Scottish Daily Mail

Hard to beat sporting feat


QUESTION Jim Thorpe has been described as ‘the greatest athlete of all time’. Who was he?

WHEN King Gustav V of Sweden presented Jim Thorpe with two Olympic gold medals in Stockholm in July 1912, he said to him: ‘You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.’

President Dwight D. eisenhower, who played against him in American football when attending West Point, recalled of Thorpe in a 1961 speech: ‘here and there, there are some people who are supremely endowed. My memory goes back to Jim Thorpe. he never practised in his life, and he could do anything better than any other football player I ever saw.’

Jim Thorpe was a native American athlete who excelled in multiple sports. he was born on May 28, 1888, near Prague, Oklahoma. he was a member of the Sac and Fox nation, under the name Wa-Tho-huk, translated as ‘Bright Path’.

Thorpe attended Carlisle College, Pennsylvan­ia. It’s said he began his athletic career in 1907 when, wearing casual clothing, he walked past athletes and defeated the school’s high jumpers with an impromptu 5ft 9in jump.

he excelled in all sports but loved American football, racking up innumerabl­e victories, including famous defeats of harvard and West Point.

It wasn’t until the spring of 1912 that Thorpe started training for the Olympics. he thrilled the Stockholm crowds with his exploits. he began by winning the pentathlon (long jump, javelin, discus, 200m and 1500m), coming first in every event except for the javelin.

In the decathlon (100m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m, discus, 110m hurdles, pole vault, javelin and 1500m) he beat his nearest rival, Sweden’s hugo Wieslander, by nearly 700 points.

his world record of 8,412 points would stand until 1948.

It later emerged that Thorpe had played baseball for the Rocky Mount Club in north Carolina in 1909 and 1910, receiving minor payments for his appearance­s. It was deemed that Thorpe had infringed the rules regarding amateurism, and at the start of 1913 he was stripped of his Olympic titles. Thorpe played for six seasons (1913-1919) in major league baseball, ending with a fine lifetime .252 batting average. he also played profession­al basketball for a team composed entirely of American Indians.

he was a major star of early profession­al American football, making a name for himself with the Canton Bulldogs of Ohio, who won the Ohio league, forerunner of the national Football League (NFL), in 1916, 1917 and 1919. he became the first president of the NFL in 1920.

Thorpe retired from sport at the age of 41 and turned to acting, playing minor roles as a native American in around 50 films through to the early 1950s.

he was married three times and had eight children. Thorpe was an alcoholic during his later life. he died from heart failure on March 28, 1953, aged 64.

On January 18, 1983, some 30 years after his death, the Internatio­nal Olympic Committee officially reinstated Thorpe’s medals from the 1912 Games.

Kenneth Marlow, lutterwort­h, leics.

QUESTION In The Scarlet Pimpernel, what was the ‘water party’ referred to by author Baroness Orczy?

A WATER-PARTY was a social gathering held on board a boat. Such events were popular with members of the ton (high society) in Georgian england.

Boats would travel a few miles along rivers, stopping occasional­ly to allow party guests to admire the scenery while they ate, drank, danced, talked and exchanged gifts. Water parties were a variation on other highlights of the social calendar such as card parties, garden parties (outdoor breakfasts) and Venetian breakfasts (parties in the afternoon).

The biggest water party ever held was probably the one arranged on the Thames by King George I in 1717.

Spread over two July evenings, it was the event for which handel was commission­ed to compose his Water Music, and the river was packed with hundreds of small boats.

Baroness Orczy’s story of The Scarlet Pimpernel, set in 1792 during the French Revolution, makes mention of a Wednesday water party at which presents will be given out to guests, and in Jane Austen’s emma, published in 1815, we are told how a water-party guest was rescued after nearly falling overboard.

Ian MacDonald, Billericay, essex.

QUESTION Do lost people tend to walk in circles unintentio­nally?

THIS is a popular theme in adventure novels and film.

Scientists in the Multi-sensory Perception and Action Group at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetic­s in Germany, led by Jan Souman and Marc ernst, put it to the test and concluded it could happen.

In one experiment, 15 volunteers, blindfolde­d and fitted with GPS receivers, tried to walk in a straight line across a large field. Most participan­ts meandered, some walking in quite tight circles.

When people are blindfolde­d, the brain has to plot the route based on limited informatio­n, including input from movement sensors in the muscles and joints. Souman and ernst suggested that circular walking could be caused by a minor processing error in the vestibular system of the inner ear, which co-ordinates balance and posture.

The team also tracked volunteers as they walked without blindfolds in a forest in Germany, and in the Sahara desert in Tunisia. In the forest, some subjects again walked in circles but only in overcast conditions. When the sun was visible, they could walk in a more or less straight line for several hours.

The same was true in the Sahara. Visual cues enable people to overcome the tendency to walk in circles.

D. P. lewis, Ipswich, suffolk.

■ IS THERE a question to which you want to know the answer? Or do you know the answer to a question here? Write to: Charles Legge, Answers To Correspond­ents, Scottish Daily Mail, 20 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6DB; or email charles. A selection is published, but we’re unable to enter into individual correspond­ence.

 ?? ?? Multi-talented: Thorpe excelled in all sports but loved American football
Multi-talented: Thorpe excelled in all sports but loved American football

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