This year is the 100th anniversary of the 1912 Olympic Games that were held in Stockholm, Sweden. What makes that important to us is the participation of two Carlisle Indians: Jim Thorpe and Lewis Tewanima. Writers across the country and even from England are working on articles about these games and the two men who starred in those games. The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC is even opening an exhibit concerning American Indians’ participation in the Olympics on May 24. As a result, experts such as Bob Wheeler are being interviewed by various reporters and other writers. Even I am being asked to verify details.
The other day, I got a phone call from someone about a detail about which I had never given any thought: exactly when was the decathlon competed in the 1912 Olympics? Fortunately, with the use of the Internet, the answer could readily be found. The 1912 Decathlon was competed over three days. On the first day, July 13, the 100 meters, long jump, and shot put were held. The second day, July 14, hosted four events: 400 meters, high jump, discus throw, and 110 meter hurdles. On the third day, July 15, were the pole vault, javelin throw, and 1,500 meters.
Something that I find interesting is that Jim Thorpe tied for third in the pole vault, an event for which his physique was not well suited. Pole vaulters tend to be wiry, something that Thorpe wasn’t. Yes, he had tremendous upper body strength, but that was offset by his overall body mass as muscle is heavy. His great leg strength and running speed probably made up for his weight as he cleared 3.25 meters (10 feet 7.95 inches) in those pre-fiberglass pole days.
The decathlon was a battle of endurance as much as anything. Of the 29 athletes who started the event on the first day, only 12 finished all 10 events. Among the non-finishers was Avery Brundage. After finishing 10th in the pole vault, Brundage dropped out without competing in the javelin or 1,500 meters. Even at that, he is listed as placing 16th in the decathlon.