyle skiiers won their second Olympic medal in that sport, to move to =2nd all-time on the Olympic freestyle skiing lists – Alexandre Bilodeau (CAN), Lydia Ierodiaconu-Lassila (AUS), and Hannah Kearney (USA). They trail Norway’s Kari Traa, the only freestyler to win 3 medals in the sport at the Olympics.
  • With the addition of the team trophy, 11 figure skaters won 2 medals in Sochi, something that had only been done once before at the Winter Olympics, in 1936 by German Ernst Baier in singles and pairs. It was also done in 1908 by Britain’s Madge Syers in singles and pairs, when the sport was contested at the Summer Olympics. The 11 figure skaters were as follows: Tetiana Volosozhar (RUS), Maksim Trankov (RUS), Kseniya Stolbova (RUS), Fyodor Klimov (RUS), Yelena Ilyinykh (RUS), Nikita Katsalapov (RUS), Charlie White (USA), Meryl Davis (USA), Patrick Chan (CAN), Scott Moir (CAN), and Tessa Virtue (CAN).
  • Armin Zöggeler (ITA) won his sixth medal in Olympic luge, all in singles. He became the 1st Winter Olympian to win medals in 6 Olympics, and only the 6th person overall. The other Summer Olympians were: Birgit Fischer-Schmidt (GDR/GER-CAN), Aladár Gerevich (HUN-FEN), Anky van Grunsven (NED-EQU), Elisabeta Oleniuc-Lipă (ROU-ROW), and Hans Günter Winkler (FRG/GER-EQU). However, Zöggeler joined Gerevich and Winkler as the only Olympians to do this in the same event – Gerevich in team sabre, and Winkler in team show jumping. Zöggeler is the 1st Olympian, Winter or Summer, to win 6 medals in the same individual Olympic event.
  • Aleksandr Tretyakov (RUS) and Martins Dukurs (LAT) won medals in skeleton in Sochi, after also doing so in Vancouver. Their 2 medals in this sport equals the Olympic best for skeleton held by Jack Heaton (USA-1928/48) and Gregor Stähli (SUI-2002/06).
  • Kelly Clark (USA) won her third medal in snowboarding halfpipe, making her the first Olympic snowboarder to win 3 Olympic medals.
  • Vic Wild (RUS) and Žan Košir (SLO) won medals in parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom, with Wild winning gold medals in both events. This made them the first snowboarders to win 2 medals at one Winter Olympics and Wild the first to win 2 gold medals at one Winter Olympics.
  • In biathlon Darya Domracheva (BLR) won 3 gold medals in Sochi, the first female biathlete to win 3 gold medals at a single Winter Olympics. Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff, both Norwegian biathletes, won 3 medals, and with Domracheva, the three of them equalled the record for women with 3 biathlon medals at one Winter Olympics, held previously by 7 other women.
  • Russian bobsledders Aleksandr Zubkov and Aleksey Voyevoda won gold medals in both 2- and 4-man in Sochi. This is the best you can do in Olympic bobsledding at one Games, with Zubkov and Voyevoda becoming the 11th and 12th sliders to accomplish this.
  • With the new event of luge mixed team relay, 7 luge sliders equalled the record with 2 Olympic medals at one Games. This had been performed 5 times previously, from 1968-76, always with a double in men’s singles and doubles. One woman, German Natalie Geisenberger, became the first female to accomplish this. Four German sliders became the first to win 2 gold medals at one Winter Olympics – Geisenberger, Felix Loch, Tobias Arlt, and Tobias Wendl. The other double medalists in luge in Sochi were Russian Albert Demchenko, and Latvians Andris Šics and Juris Šics.
  • Ireen Wüst (NED) became the 5th Winter Olympic speed skater, and 2nd female, to win 5 medals at one Olympics. This had previously been done by Clas Thunberg (FIN-1924), Roald Larsen (NOR-1924), Eric Heiden (USA-1980), and the one female, Cindy Klaasen (CAN-2006).
  • Albert Demchenko (EUN/RUS-LUG) and Noriaki Kasai (JPN-SKJ) both competed in their 7th Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, setting an all-time record for most appearances at the Winter Olympics. Both competed consecutively from 1992-2014.
  • Claudia Pechstein (GDR/GER-SSK) competed in her 6th Winter Olympics in Sochi, equalling the female record for Winter Olympic appearances, held now by Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi-Hämäläinen (FIN-CCS) (1976-1994), Emese Nemeth-Hunyady (AUT/HUN-SSK) (1984-2002), Gerda Weissensteiner (ITA-BOB/LUG) (1988-2006), Anna Orlova (LAT-LUG) (1992-2010), and Pechstein (1992-2014). Of those, Pechstein is the only one whose appearances were not consecutive, as she did not compete in 2010 because of a doping controversy.
  • Nine men also competed in their 6th Winter Olympics in Sochi, equalling the previous record. They were: Hubertus von Fürstenberg-von Hohenlohe (MEX-ASK) (1984-2014), Teemu Selänne (FIN-ICH) (1992-2014), Janne Ahonen (FIN-SKJ) (1994-2014), Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR-BIA/CCS) (1994-2014), Sergey Dolidovich (BLR-CCS) (1994-2014), Lee Gyu-Hyeok (KOR-SSK) (1994-2014), Todd Lodwick (USA-NCO) (1994-2014), Mario Stecher (AUT-NCO) (1994-2014), and Armin Zöggeler (ITA-LUG) (1994-2014).
  • Hubertus von Fürstenberg-von Hohenlohe’s appearance in Alpine skiing in Sochi was 30 years after his first Winter Olympic appearance at Sarajevo in 1984. This set an all-time record for span of appearances at the Winter Olympics, breaking his own mark of 26 set in 2010, which he co-held with Costa Rican skiier Arturo Kinch (1980-2006).
  • Claudia Pechstein’s appearance in speed skating in Sochi came 22 years after her first Winter Olympic in Albertville in1992. This set an all-time record for span of appearances at the Winter Olympics by a woman, bettering the previous mark of 18, held by 7 women. The mark was also bettered in Sochi by Japanese speed skater Maki Tabata and French/Hungarian Alpine/freestyle skiier Ophélie David. Both first competed in 1994, making their span of appearances 20 years. David competed in Alpine skiing for Hungary in 1994 and returned in 2010-14 as a freestyler for France.
  • Ophélie David’s gap of 16 years between appearances (1994/2010) was the record for longest gap between appearances by a woman at the Winter Olympics. It was equalled at Sochi by American curler Erika Brown (1998/2014) and Japanese ice hockey player Yoko Kondo (1998/2014).
  • The Winter Olympic men’s record for largest gap between appearances was 20 by American Jack Heaton, bobsledder/skeleton slider, who competed in 1928 and then not again until 1948. This record was equalled in Sochi by Czech Republic ice hockey player Petr Nedvěd, who first competed in 1994, but then for his adopted country of Canada.

