Are Olympic Athletes Always Properly Equipped for Their Events?

Athletic shoes have become a multi-billion dollar industry, but true athletes know that it takes more than fancy footwear to be a real champion.

American athlete Jim Thorpe didn't need fancy running shoes -- or even a matching pair -- to win gold in the 1912 Olympic decathlon.
American athlete Jim Thorpe didn't need fancy running shoes -- or even a matching pair -- to win gold in the 1912 Olympic decathlon.

No sports hero better illustrates this truth than Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. The versatile Native American athlete from Oklahoma began the Games by crushing the field in the pentathlon. He then started the first day of the three-day decathlon by setting a world record in the 100-meter dash.

But when he woke on the second day, Thorpe discovered that he had run into some bad luck: His shoes were missing. Without modern sponsors on site to hand out new gear, Thorpe had to scramble to find a replacement.

Luckily, one of his track teammates had one extra shoe to lend, and Thorpe somehow found another in the trash. When he laced up, Thorpe found that one of the shoes was too big, so he simply donned an extra sock and took the field. Once there, Thorpe concluded his decathlon with a record point total that stood for nearly two decades.

More about the "world's greatest athlete":

  • Because he had earned money while playing semi-professional baseball, thus violating his amateur status, Jim Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic medals in 1913; they were finally reinstated in 1982.

  • Legend has it that thanks in part to some heavy wind, Thorpe once kicked a 95-yard punt in a football game.

  • Burt Lancaster portrayed Thorpe in the 1951 biopic Jim Thorpe -- All American.

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