I really liked the story about the missing shoes and I accidentally came across it while having a conversation with my son. I enjoy conversations with both my sons because I learn a lot from them. When they were younger I still learnt from them, but, it is nothing like the age now where they are growing into young adults and they have their own views and interests. Nathan, my eldest (19) is a storyteller so he often suggests some interesting topics for my readers. While I bring you some of these interesting topics, I have personally learnt a lot from reading these topics myself. In a way, life as a parent starts by being a teacher, and eventually your children become your teacher and you are their student.
Together, Nathan and I watched a show called the Drunk History this afternoon. It is a comedy about drunk actors re-telling history. The show was quite funny. One of the historical features in this show caught my attention, and in a more serious way. It was a story about the Native American super athlete, Jim Thorpe. Now some of you may know that Thorpe was celebrated for his legendary achievements in athletics and football. Thorpe’s life before he became an athlete was quite moving. What caught my attention and I found to be truly inspiring, was a story about Thorpe’s participation in the 1912 Olympics and what he did (as pictured) when his running shoes went missing.
By Taylor Eldridge
As Wheeler details in Jim Thorpe’s biography, Thorpe’s sneakers went missing before the final event of the 1912 three-day Olympic competition.
Thorpe’s emergency plan led him to burrow through the trash for a shoe too small then borrow a shoe so oversized he had to stuff it for his foot to fit.
What the mismatched pair produced was his magnum opus in the finale, winning the 1,500 meters in 4 minutes, 40.1 seconds – a time that a gold medalist decathlete wouldn’t beat until Mykola Avilov ran a 4:22 at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
“That story always evokes the greatest response when I share it,” Wheeler said. “I think it can still inspire generations to come. I think in the case of Jim Thorpe, the true story is just as good, or better, than the mythology.”
When people make lists of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, they are populated with the usual suspects: Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams, Wayne Gretzky, Jim Brown, Pele… but there is one name that should always make the list even though many people, even the biggest sports fans, may not recognize it, or if they do, they know little about the man- Jim Thorpe.
The story of Jim Thorpe is one of determination, triumph, tragedy, racial prejudice, controversy, and extraordinary athletic achievement. Born approximately May 28, 1887 (the exact date has been disputed) in a small one-room cabin near the town of Prague, Oklahoma, Jim was the son of a farmer named Hiram and a Potawatomie Indian named Mary James, who was a descendant of the famed Native American warrior Black Hawk.
Jim, or by his Native American name Wa-Tho-Huk meaning “Bright Path,” grew up on Native American land fishing, hunting, playing sports, and learning from tribal elders. He was actually born a twin, having a built-in best friend and brother to play with. Unfortunately, when Jim was only nine, his twin brother died from pneumonia.
The stress of losing his brother caused Jim to act out and he was sent to an “Indian” boarding school in Lawrence, Kansas. A few years later, his mother would die while giving birth. Shortly thereafter, his father died as well.
Left an orphan, Jim fled his hometown and began attending Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The school was founded by United States General Richard Henry Pratt in 1879 with the purpose of integrating Native Americans into the American way of life by “eliminating their Indianness.”
It was there that a 17-year old, depressed Jim Thorpe walked by the school’s track & field practice on the way back to his dorm. He saw all the boys running and jumping and later said he thought to himself “I can do that better than they can.”
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