The International Olympic Committee Tuesday returned Jim Thorpe's medals...


LOS ANGELES -- The International Olympic Committee Tuesday returned Jim Thorpe's medals from the 1912 Games to his children, as the great Indian athlete's descendants gave tribal war whoops of triumph and shed tears of joy.

One son, the present chief of Thorpe's tribe, appeared for the ceremony feathered and fringed in full tribal regalia.


The return of the medals ended a 70-year-old controversy over Thorpe, considered by some to be among the greatest athletes of the century.

Thorpe won the medals for coming in first in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Gamesin Sweden but was forced to return them the next year. The Amateur Athletic Union ruled he had lost his amateur standing by playing baseball for money in small towns in North Carolina in 1910.

'I'm sure father is with us here today, and he would say one word - thanks,' said William Thorpe of Arlington, Texas.


The return was hailed as a victory for 'the Indian people of America' by Jack Thorpe of Shawnee, Okla., chief of the Sac and Fox tribe, who appeared in a fur hat bedecked with feathers, a scarlet tunic dripping colorful Indian decorations, a white neck scarf and beaded moccasins.

'I wish he could have been here,' said a granddaughter, Dagmar Thorpe-Seeley, 36, of Reno, Nev., tears rolling down her face.

As IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch presented the medals to Thorpe's children, war whoops burst from the group where many of Thorpe's 29 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including a number of small children, stood watching.

'We never gave up. It's been a long fight,' said Gail Thorpe, 63, the oldest child, of Tahlequah, Okla. '

'I can't believe it -- I've been working on it all my life,' said Grace Thorpe, also of Tahlequah. 'I'm not young anymore and I kind of thought my children would have to take up the fight.'

'We've gotten calls from fans of dad's from all over the United States. Everybody I've talked to is pretty tickled.'

Thorpe himself never asked that the medals be returned, and in fact refused to discuss the matter, even with his family, the children said.


'It just wasn't his nature to go around begging,' said Grace.

'He was a very quiet man,' said Gail. 'He knew he won, the world knew he won, and he didn't have to have the medals to prove he was the winner.'

Also present were Charlotte Thorpe of Phoenix, Ariz., and Richard of Oklahoma City. One son, Philip, was absent, beginning a college course.

The IOC had new copies of the 1912 old medals struck for the ocasion. The original medals were awarded to the second-place finishers, a Swede and a Norwegian. One was stolen and the other is believed to be in the archives of a Swedish museum.

After years of requests, the U.S. Olympic committee recently agreed to ask the IOC to restore the awards.

Thorpe went on to play professional baseball and football and became supervisor of recreation for Chicago parks before he died in 1953. He was elected to both the college and professional football halls of fame.

The IOC and 150 national Olympic committees and other international athletic bodies last Friday began a week of meetings in Los Angeles, host city for the 1984 Summer Olympics.

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