The unusual story of the first Modern Olympic champion

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On April 6, 1896, a Harvard student overcame a ridiculous set of circumstances to become the first Modern Olympic champion.

James Connolly, a 27-year-old from Boston, won the triple jump on the first day of the 1896 Athens Games (the event was then called the hop, skip and jump).

He became the first Olympic champion since Varasdates of Armenia won a boxing event in 369, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen. Connolly did so after an 16-day, 16,000-mile journey.

He essentially walked out of Harvard, defying a dean’s advice that he might not be readmitted due to low academic standing.

Connolly began by boarding the Barbarossa, a German freighter, with most of the U.S. Olympic team. After landing in Italy, his wallet was stolen. He later had to leap to make it on a moving train to continue toward Greece.

He at last arrived on April 5. Connolly partied that night and woke from three hours of sleep thinking he had 11 days to rest before his competition.

He learned at breakfast the triple jump was actually that day. Connolly won despite gaining 12 pounds during his journey to Greece. He later finished second and third in the high jump and long jump.

A total of 243 athletes — men only — from 14 National Olympic Committees competed in Athens in 43 events over nine sports, according to the International Olympic Committee. The Tokyo Games are expected to include around 11,000 male and female athletes from more than 200 nations in 339 events over 33 sports.

Connolly competed again at the 1900 Paris Olympics, then covered the 1904 St. Louis Games as a journalist and remained a writer for the rest of his life. He died in 1957 at age 88.

Connolly was honored with a state in a South Boston park in 2012.

MORE: Most decorated U.S. female Olympian on front line of coronavirus fight

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2020 French Open women’s singles draw, results

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, results

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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