2012 Bison Books paperback edition

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Countdown to Thorpe Olympic Centennial

U.S. Olympic team onboard the S.S. Finland, bound for Stockholm, 1912

Don't they look sharp, dressed in blazers and boaters, waving their American flags? New York City saw the country's Olympic team off here in style on June 14, 1912 for the trip across the Atlantic to Stockholm. 
     The press dubbed the athletes "America's Argonauts," an homage to the Greek myth of Jason in quest of the Golden Fleece. Of course America was going to beat everybody at the Fifth Olympiad and bring home the most gold medals (real gold for the last time). Of course, said Jim Thorpe to himself, he was going to win the five-event pentathlon AND the ten-event decathlon. He knew it. He was ready.
     I can't pick him out in this crowd on the ship's deck, but he's there. He's already visualizing in his head each of the events he'll have to perform. He's already working out the point balance between the feats he knows he's really good at -- the hurdles and the 1,500-meter race, and the others he's barely done -- the pole vault, the javelin, the discus, the shot put. 
     People would later claim he never practiced, but he did. For real and in his head. He was in the best condition of his life and he didn't want to get stale, as he put it. He had to stay confident, secure within himself. He had to tune out the energies and egos of all these other athletes, clamoring on the deck of the S.S Finland
     Some of the other American athletes, college men mostly, would notice on this trip across the ocean that Thorpe didn't wear any rings or a watch. He didn't even carry a wallet. No extra baggage. Many of the other athletes were jumpy, nervous. Jim wasn't. He was strangely calm.