Tag Archives: Greece 1896

Who was the first champion at the modern Olympic games?

8 Feb

I am a fabulous procrastinator and have made an art form out of putting off until tomorrow what I could or should do today. Which is how I came to be watching a documentary on Nile crocodiles instead of doing research on a laptop.

In my defence, it was an excellent program, which showcased only too well the animals’ ferocious speed and appetite. It was enough to make me very glad I’m human and not a hapless wildebeest lurking by an African waterhole.

It also inspired the topic for today’s blog, since their athletic lunges, snaps, claws and death rolls reminded me the 2012 Olympics are mere months away. And this, in turn, led me to ponder the first Modern Games and the question of who was their first champion.

Turns out it was an American.

His name was James Connolly and he picked up his silver medal (gold medals were not awarded to champions in those days) at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Greece by winning the men’s triple jump event, then known as the hop, skip and jump. It made him the first Olympic champion in 1527 years.

He also came second in the men’s high jump and third in the men’s long jump. Here’s another five facts on him I discovered at resources including his official Olympic biography here

* Born on November 28, 1865, and died on January 20, 1957.
* Was 27 years old and an undergraduate Harvard student at the time of the Games. He requested a leave of absence, which was denied, but was then granted an honourable withdrawal.
* Lost his title to compatriot Meyer Prinstein at the 1900 Paris games but still came second in the men’s triple jump.
* Attended the 1904 event four years later as a journalist.
* Went on to become a novelist.