The Greatest Athlete In The World

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In 1982 the IOC voted to return Thorpe’s medals to his children and to put his 1912 records back on the books. Two years later, at the 1984 Winter Olympics, Canada fielded an all-professional hockey team. This summer the Barcelona Olympics will be graced by the likes of Magic Johnson, Martina Navratilova, and various others who for some years now have been making great sums at their chosen sports.

The majority of the public has no problem with professionals competing in the Olympics. As likely as not, a generation from now nobody will even think about the matter. But for some seventy years it was the most bitterly contested issue of the modern Olympics, and it started and ended with a man who honestly said he “did not care to make money from [his] athletic skill.”

Reputation was what Thorpe cared most about, and that he has. After most of a century he has got it back entire.