Friday, August 28, 2020

Bronze To Silver

Today TigerBlog goes back to 1896 and the first modern Olympic Games in Athens.

If you looked at the list of all-time Princeton Olympians on at any point prior to yesterday, you have seen that Albert Tyler was listed as having won a bronze medal in the pole vault in 1896. 

Instead, it was called to TB's attention that Albert actually won silver. TB was able to confirm this in a few places, including the Alumni Weekly.

Tyler's silver medal came on a vault of 10 feet, six inches. That vault, by the way, obviously wouldn't have come close to scoring points at the most recent outdoor Heps meet, for men or women. 

One thing the change in the archives does it give Princeton more silver medals than any other kind at the Olympics. Since those first Olympic games, Princetonians have won 19 gold, 24 silver and 23 bronze medals, after it was listed as 23 silver and 24 bronze before yesterday.

Albert Tyler was a member of the Princeton Class of 1897, and he also played football and baseball while in school. A native of Franklin, Ohio, Tyler went on to become a teacher at Lawrenceville School and Haverford School. He died at the age of 73, in 1945.

In his research to find out whether Tyler was a silver medalist or bronze medalist, TB came across a first-person account Tyler had written about the first day of the Olympics, and primarily about fellow Princeton Robert Garrett, who won the gold medal in the discus and shot put and the silver in the high jump and long jump.

Such a four-medal sweep of those events today would be impossible, though it does suggest that Garrett might have made for a pretty good decathlete, though there was no decathlon in the Olympics until 1912 in Stockholm. 

Extra credit goes to those who know who won the gold medal there.

Anyway, here's what Tyler wrote about the first Olympic discus competition, which also apparently corresponded with the first time Garrett ever touched a discus:

The efforts of the English novices were ludicrous. Garrett had practised a little during the forenoon; but he had not even seen a discus before to-day. Consequently, you may imagine our joy when the American competitor's first hurl was 27 metres 53 centimetres. The Greeks almost tied themselves in knots in preparing for a throw, and then suddenly stretched out, and the discus sailed through the air. The best Greek threw 28 metres 51 centimetres. Garrett' s second and third tries were unfortunate, the discus first flying crooked, and the third time dropping from his hand as he pitched. But Garrett's first effort was sufficient to secure him a place in the finals. His two opponents were native Greeks, and one of them was the champion for many years of discus-throwing. The other Greek was a famous weight lifter. Both were men of magnificent physique. The Greek champion, in the finals threw first and scored 23 metres 88 centimetres. Our champion, Garrett, followed with 28 metres 72 centimetres. The third man was so provoked at Garrett's success that he was only able to throw 27 metres 48 centimetres. The champion of Greece then threw the discus 28 metres 95 centimetres, and the other Greek hurled it 28 metres. Then came the final effort, and we all held our breath as Garrett carefully prepared for the throw. By this time he had caught the knack of hurling the discus, and had complete confidence in himself. He put all his energy into the last cast, and as the discus flew through the air the vast concourse of people were silent as if the structure were empty. When the discus struck there was a tremendous burst of applause from all sides, and we joined in it with right good will. The applause of the Greek champions, however, was decidedly feeble. The throw was measured, and the announcement was made that Garrett had thrown 29 metres 15 centimetres, and had beaten the Greeks at their own game.

That's great, right? 

By the way, the winner of the 1912 Olympic decathlon was Jim Thorpe, though he was stripped of his medal because it was determined that he had taken money to play baseball, which made him a professional instead of an amateur. There was a time when the Olympics were strictly for amateurs.

Today Thorpe and Hugo Wieslander of Sweden, who became the winner when Thorpe was disqualified in 1913, are both officially considered gold medalists, as the IOC reversed the decision in 1982. 

Wieslander, to his great credit, refused to accept the gold medal, knowing that he'd finished 668 points behind Thorpe, who died in 1953 never having had his medals (he also won the pentathlon) returned.

And there you have it. TigerBlog got through the entire day without mentioning that today would have been the first athletic event of the 2020-21 academic year.

Or sort of.

Anyway, it's the last weekend of August. Have a great one.

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