SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
July 18, 1983
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July 18, 1983


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The Jim Thorpe saga had an apparently happy ending last fall when the International Olympic Committee voted to restore his amateur status and his name to the Olympic record books (SI, Oct. 25). The IOC's decision appeared to clear the way for Thorpe to be listed as the rightful winner of the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Games in Stockholm, events he'd won at the time, only to be stripped of his gold medals when it was discovered later that he'd accepted small sums of money for playing baseball in 1909 and 1910. Last January Thorpe's heirs were presented with duplicate gold medals in Los Angeles by IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who hailed the "historic which Jim Thorpe was reinstated as winner of the pentathlon and decathlon events of the Fifth Olympiad."

But Thorpe's reinstatement wasn't quite as complete as it seemed. In a curious hedge, Samaranch has decided to list Thorpe only as "co-winner" with Hugo Wieslander (decathlon) and Ferdinand Bie (pentathlon), the athletes who placed second in their respective events to Thorpe and who received his gold medals upon his disqualification. Samaranch argues that too much time has passed to designate Thorpe as the sole winner, a contention that angers, among others, Robert W. Wheeler, who through his Jim Thorpe Foundation lobbied for the return of Thorpe's medals. Noting that the passage of time "had been their argument all along for not restoring his medal status," Wheeler says, "Now that the medals have been restored, why shouldn't he be listed as the sole winner?"

Why, indeed? Surely the IOC, having gone this far, should take the final logical step and recognize Thorpe as the winner of the two events. Samaranch needn't be worried about a little revisionism—it goes on all the time. In 1974 a Norwegian journalist named Jakob Vaage was noodling over the ski-jumping scores from the 1924 Winter Olympics at Chamonix, France and discovered that a countryman, the late Thorleif Haug, didn't deserve the bronze medal he'd received; his scores had been added incorrectly, and the actual third-place finisher was an American, Anders Haugen. Vaage went public with his discovery, and Haugen was presented with the bronze by Haug's daughter in a special ceremony.

That gesture by Haug's daughter was in the best sporting tradition. It can be assumed, similarly, that Bie and Wieslander wouldn't have wanted to be listed as "co-winners." Research by Olympic historians Bill Mallon of Durham, N.C. and Andy Strenk, a professor at USC, indicates that after Thorpe's disqualification, the two athletes had been very reluctant to accept the gold medals. Bie and Wieslander aren't alive to speak for themselves, but we do have the views of G�sta Holm�r of Sweden, who died earlier this year at the age of 91. Holm�r finished fourth in the decathlon and was awarded the bronze when Thorpe was disqualified, but he said he would have given up his medal if it meant justice would be done to Thorpe.

The IOC has also corrected itself in the case of Ingemar Johansson, who was disqualified for lack of aggressiveness in the heavyweight championship bout in the 1952 Olympics against Ed Sanders of the U.S. The loser in an Olympic title fight ordinarily gets the silver medal, but the IOC and the AIBA, the international boxing federation, decided that no silver in this case be awarded. But in May 1982, calling that decision a "mistake," the IOC presented the Swedish fighter with the silver medal after all.

Samaranch has so far refused to budge from his refusal to designate Thorpe as the winner of the 1912 decathlon and pentathlon. The wish here is that he reconsider and remove the last residue of tarnish from Thorpe's gold medals.

We're happy to report that Oklahoma Basketball Coach Billy Tubbs, who suffered a skull fracture last February when he was hit by a car while jogging, is recovering nicely. Tubbs has gained back the 18 pounds he lost after the accident, has resumed jogging and held a press conference a while back at which he claimed that the car that hit him had been guilty of "charging." The good-humored Tubbs has also let it be known that he'd like to get one of the T shirts that have been seen on the campus of rival Oklahoma State. They have the words I JOG WITH COACH TUBBS on the front and tire tracks on the back.


Several members of the Bengals were among the 100 golfers who competed in a long-driving contest during a recent charity outing at the Jack Nicklaus Sports Center in Kings Island, Ohio. As you might have guessed, one of the football players won. What you probably couldn't have guessed is the winner's identity. It wasn't 6'6", 278-pound Tackle Anthony Munoz, nor was it 6'3", 237-pound Linebacker Tom Dinkel, nor was it 6'5", 192-pound Wide Receiver Cris Collinsworth, nor was it 6'5", 265-pound Guard Dave Lapham, all of whom participated. The victor, with a drive of better than 280 yards, was Placekicker Jim Breech, who's all of 5'6" and 160 pounds.

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