General Mills

Year on the Wheaties Box: 2001

Jim Thorpe is considered one of the most versatile athletes in sports history, having played professional football, baseball and basketball.

At the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, Thorpe competed in the pentathlon and decathlon while wearing two different shoes he found in a garbage can (a last resort after someone stole the ones he brought). Incredibly, he easily won both events and set a record that would stand for almost two decades.

A year later, however, Thorpe’s titles were revoked when word got out that he had played professional baseball before the Games—a violation of the amateurism rules. Thorpe claimed he had not known about the rule, but officials insisted that “ignorance is no excuse.”

For years afterward, Thorpe’s supporters petitioned to have his wins reinstated with no success. In 1982, 30 years after Thorpe’s death, author Robert Wheeler and his wife Florence Ridlon established the Jim Thorpe Foundation and gained support for their mission from the U.S. Congress. After showing evidence that Thorpe had been disqualified after the 30-day time period established in the Olympic rules, the International Olympic Committee approved Thorpe’s reinstatement, declaring that he was co-champion with the other winners. Thorpe’s children, Gale and Bill, accepted commemorative medals on behalf on their father during a ceremony on January 18, 1983.