As athletes from Indian Country continue to compete for gold across the pond at the London Olympic Games, it would be a mistake to not take a moment to reflect on those who came before, the previous Native American gold medal winners. From Pine Ridge to the Great White North to Hawaii, five Native American athletes have accomplished this so far, setting records and winning hearts in the process. Here is a select Hall of Fame, the Native American gold medalists.
Theo Fleury, Métis/Cree
2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, Utah, Men’s Hockey
The only winter athlete among Native gold medalists, the pugnacious, high-scoring Fluery helped lead Team Canada to its first Olympic win since 1954.
Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, Native Hawaiian
1912 Summer Olympics, London, 100-Meter Freestyle Swimming
1920 Summer Olympics, Antwerp, Belgium, 100-Meter Free and 4×200 Swimming Relay
The only Native athlete to win gold at two Games, Kahanamoku was a natural in the water, both as a swimmer and a surfer (he’s credited with popularizing the sport of modern surfing).
Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota
1964 Summer Olympics, Tokyo, 10,000-Meter Run
In setting a new Olympic record while earning the gold, Mills eclipsed the U.S. record that had been set 52 years earlier by Louis Tewanima, Hopi, at the 1912 Games. Mills remains the only U.S. athlete to win gold in the 10,000 meter.
Jim Thorpe, Sac & Fox
1912 Summer Olympics, Stockholm, Decathlon and Pentathlon
“The World’s Greatest Athlete” swept both the decathlon and the pentathlon, something no other athlete has ever done.
Jesse “Cab” Renick, Chickasaw
1948 Summer Olympics, London, Men’s Basketball
Long before the world had ever dubbed a “Dream Team” in men’s Olympic basketball, Renick as team captain led a dominant U.S. hoops team to gold and glory.