Abel Kiviat, Olympian

Abel Kiviat

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Benjamin and his father Jack at Wardecker’s Menswear and Jim Thorpe Museum in Carlisle. Jeff is a high school history teacher, a runner, and Senior Writer For The Running Network. His research topic is Abel Kiviat (6/23/1892-8/24/1991), the Hebrew runner as he was referred to in his day. Why might you ask was someone interested in a person with no direct ties to Carlisle, the Indian School, Dickinson College, the US Army War College or Carlisle Barracks come to Wardecker’s? Kiviat was Jim Thorpe’s roommate aboard the SS Finland on the voyage to Stockholm to compete in the 1912 Olympics.

 Kiviat was a distance runner, as was his teammate on the ship, Carlisle’s Lewis Tewanima but they didn’t compete against each other in the Olympics. Kiviat came in second in the 1500 meter race to Britain’s Arnold Jackson, who broke Kiviat’s world record to win the gold medal. Kiviat also competed in the 3000 meter team event in which each country competing entered five runners as a team. Kiviat, coming in second overall, led the American contingent to a gold medal in the event.

Abel Kiviat had another tie to Carlisle. He trained with and competed for the Irish-American Athletic Club out of New York City. While preparing for the 1908 Olympics, Carlisle’s Frank Mt. Pleasant, who had no Irish ancestry either, had also trained with the Irish-American Athletic Club.

L-to-R. Jack Benjamin, Freddie Wardecker, Jeff Benjamin

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