5:38 min November 06, 2022

The Olympic Wins of Jim Thorpe

Pocono Television Network's Brianna Strunk learns more about the restoration of Jim Thorpe's Olympic medals.

Jim Thorpe the borough is named after Jim Thorpe the famous Olympian, who is laid to rest just outside the downtown. Part of his story involves what many consider a major injustice, which was recently corrected after 110 years. PTN caught up with Jim Thorpe's grandson to discuss the historic news as well as the once-in-a-lifetime trip that came with it.

In a full circle moment, John Thorpe walked the same track at the Stockholm Olympic Stadium in Sweden where his grandfather won two gold medals in 1912.

The trip came after Jim Thorpe, known as the world's greatest athlete, was reinstated in July 2022 as the sole champion of the decathlon and pentathlon, which he won by a landslide over a century ago. His grandson, John, found out about the reinstatement before it hit international headlines.

“When I heard that news, it was one of the most thrilling times of my life,” John Thorpe smiled.

After becoming the first Native American to take home gold for the United States, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stripped Thorpe of his medals and removed his accomplishments from the official record. The IOC determined he violated amateurism rules by being paid a small amount to play semi-pro baseball prior to the 1912 Olympics.

“It was wrong to take his medals away in the very first place. The IOC bylaws state if you have a grievance with an athlete or country, you have thirty days to file that grievance. In the case of my grandfather, they waited six months,” John said.

John Thorpe and his cousin Mary were recently invited to the Stockholm Olympic Stadium to witness the installment of Jim Thorpe’s very own stone on the Walk of Fame and the unveiling of a World Athletics Heritage plaque. Both are now permanent fixtures at the iconic stadium.

“It was an incredible journey and adventure, and the people there are so sweet and kind. They know more about Jim Thorpe in Stockholm than they do in California, where I am from originally. They love Jim Thorpe,” John remarked.

Maria Loyd, who owns a shop in downtown Jim Thorpe, also travelled to Sweden to show support and help document the historic event. She presented hand-crafted gifts to some of the officials there for the celebration. 

“It was amazing to represent not just my company and the native international tribes, but also representing Jim Thorpe (the borough) because everyone knows I came from there. Waiting 110 years for a huge correction like this is super motivating to be there and think everything is possible,” said Maria Loyd, owner of Mabacol.

Advocates who worked to achieve 'Justice for Jim' include Bright Path Strong, a non-profit founded to amplify Native American voices and stories. “There is an accumulation of many people who have put in a lot of effort to get this final result done and get him reinstated,” John explained.

That includes John himself, who never misses an opportunity to share his grandfather's story. At one point, he worked at the Jim Thorpe Visitors Center in the Poconos, spending his days talking with tourists and keeping his grandfather's memory alive. “There are not many people who have a town named after them. And the way that the town of Jim Thorpe honors and loves my grandfather is very endearing,” said John.

And now all those who ran the race for Jim Thorpe have finally crossed the finish line.