Gold Taken, Money Makin’

This is a picture of Jim Thorpe after the 1500 meter run at the 1912 Olympics. Notice the difference in shoes and socks.

This is a picture of Jim Thorpe after the 1500 meter run at the 1912 Olympics. Notice the difference in shoes and socks.

Jim Thorpe was resting after having competed against the best all-around athletes in the world during the decathlon in the 1912 Olympics. He had already won the gold medal in the pentathlon, and in the last 48 hours, he had completed 9 of the 10 events, winning 3 of the events, and never finishing lower than fourth in all the others.

Now, with only minutes before the start of the longest and last event of the decathlon, Jim reached in his gym bag in preparation for the 1500 meters. To his great surprise, Jim’s hand couldn’t locate his running shoes. He looked around everywhere, but his shoes were nowhere to be found.

In desperation, Jim asked other athletes if he could borrow their shoes. One teammate had one left shoe he could use. It was small, but Jim was able to get his foot in it. Then he trotted over to the garbage, and was able to find another shoe, this one was too big. But Jim put a couple of extra socks on his foot and then the discarded right shoe.

Jim still finished with the best time of the decathletes: 4:40.1. This completed his gold medal performance; Outdistancing all other competitors in point totals by 688 points. Even though Jim had not attempted the javelin or the pole vault before the 1912 U.S. Olympic trials, his record 8,412 total points in the decathlon wouldn’t be beaten for another 36 years.

Unfortunately for Jim, his gold medals wouldn’t last that long.

It was common for other athletes to play sports during the summer and get paid for it, but they all used fake names. Jim didn’t know that he was supposed to lie about his name. In 1913, Jim had to give back his medals and his marks were officially stricken from the record books because he had played baseball in 1909 and 1910 for a meager $2 a game. In 1912, Olympians were required to be amateurs and Jim was now classified as a professional.

While it was hard on Jim to lose his medals, the news of him being a professional opened doors for him that otherwise would have been closed. The news spread quickly, and offers to play professionally poured in. He received an offer from a hockey team, a boxing organization offered him $50,000, baseball teams from St. Louis and NY offered him contracts too. He did eventually sign a contract with the NY Giants to play baseball for $6,000 and then he would play professional football during the fall and winter for the Pine Village Pros.

In 1920, after multiple championships, Jim Thorpe became president of the American Professional Football Association (eventually it would become the NFL), while coaching and playing for the Canton Bulldogs. He would regularly draw large crowds, wherever he played, no matter what sport he played.

For you:

Like Jim, you will most assuredly be faced with trials and struggles. Perhaps you will be accused of doing wrong.

Be like Jim.

Make the most of your situation. Give it your best shot and then look for the next opportunity. Move on. Someone will see your effort, your drive and your passion, and you will have another chance to shine.

P.S. Jim Thorpe had his Gold medals restored in 1982. He passed away in 1953, so two of his children received the medals for him.


I started writing short stories in elementary school, starting with a short story about twin track athletes. In college, I wrote for the college newspaper and studied communications. My first job out of college was with a magazine as an assistant editor, where I started a comic strip called City Boy. My first published work, was a short essay entitled, Dream with Me, published in “The Art of Service” booklet put out by the Thayne Center for Service and Learning. I also published a three part series for families called “Family Parables – Wise Man Foolish Man.” This set is designed to be used by families to create discussion and learning as a family. I soon will publish my first novel, Love Like Alzheimer’s, a story of a family that is learning to love deeper as their beloved grandmother struggles with Alzheimer’s disease.

One thought on “Gold Taken, Money Makin’
  1. This was spot on for me, Ryan! Thank you for sharing!!

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