Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Abel Kiviat, Olympian

September 1, 2020
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

Restore Jim Thorpe’s Records

July 16, 2020

Thanks in great part to Florence Ridlon’s and Bob Wheeler’s tireless efforts, Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medals were restored in 1983. That isn’t entirely accurate. Thorpe’s original medals were supposed to be kept secure in a museum but were stolen. So, the medals his children were given were commemorative ones, not their father’s actual medals. The IOC may have restored his medals, sort of, but only listed him as co-champion of the 1912 decathlon and pentathlon, the two multi-event competitions he won but his times, distances and points were not restored. The IOC records still list the second-place finishers as the winning marks. Now, people are trying to do something about that injustice.

BrightPathStrong.com is circulating a petition with the goal of restoring Jim Thorpe’s records. For those who might not be aware, Bright Path is the Anglicized version of Jim’s Sac and Fox name. Here is a link to their site:

https://brightpathstrong.com/petition

Thorpe Lost Olympic Medals 100 Years Ago

January 29, 2013

Last Thursday, Carlisle Sentinel reporter Joe Cress called to remind me that the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Jim Thorpe’s professionalism was imminent. Joe was essentially right. In late-January 1913, Roy Johnson of the Worcester Telegram, wrote an article challenging Jim Thorpe’s amateur status, based on a conversation he had with Charles C. A. Clancy, manager of the Winston-Salem baseball team of the Carolina League. According to Johnson’s article, Clancy claimed that he paid Thorpe to pitch and play first base for his team during the 1910 season. On January 19, 1913, charges claiming Thorpe was not an amateur were filed with the AAU. On January 23, an interview of Clancy was published in which he denied that Thorpe played for his team or on any other team in the Carolina Association. On January 25, Pop Warner restated Clancy’s position that Thorpe had not played for his team. That same day, the AP reported that Thorpe was negotiating a contract with the Tecumseh professional hockey team to play for them the next season.

An International News Service article dated January 25, 1913 included a claim by Peter Boyle stating that he played with Jim Thorpe in the Eastern Carolina Association. He also claimed that he was traded to the Rocky Mountain team in 1910 for Thorpe who was then playing for Fayetteville. On January 27, the AAU informed newspapers via telegram that “All doubt as to the truth of the charges has vanished and the members of the American Olympic Committee are prepared to make their apologies to the Swedes for having used Thorpe in the Olympic games.” Shortly after that, Thorpe sent the AAU a letter (probably written by Warner) admitting his “professionalism” and returned his gold medals and other trophies.

Soon after this, Thorpe signed with the New York Giants but that is a story in itself.

http://cumberlink.com/news/local/history/thorpe-admitted-to-professionalism-years-ago/article_22e2ec04-6903-11e2-a4b1-0019bb2963f4.html

Today’s Event at the National Museum of the American Indian

August 17, 2012

Several decades ago, Robert W. Wheeler then a grad student at Syracuse hitchhiked coast to coast carrying an incredibly heavy reel-to-reel tape recorder to interview acquaintances of Jim Thorpe for his master’s thesis. The project grew as the miles rolled on. His budget, however, didn’t grow. But Bob persevered.

Years—it probably felt like decades—later, he had not just a master’s thesis but a full length biography of the world’s greatest athlete. After reading the book, Dick Schaap referred to Bob as Jim Thorpe’s Boswell, drawing an analogy to the thoroughness of his research in comparison to that done by James Boswell in documenting the life of Samuel Johnson. Since Wheeler’s book was first published, several other biographies of Thorpe have been written but they all draw on the painstaking work done by Wheeler.

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is celebrating of the 100th anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s triumphs in the Stockholm Games along with other Native Americans’ participation, many for medals, in the Olympics. The entrance to the exhibit features a blown up photograph of Carlisle Indian Frank Mt. Pleasant broad jumping in his Dickinson College track uniform. Here is a link to information about the exhibit: http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/504/

Today, Bob Wheeler is giving a talk at the NMAI that I will be attending. Those unable to attend can hear Bob speak on the NMAI’s webcast of the event. Here is a link to the webcast: http://nmai.si.edu/calendar/?trumbaEmbed=date%3D20120817 Also speaking will be Flo Ridlon, Bob’s wife, who played a crucial role in getting Thorpe’s Olympic medals restored. Both are spellbinding speakers. This is an event not to miss.

Native Americans in 1904 Olympics – Part I

July 16, 2008

News outlets are now getting interested in Native Americans’ participation in past Olympics, so I should share a little of that history in case the media should overlook important contributions. Everyone knows about the incomparable Jim Thorpe’s triumphs in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, but Native Americans were involved much earlier than that. There was too much earlier involvement to cover in one message, so I’ll break this topic into installments beginning with the 1904 games held in St. Louis as part of the World’s Fair (more properly called the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition). Pairing the Olympic Games with a world’s fair was not unusual at the time because the 1900 games were co-located with the Paris World’s Fair. Including events that we moderns wouldn’t consider appropriate as Olympic events wasn’t unusual either.

The 1904 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, conducted what must have been the most bizarre athletic contest ever. Some 3,000 native people from around the globe were brought to the fair for the Anthropology Exhibit. These people lived on the fair’s ground in traditional dwellings and wore traditional attire. Finding appropriate food for them presented a bit of a problem. Legend has it that the neighborhood known as Dogtown got its name as being the place Igorots captured a favorite meat. Included in the Anthropology Exhibit were a number of Native Americans who represented several tribes. Adjacent to their tipis was the Model Government Indian School which was populated by Chilocco Indian School students and faculty. Having all these different “primitive” ethnic groups at their disposal was just too tempting for Fair and Olympic organizers.

On August 12 and 13 Ethnology Days were held. The Indian School Journal, which was printed in the Model School, had this to say about those games:

Our Indians Easy Winners

 The athletic games held yesterday for members of the various races in the Anthropology Exhibit furnished one of the most unique entertainments imaginable. A remarkable collection of peoples were gathered together in the Stadium to vie with one another in contests of speed and endurance. There were wild-eyed Ainus, heavy-bearded and gorgeously clad; great, tall lumbering Patagonians; stockily built Moros; slender, tawny-skinned Syrians; long-haired Cocopas, wild and savage of aspect; and last but by no means least, pupils of the Indian School, clad in the conventional athletic habiliments of the white man.

And the winners were:

100-yd dash – 1. George Mentz (Sioux)

120-yd low hurdles – 1. Leon Poitre (Chippewa), 2. George mentz

High jump – 1. George Ments, 2. Black Whitebear

440-yd run – 1. George Mentz, 2. Simon Marques (Pueblo)

Mile run – 1. Black Whitebear

Baseball throw – 2. Frank Moore (Pawnee)

Lone Star Dietz qualified for the finals in the shot put, but apparently did not win the event.

Prizes of $50 or more were given to the winners. Apparently, the Indians did not participate in the mud-throwing and pole climbing events. From the results of these events, AAU Secretary James E. Sullivan, concluded that the results “prove conclusively that the savage is not the natural athlete we have been led to believe.”

The distance-running Pierce brothers and the 1904 Olympics next time.

Ainu at 1904 St. Louis World's Fair

Ainu at 1904 St. Louis World's Fair