Past Olympics Athletes >> James Connolly
- Date of birth
high jump, long jump and triple jump
Olympic Games (4 medals - 1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze)
- High jump: 2nd (1896)
- Long jump: 3rd (1896)
- Triple jump: 1st (1896), 2nd (1900)
Connolly leaps into the history books
A 27-year-old Harvard freshman, James Connolly, turned up at Athens in 1896 as the American record holder in the triple jump. Born into a down-at-heel Irish-American family, his request for leave of absence from Harvard was considered, and declined.
Not to be put off, he stood down from the university, teaming up with the United States' ten-man delegation.
The 17-day journey to Athens offered him crucial time to recover from a back injury picked up on the eve of his departure for Greece.
He was to suffer further problems, being relieved of his wallet in Naples and learning upon his arrival in Athens that the Games were beginning the following morning and not, as he thought, 12 days later.
Despite further trouble with the change of the hop-skip-and-jump to the hop-hop-and-jump, something he had not performed since his schooldays, Connolly outperformed his nearest rival, Alexandre Tuffere of France, by over a yard.
That effort made him the first Olympic champion for 1503 years and started a tradition of Harvard students representing America at every Summer Games since 1896.
In 1948 Harvard offered him an honourary degree, which he politely declined.
Following his athletics career Connolly became a well-known journalist and war correspondent, and wrote a novel, "The Gloucestermen".
He died, aged 88, on January 20, 1957.
Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.