Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Golden Years of Sport; MARION MCMULLEN Looks Back at Key Moments from the Early Days of the Olympics Ahead of the 2016 Games in Rio

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Golden Years of Sport; MARION MCMULLEN Looks Back at Key Moments from the Early Days of the Olympics Ahead of the 2016 Games in Rio

Article excerpt

Byline: MARION MCMULLEN

HOW Olympic sports have changed over the years. Gold medals were once handed out for bicycle polo, rope climbing and even croquet, while a City of London police team beat Liverpool Police at the 1908 London Olympics to win the tug of war competition ... America pulled out at the quarter-final stage in protest claiming that the Liverpudlians had spikes on their service boots.

The modern Olympic Games began in 1896 with 241 sportspeople from 14 nations taking part in 43 sporting events in Athens.

American triple jumper James Connolly was the first Olympic winner. Harvard refused to give him permission to leave his studies to compete so he quit and went anyway. He later refused an honorary degree from his alma mater.

The Games were part of the World's Fair four years later in Paris and the number of competitors rose to 997 with 22 of them women. The events included live pigeon shooting and Leon de Lunden, of Belgium, was declared winner after notching up 21 kills.

American Margaret Abbott was on holiday with her mother and took part in what she thought was a golf tournament to mark the World's Fair. She went home not realising she had won America's first gold medal.

Australia's Fred Lane had to climb a pole, clamber across a row of boats and swim under another row of boats to win the Olympic 200m obstacle race, while American Ray Ewry, who contacted polio as a child, won six gold medals between Paris and the 1908 Olympics in London for standing, long, high and triple jumps.

St Louis in America hosted the 1904 Games and gymnast George Eyser won six medals, three golds, two silvers and a bronze, during a single day ... despite having a wooden left leg. He lost his real one when he was run over by a train.

But American Fred Lorz's marathon victory was overturned when it was revealed he had hitched a lift in a car for most of the distance before racing to the finish four miles before the end.

Ladies competed in an archery contest at the Olympic stadium in London in 1908 and the British cycling pursuit team won gold.

Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn became the oldest man to win an Olympic medal in 1920.

He was 73 when he won a silver medal in the running deer double shot (team) event in Antwerp having previously won gold and bronze at the 1908 and 1912 Games.

Scottish sprinter Eric Liddell was nicknamed The Flying Scotsman and his story inspired the movie Chariots Of Fire. He was a devout Christian and said: "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure." He was paraded around Edinburgh University on his return after winning the 400 metres gold.

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands asked for the 1928 Games in Holland to be rescheduled to fit in with her holiday in Norway, but her request was denied. …

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