Jim Thorpe

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“As the monarch placed the medal around Thorpe's neck this time, he declared the young man to be "the greatest athlete in the world”." (Smith, Jane R., 1997, p. 34). Throughout the history of sports, there have been a select few athletes which can be considered the greatest athlete of all time. Each sport has memorable characters, but only a handful would be in consideration for such an honor. Ask someone on a corner who the best basketball player ever is and you will likely get a response of Michael Jordan. He was good because he could play baseball at a high level too. Talk to someone about hockey, the name Wayne Gretzky may pop up. As good as he was at hockey; there is a slim chance he could succeed at another sport. Bo Jackson is a name that should always be in the top three in this category. He was an All Pro NFL running back and an amazing outfielder in Major League Baseball, but injuries cut his career short. There will always be an argument for many different players, but there is one person that can back up the title world’s greatest athlete and be able to back it with his resume. On top of being a stellar athlete, he was a national champion ballroom dancer. This man can be responsible for the term “superstar”. There has never been any athlete as dominant in everything he did as Jim Thorpe. “Here and there, there are some people who are supremely endowed. My memory goes back to Jim Thorpe. He never practiced in his life, and he could do anything better than any other football player I ever saw.” (Botelho, Greg. Roller-coaster life of Indian icon, sports' first star, CNN.com, July 14, 2004, accessed April 23, 2007.) The start of this storied career began at the Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, a school that was chosen not because of the great academics, but the outstanding varsity football program they had. News of Jim’s father’s death was received shortly after he was enrolled, so the university granted him leave from his studies, so he could go and work on nearby farms. The news tore Jim to shreds, just as the news of his twin brother and mother passing did. Jim finally was able to return to school in 1907 and return to the football program. Being that Jim was undersized for the sport, he was unable to play with the other kids his age. Instead he tried out for an intramural team and became a starting guard. One day while walking by the track field, Jim noticed the students attempting the high jump. He watched as they cleared one height after another, until they reached a height no one could clear. After asking for permission to attempt, amidst snickers from his classmates, Jim cleared the school record with ease, wearing tennis shoes and overalls. The year after the Olympic Games had commenced, Jim and the Carlisle football program has its most outstanding season yet, recording another one loss season in which Jim led the team as a kicker, punter, and quarterback. Jim did not gain his greatest fame from football, baseball, lacrosse or even his 1912 National Ballroom Dancing Championship. During the 1912 Olympics, Track and Field brought Thorpe to his greatest fame.. In 1909, after Jim’s enrollment expired at Carlisle, Jim took a trip to North Carolina to try out for a semi pro baseball team. For the next two years, Jim would travel to North Carolina to play baseball. In 1911, Jim’s old football coach Glenn “Pop “ Warner, suggested that Jim head back to Carlisle to start training for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Upon his return to Carlisle, the football team enjoyed a phenomenal season, only losing once, beating powerhouse National Champion Harvard in the process. That spring Jim began to train for the Olympics, which he qualified for both the pentathlon and the decathlon. In the pentathlon Jim finished first in four out of five events, and set a total points record in the decathlon. The records that Jim had set in the Olympic Games would remain untouched for almost two decades. After the performance Thorpe...
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