Dozens of Chickasaw athletes will be among hundreds from across the nation competing this week in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma during the second annual Jim Thorpe Native American Games, which run through Saturday, June 15.
Athletes will compete in activities such as basketball, golf, martial arts, wrestling, and softball at several sports venues in the state’s capital and also in Shawnee for the chance to win big.
The games kicked off Sunday evening at Remington Park when Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby proclaimed “let the games begin” after a parade of athletes representing 61 tribes passed the reviewing stand of dignitaries, including Anoatubby, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief George Tiger, Thorpe’s son, Bill, and Sac & Fox Principal Chief George Thurman.
Thorpe, considered the world’s greatest athlete, was Sac & Fox and was born near Prague in Indian Territory. Sports fans polled by ABC Wide World of Sports christened Thorpe the “Athlete of the Century.” In a 1999 poll, Thorpe finished the century as the third-best athlete of all time among sports writers. Balloting favored baseball legend Babe Ruth and basketball great Michael Jordan as first and second in the poll, respectively.
Thorpe was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. Football was his favorite sport, but he excelled in all sports he played. More than a century ago, Thorpe won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden. He won both events and two gold medals, having placed first in eight events offered in the two categories. No other athlete in history matches Thorpe’s record of accomplishments from baseball, football, basketball, lacrosse, handball, rowing, golf, swimming and even ballroom dancing.
He was stripped of his medals after the Amateur Athletics Union (equivalent then to the present-day Olympics governing organization) learned he played semi-professional baseball prior to the 1912 Olympics, thus making him a professional. While it is common today for professional athletes to compete in the Olympic games, during Thorpe’s day the games were comprised entirely of amateurs. In 1909-11, Thorpe played for a barnstorming North Carolina baseball team for $2 per game.
Through concerted efforts by relatives, teammates and writer Robert Wheeler, his medals were reinstated in 1982, nearly 30 years after his death in 1953. Thorp was 64 when he died.
Gov. Anoatubby praised the competitive spirit and determination that made Thorpe the world’s best, telling this year’s athletes that what inspired Thorpe also inspired them to be the very best.
For more information concerning the games and a schedule of events and venue locations, visit JimThorpeGames.com.