Jim Thorpe petition drive starts to restore his status as sole winner of 1912 Olympic gold medals

Jim Thorpe petition drive starts to restore his status as sole winner of 1912 Olympic gold medals
Jenni Carlson
The Oklahoman

Published 12:51 AM EDT Jul 16, 2020

One hundred and eight years ago, Jim Thorpe shattered Olympic records in the decathlon and pentathlon.

Now, a group is pushing the International Olympic Committee to restore his status as the sole gold medalist in both events.

A petition drive started Wednesday, launched by Pictureworks Entertainment in partnership with several Native American tribes, the National Congress of American Indians and several of Thorpe’s descendants.  Pictureworks is producing an upcoming feature film about Thorpe’s life, “Bright Path.”

Thorpe, who was born in Oklahoma and was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, went to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm as part of the U.S. contingent, even though Native Americans such as him weren’t recognized as U.S. citizens at the time. He won gold in the pentathlon, placing first in four of the five events, then he replicated his domination in the decathlon.

Thorpe placed in the top four of all 10 events, scoring 8,413 points and winning by 688 points. His point total would stand as an Olympic record for almost two decades.

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But in 1913, the International Olympic Committee stripped Thorpe of his gold medals after it was discovered he’d been paid to play minor league baseball before the 1912 Games. IOC rules at the time barred any Olympian from any kind of pay for play. 

IOC rules also said reviews had to come within 30 days of the competition; the complaint against Thorpe was filed six months after the Games ended.

In 1983, the IOC reinstated Thorpe’s gold medals and gave duplicates to his children –Thorpe died 30 years earlier — but the IOC designated him a co-gold medalist in both events.

The petition drive now under way calls for the IOC to restore Thorpe’s status as the sole gold medalist in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon.

“This petition is an effort to gather over one million names and voices united in support of Jim and American athletic excellence and Native American resilience,” Pictureworks Entertainment executive producer Nedra Darling said in a statement. “In a time where Americans, and arguably people all around the world are confronting their long-held discriminatory beliefs and behaviors, this is a tremendous opportunity for the IOC to get on the right side of history.”

Follow The Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson on Twitter @JenniCarlson_OK.

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