1908 London Summer Games
2,035 Athletes, 22 Countries, 110 Events
Originally scheduled to take place in Rome, the Italian government gave up the right to host the 1908 Games when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 1906. The IOC proceeded to let London hold the Games a very good decision. With no World's Fair to distract from the competitions, the London Games were starkly different from the poorly organized 1900 Paris and 1904 St. Louis Games.
Marching with the United States was John Baxter Taylor (Penn '08). Little did he know at the time, Taylor would become the first African-American to win a gold medal. His Olympic experience started with what has been one of the most controversial events in Olympic history the 1908 400-meter race.
The 400-meter final included four men: Wyndham Halswelle of Great Britain, and Americans William Robbins, John C. Carpenter (Cornell '07), and Taylor. In the homestretch, the race came down to Halswelle and Carpenter. Officials contended that Carpenter obstructed Halswelle's pursuit to take the lead, and ripped the finish line tape before the race finished. The race was to be re-run without Carpenter two days later. In a show of solidarity, Taylor and Robbins refused to participate, leaving Halswelle to walk around the track to earn the gold medal.
Taylor would later win his gold medal in the sprint medley relay, the first relay race in Olympic history. The team, which also included Taylor's Penn teammate and two-time Olympian Nathaniel J. Cartmell, won the race by three seconds, making Taylor the first African-American to win a gold medal.
Taylor tragically passed away in December 1908, at the age of 26, from typhoid.
The London Games also featured the Olympic debut of Mike 'Big Greek' Dorizas (Penn '15) somewhat of a mythical figure in University City as a three-sport (football, wrestling, track and field) athlete who was once dubbed the strongest athlete in the world. Dorizas competed in the javelin throw for his native Greece. At Penn, he was known for his 29-inch thighs, the size of an average freshman's waist, and for pinning wrestling opponents in remarkable time.
Penn athletes were not the only successful Leaguers in London. Dartmouth had its first-ever Olympians at the 1908 Games: Arthur B. Shaw '08 and D.R. Sherman. Shaw won the bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles. Six Cornell track and field athletes were at the Games Edward Cook '10 won the pole vault gold medal and Harry Porter '05 won the high jump gold medal.
George Dole (Yale '06) won the Ancient Eight's first wrestling medal in the featherweight (63 kg) division. Dole was merely a few inches over 5feet tall.
|John C. Carpenter||Cornell University||Men's Athletics|
|Edward Cook||Cornell University||Men's Athletics|
|Charles M. French||Cornell University||Men's Athletics|
|John P. Halstead||Cornell University||Men's Athletics|
|Harry Porter||Cornell University||Men's Athletics|
|Lee Talbot||Cornell University||Men's Athletics|
|Herbert L. Trube||Cornell University||Men's Athletics|
|Arthur B. Shaw||Dartmouth College||Men's Athletics|
|Nathaniel A. Sherman||Dartmouth College||Men's Athletics|
|William Rand||Harvard University||Men's Athletics|
|Nathaniel J. Cartmell||University of Pennsylvania||Men's Athletics|
|Michael Dorizas||University of Pennsylvania||Men's Athletics|
|Lloyd P. Jones||University of Pennsylvania||Men's Athletics|
|Thomas R. Moffit||University of Pennsylvania||Men's Athletics|
|John Baxter Taylor||University of Pennsylvania||Men's Athletics|
|J.L. Eisele||Princeton University||Men's Athletics|
|George Dole||Yale University||Men's Wrestling|
|A.C. Gilbert||Yale University||Men's Athletics|
|L.V. Howe||Yale University||Men's Athletics|