Here are the top individual medal winners from Sochi, listing all those with 3 or more medals, females listed first:



Ireen Wüst (NED-SSK),2,3,-,5

Marit Bjørgen (NOR-CCS),3,-,-,3

Darya Domracheva (BLR-BIA),3,-,-,3

Park Seung-Hui (KOR-STK),2,-,1,3

Charlotte Kalla (SWE-CCS),1,2,-,3

Tora Berger (NOR-BIA),1,1,1,3

Shim Seok-Hui (KOR-STK),1,1,1,3

Tiril Eckhoff (NOR-BIA),1,-,2,3

Arianna Fontana (ITA-STK),-,1,2,3

Victor Ahn (RUS-STK),3,-,1,4

Sven Kramer (NED-SSK),2,1,-,3

Martin Fourcade (FRA-BIA),2,1,-,3

Maksim Vylegzhanin (RUS-CCS),-,3,-,3

Ondřej Moravec (CZE-BIA),-,2,1,3


And here are all those who won 2 or more gold medals in Sochi:



Victor Ahn (RUS-STK),3

Marit Bjørgen (NOR-CCS),3

Darya Domracheva (BLR-BIA),3

Ireen Wüst (NED-SSK),2

Sven Kramer (NED-SSK),2

Martin Fourcade (FRA-BIA),2

Park Seung-Hui (KOR-STK),2

Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR-BIA),2

Aleksandr Zubkov (RUS-BOB),2

Tina Maze (SLO-ASK),2

Kamil Stoch (POL-SKJ),2

Tetiana Volosozhar (RUS-FSK),2

Aleksey Voyevoda (RUS-BOB),2

Emil Hegle Svendsen (NOR-BIA),2

Dario Cologna (SUI-CCS),2

Maksim Trankov (RUS-FSK),2

Felix Loch (GER-LUG),2

Natalie Geisenberger (GER-LUG),2

Jorien ter Mors (NED-SSK),2

Tobias Arlt (GER-LUG),2

Tobias Wendl (GER-LUG),2

Jørgen Graabak (NOR-NCO),2

Vic Wild (RUS-SNB),2


And here are all those who won 2 or more medals in individual events, led by Dutch speedskater Ireen Wüst. Again, women given first, followed by the men:



Ireen Wüst (NED-SSK),1,3,-,4

Darya Domracheva (BLR-BIA),3,-,-,3

Marit Bjørgen (NOR-CCS),2,-,-,2

Tina Maze (SLO-ASK),2,-,-,2

Park Seung-Hui (KOR-STK),1,-,1,2

Martina Sáblíková (CZE-SSK),1,1,-,2

Anna Fenninger (AUT-ASK),1,1,-,2

Maria Riesch (GER-ASK),1,1,-,2

Charlotte Kalla (SWE-CCS),-,2,-,2

Shim Seok-Hui (KOR-STK),-,1,1,2

Arianna Fontana (ITA-STK),-,1,1,2

Nicole Hosp (AUT-ASK),-,1,1,2

Therese Johaug (NOR-CCS),-,1,1,2

Margot Boer (NED-SSK),-,-,2,2

Victor Ahn (RUS-STK),2,-,1,3

Martin Fourcade (FRA-BIA),2,1,-,3

Kamil Stoch (POL-SKJ),2,-,-,2

Dario Cologna (SUI-CCS),2,-,-,2

Vic Wild (RUS-SNB),2,-,-,2

Sven Kramer (NED-SSK),1,1,-,2

Kjetil Jansrud (NOR-ASK),1,-,1,2

Jorrit Bergsma (NED-SSK),1,-,1,2

Michel Mulder (NED-SSK),1,-,1,2

Ondřej Moravec (CZE-BIA),-,1,1,2

Denny Morrison (CAN-SSK),-,1,1,2

Christof Innerhofer (ITA-ASK),-,1,1,2

Peter Prevc (SLO-SKJ),-,1,1,2

Žan Košir (SLO-SNB),-,1,1,2