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On July 15, 1912, legendary American Indian athlete Jim Thorpe won a gold medal in the decathlon event despite wearing ill-fitting, mismatched shoes.

Today in Sports History presented by Starr Cards

A week earlier, Thorpe had began his lone Olympics by crushing the field in the now-defunct pentathlon, which consisted of five events contested in one day. He placed first in four of them, including outpacing his rivals in the 1500-meter run by almost five seconds.


Thorpe’s shoes went missing on the second day of the three-day decathlon, but between a borrowed shoe, and one found in a waste bin, he continued to compete. While one shoe was too tight, the other shoe was too large, so the enterprising Oklahoman wore extra socks to secure it to his foot.

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Wearing the mismatched kicks Thorpe won the high jump, and later the 110-meter hurdles in a time of 15.6 seconds. On the final day, still with the wack footwear, Thorpe performed well enough in the pole vault, javelin and 1,500 meter run to claim the decathlon gold by nearly 700 points.


Aside from his track and field exploits, Thorpe played professional baseball and football. In 1920, playing for the Canton Bulldogs, he was named president of the newly formed American Professional Football Association (APFA), which two years would become the National Football League (NFL).