What: Hurling this discus on opening day of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens – known as the I Olympiad – Robert Garrett 1897 astonished the world by beating the Greek champion. Success of the underdog American was crucial in ≠fanning transatlantic interest in the revived Olympic Games ... still going strong as the XXX Olympiad gets under way July 27 in London.
Some thought it zany to bring back the Olympics, extinct for 1,500 years. A chief American proponent was Princeton history professor William Sloane, who encouraged four students – track team members and friends from Tiger Inn – to participate. Garrett’s mother, a member of the banking family that owned the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, funded the trip, which lasted weeks.
Another small group from Boston made up the remainder of this first U.S. Olympic team, a far cry from the 600 or so Americans competing this summer in London.
Garrett first laid eyes on a discus – oak with an iron rim – when he stepped into the restored ancient stadium in Athens on the day of his event. His mighty throw of 96 feet was enough to humiliate the Greek champion of “magnificent physique” — but only two-fifths of today’s world record.
Where: Princeton Memorabilia, Princeton University Archives