Our First Olympian

Americans are preparing to compete in this year's Summer Olympics in Brazil. As you know, there are four Olympians with an Easton connection: ice hockey goaltenders James Craig and Scott Gordon, swimmer Eric Vendt, and rower John Everett (a highly decorated world champion in his sport, 1976 Olympian , and chosen for the 1980 Summer Olympics that the US boycotted). Did you know there was another Easton with an Olympic connection?

Back in the 1890's Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France (1893-1937) began a movement to bring back the Olympic Games, and through his steady urging and constant support, they were brought back in April of 1896, appropriately held in Athens, Greece. The American team consisted of a small band of male athletes and a few coaches. Many of them were members of the Boston Athletic Association, They were responsible for raising their own support. Public interest in the Olympics was more a curiosity to most Americans, and support was slow in coming. Just before it was time for the American team to embark, they found themselves short of cash, and it looked like the whole trip might not happen.

Society volunteer Courtney Saraf came across an article first published in a magazine a few years ago that shed some light on who came to the rescue! It appears that members of the B.A.A. and perhaps the first American Olympic Committee contacted former Massachusetts Governor Oliver Ames to help in last minute fund-raising. He made a few calls , and the last of the financial needs were met. Governor Ames died in November, 1895, and this may have been his last, and perhaps greatest legacy. The American team was wildly successful and interest in the Olympics grew quickly.

More research will be done over the summer and hopefully a more complete story will appear in the next newsletter. In the mean time, let's give three cheers to our Easton Olympians and for this year's Olympic's team as they compete for the top prize in all of sports–an Olympic medal!

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