track and field

The unusual story of the first Modern Olympic champion

Leave a comment

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Javelin thrower runs marathon in backyard garden, raises $30,000

Leave a comment

Retired British javelin thrower James Campbell raised more than $30,000 for healthcare workers by running a marathon in his six-meter garden on Wednesday.

“10,000 retweets & I’ll run a marathon in my back garden,” he tweeted on Monday. It did, and he did, pacing back and forth for 5 hours, 5 minutes on a global live stream. A marathon is the equivalent of running the length of Campbell’s garden about 7,000 times.

“There’s not much positive news around at the moment,” Campbell, a 32-year-old Scottish javelin record holder, said on TODAY. “To take people’s mind off of it for a day and give them a bit of a laugh and a bit of entertainment, that’s job done.”

Campbell is one of many athletes turning to unusual measures to stay fit, raise money for charity and inspire others.

“It’s just been a very long week at home on my own,” he said. “As soon as you gain momentum, it was like, if I’m going to do something like this, then it’s got to be for a good cause.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S.’ top amateur boxer mulls giving up Olympic dream

Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s first Olympic track and field medalist, has coronavirus

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s lone Olympic track and field medalist, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to World Athletics and an Iranian news agency.

“We’ve received word from several Asian journalists that Iranian discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi has tested positive for coronavirus,” according to World Athletics. “[Hadadi] trains part of the year in the US, but was home in Tehran when he contracted the virus.”

Hadadi, 35, became the first Iranian to earn an Olympic track and field medal when he took silver in the discus at the 2012 London Games. Hadadi led through four of six rounds before being overtaken by German Robert Harting, who edged the Iranian by three and a half inches.

He was eliminated in qualifying at the Rio Olympics and placed seventh at last fall’s world championships in Doha.