Athletics began to be recognized for its value in the late 18th and early 19th century and planted itself as the global current at the end of the 19th. It is can be said that the most representative example of its realization is the 1st modern Olympiad in 1896.
The 1st modern Olympic Games in Athens was the perfect example of the realization of the universal values of freedom, and equality. With the realization of these goals the 1st Olympic Games had received great attention by those hoping to unit the world.
|The appearance of Athens Olympic Stadium opened the 1st modern Olympic Games|
James Connolly was one of these young men. He was born between Irish immigrant father John Connolly and mother Ann O'Donnell in Boston Oct 1868. Like other children born to working families in Boston, he didn’t go to high school and went straight to work as a clerk in an insurance company and enlisted in the U.S Army.
Although he was an ordinary worker, he had a great passion for sports. He was member of community CLA (Catholic Library Association) and formed football team under his lead while also becoming a leader in the community cycling club. He deeply regretted his unfinished studies and began belated self-study. Through much hard work and determination he eventually entered Harvard University at the age of 27.
In 1894, James Connolly was a student at Harvard University when he heard the news that the 1st modern Olympic Games in Athens will be held, and with his deep passion for sports he decided to participate in the first modern Olympic Games.
However, his participation in the First Olympiad was not easy. He soon realized that the Olympic Games period coincided with Harvard’s academic calendar, and thus applied for a leave of absence. He was turned down by the University, as it did not permit absence for personal reasons. Connolly was faced with a tough choice, continue at Harvard or compete in Athens, the athlete gave up his status as a Harvard University student to attend the Olympics.
The journey to Athens was not easy. In the 1800’s there was no flight route to Europe and all costs required to participate in the 1st Olympiad were to be covered at the athletes own expense. The USA National Team was required to travel first to Naples, Italy via their German cargo ship Barbarossa and then top Athens by train.
To make matters worse once he arrived in Naples, he was robbed of his wallet and train ticket. Luckily his robber was arrested and managed to arrive just in time.
|James Connolly participated as a member of the USA National Team|
The final event of the first day of Olympiad was the Triple Jump, James Connolly event and recorded a jump of 13.71m. This jump was 1m longer than any other athletes and he thus became the first medalist at the 1st Modern Olympic Games.
After the event he was welcomed by his hometown and Boston’s citizens with hanging his silver medal hanging in his neck. This event was interesting in that at this time there were only Silver and Bronze medals.
Even after his career as an athlete, he lived a vibrant life. He participated in the 3rd St. Louis Olympics as a journalist and published more than 200 short stories and 25 novels. He then entered politics and ran for election. In 1948, he accepted the Harvard awarded honor of sweater but he denied receiving honorary doctorate at Harvard.
|James Connolly's personal belongings at the Colby College Library|
His records and articles are housed in Colby College in Maine. He’s more than qualified as the first Olympic medalist to be considered one of the true Heros of Athletics.