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Jacobus Franciscus “Jim” Thorpe (in Kikapú: Wa-Tho-Huk , which means “A Path Illuminated by a Great Light”) (May 28, 1888 – March 28, 1953) was an athlete of American nationality. He is considered one of the most versatile athletes in modern sport: he won Olympic gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon competitions, as well as playing football, baseball and basketball at the university and professional level, and lost his Olympic titles after discovering that he had charged to play two seasons in minor league baseball before competing in the Olympic Games, violating the rules of the statute of amateurism in force at that time.
Thorpe was of American Indian descent and European immigrant. Raised in the Sac and Fox nation of Oklahoma, he was called Wa-Tho-Huk, translated as “A Path Illuminated by a Great Light.” He played in several teams of Amerindian players throughout his career, and visited small rural towns. as a professional basketball player with a team composed entirely of Native American Indians.
In 1950 he was named the greatest athlete of the first half of the twentieth century in the United States by the Associated Press (AP), in 1999 the AP itself placed him as third in the list of the best athletes in the country throughout the XX century.
His professional sports career ended in the years of the Great Depression, which made it difficult for him to make a living. He worked in unusual occupations, living his final years in poverty, suffering from chronic alcoholism. In 1983, thirty years after his death, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) returned his Olympic titles.
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