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Jim Thorpe's Medals Finally Reinstated, World Just a Bit Brighter Now

A great wrong has been righted, even if it's absurdly late.

Nearly 110 years after being stripped of those gold medals for violations of strict amateurism rules of the time, Jim Thorpe has finally been reinstated as the sole winner of the 1912 Gold Medal Winner in decathlon and pentathlon.

The International Olympic committee only took over a century, but at least this god-awful mistake has been made right. The committee announced it on Friday, which was the 110th anniversary of Thorpe winning gold in both events. Those Olympics were held in Sweden.

Thorpe, who was Native American, returned home to America as a hero and even had a parade waiting for him in New York. Months later, it was discovered that Thorpe had been paid to play minor league baseball, which was an infringement on the Olympic amateurism rules. This led to Thorpe being stripped of his medals. Over the years, this has been historically seen as a move made under racist conditions, something not hard to believe in 1912 (or 2022 for that matter.)

History Changes, Domination Doesn't

Thorpe's given name was "Wa-Tho-Huk" and it means “Bright Path.” The reasons for his disqualification are all mired in inaccuracies, with the subtext being that racism played a role in stripping him of his medals. It was discovered that the IOC did not even follow its own guideline rules for disqualification, as they would have needed to file these claims in 30 days and not 6 months after the fact. It's also worth noting that Hugo Wieslander, the man who then became the gold medal winner in the decathlon, never accepted his Olympic gold medal. He always felt Thorpe was the rightful winner regardless of the circumstances. Thorpe's victories are more phenomenal when you consider that Thorpe did not just win these events, as AP describes, "Thorpe tripled the score of his nearest competitor in the pentathlon and had 688 more points than the second-place finisher in the decathlon." King Gustav V declared Thorpe “the greatest athlete in the world.”

That's utter domination.

Advocates Efforts Finally Pay Off

Bright Path Strong is a group that for years had been dedicated to advocating for Native Americans. Their website describes themselves as such.

"Bright Path Strong was created to share and amplify authentic Native American voices and stories, past and present. Representation matters, and it’s time we shine a light on our real history, our people, and our resilience — in our own words."

Bright Path Strong's co-founder, Nedra Darling, showed support for Friday's changes.

"We are so grateful this nearly 110-year-old injustice has finally been corrected, and there is no confusion about the most remarkable athlete in history."

Last Thoughts

Thorpe's legacy would have lived on regardless of whether this wrong was made right, but when we review history, the technicalities, however arbitrary and trivial they made seem, matter. How we honor people who have long since passed also matters. We must not let the voices of those who believe that writing our wrongs changes history, though. We must fix those mistakes and then learn from them.

Jim Thorpe's legacy has at least been fixed.