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Jim Thorpe Facts

Jim Thorpe was an American Olympic medallist. He was a Native American; a member of the Sac and Fox Nation.

He was the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States. He was very multitalented, taking part in many diverse events, such as the pentathlon and decathlon.

He also spent a lot of his career playing American football, baseball and basketball!

Jim Thorpe

Noone can find Jim Thorpe’s birth certificate but it is thought he was born on May 22nd 1887 near the town of Prague in Oklahoma, United States.

His native name was Wa-Tho-Huk which means “bright path.”

Jim Thorpe NARA

Jim Thorpe had a twin brother who unfortunately died when they were just nine years old. It took Jim Thorpe a while to settle into school and he kept running away.

His father sent him to boarding school. When he returned in 1904, age 16, he decided to go to the Indian Industrial School. It was at this school in Pennsylvania that Thorpe’s sporting talents were discovered.

Jim Thorpe WFI PC

At college, Thorpe was famous for beating the high jumping record on the spot as he walked past and joined in.

He wasn’t even wearing his sports’ clothes and he made the jump of 5 ft 9 look easy. He competed in football, baseball, lacrosse and ballroom dancing.

He won a 1912 ballroom dancing competition, too. Football was Thorpe’s favourite sport. However, he gained his greatest fame from track and field events.

Carlisle pupils

The 1912 Olympics

Thorpe decided to train for the Olympics. He entered two brand new events: the pentathlon and the decathlon. The pentathlon had been added in 1906.

In 1912, the pentathlon included the javelin throw, 200-meter dash, discus throw, long jump and 1500 meter run.

Football Shoe

The decathlon was much more new. The events included the 100-, 220- 880-yard dash, a mile-long run, two hurdle events, the long jump, the high jump, the pole vault, the put shot, the javelin and the discus.

Jim Thorpe Olympics

Thorpe also competed in the high jump and long jump. For the pentathlon, Thorpe won four of the five events.

He came third in the javelin even though he had never tried it before the 1912 Olympics! Someone actually stole Thorpe’s shoes before the event but he just took an unmatched pair.


He found one shoe in the bin and wore them anyway to win the gold medal.

Thorpe also did very well in the decathlon. He was in the top four for all events. His Olympic record of over 8,000 points would still stand for nearly 20 years.

At the Olympics, he won the attention of all the world leaders at the time.

Jim Thorpe Indiana

When Thorpe returned to the United States, he played baseball for the New York Giants. He left in 1913 to join the Chicago White Sox for a world tour.

He was a great celebrity on this tour and everyone wanted to meet such a great athlete.

Jim Thorpe Goudeycard

Quiz Time!

When was Jim Thorpe born?

When did he get noticed for his sporting talents?

Which Olympics did Thorpe compete in?


Which events did Thorpe win gold medals in?

Which baseball team did Thorpe play for at first?

Native Americans

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