The Gun that Won the West…
With the capture of the Wild Bunch in 1896, gunfights in the Old West were winding down just as a different type of gun battle was heating up. For that was the year the first modern Olympics was held in Athens, following a 1502 year hiatus.
There was no official U.S. Olympic team in 1896 and, indeed, the thought of Americans participating in the Olympics was frowned upon by many including the New York Times: “The American amateur sportsman in general should know that in going to Athens he is taking an expensive journey to a third rate capital where he will be devoured by fleas.”
Some members of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) disagreed. They saw the Olympics as a chance to do something significant, maybe even historic, and an all-star track team was selected.
|U.S. Olympic team 1896|
Like all the other American athletes, they were in for a shock. Greece went by the Orthodox calendar which meant it was April 5th in Greece and only March 25th in America. Instead of having two weeks to prepare for competition, as planned, American athletes had only eight hours. Fortunately, that was all John and Sumner needed.
…Also Won the Crown
When the brothers were told that their Stevens 22s were "not usual" and inadmissible, the brothers switched to Colts 45s.
John easily won the military gun contest with his Colt. Thinking it unsporting to continue, he withdrew from the other events so as not to embarrass the host. (Can you imagine anything like that happening today?) Sumner easily won the free pistol event, making the brothers the first siblings to win medals in an Olympic event.
The brothers’ shooting skills were given less credit than the whiskey they sipped between rounds to relieve tension. Thinking booze would give them the winning edge, other marksmen started sporting flasks, too.
Several years later in 1901, Sumner found his wife in bed with his daughter’s music teacher. He chased the man away with four pistols shots and was arrested for assault. When the police learned he won an Olympic medal for shooting, they decided he must have missed on purpose and released him.
Did you watch the Olympics? If so, what was your favorite sport?
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