Unable to load menu. An Olympic Tradition - The New York Athletic Club

Olympic Glory

Lindy Remigino
gold medalist, 100m.
Click here to see Remigino
win the gold medal in 1952
in Helsinki.

Horace Ashenfelter
gold medalist,
3000m steeplechase.
Click here to see Ashenfelter
win the gold medal in 1952
in Helsinki.

Al Oerter
gold medalist, discus
1956, 1960, 1964, 1968.
Click here to see Al Oerter
win the gold medal
in 1964 in Tokyo

An Olympic Tradition

The New York Athletic Club boasts an unparalleled involvement with
the world's most celebrated sporting event

 The Panathinaikon, home to the inaugural Games of modern era in Athens in 1896

In the first Olympic Games of the modern era, in Athens in 1896, 43 events were contested by approximately 245 competitors. Rowing and yachting were canceled due to bad weather, and one-handed weightlifting and the 100m freestyle for members of the Greek navy had only limited participation. Fourteen nations were represented (there will be around 216 in London), and none of the athletes were women. Nonetheless, that the Athens Games should even have come to pass was an astounding success, not to mention an example of remarkable hubris. That it endured and has developed to become a phenomenon defying definition is a testimony to planning, good fortune, political machination and vision. As the shape and scope of the modern Games have changed through the years, only a few tangible common themes have remained. One of those is the New York Athletic Club. 

In the early 1880s, the excavation of the site of the ancient Olympic Games at Olympia in Greece initiated a wave of interest in reviving the Games, a flame that was fanned by the now-feted Baron Pierre DeCoubertin in alliance with William Millington Sloane from Princeton University and England’s Charles Herbert; but it was the NYAC and, across the pond, the London Athletic Club, Herbert’s affiliation, that were the global sporting powerhouses and without whose support the Games may have faltered. 

Although the London AC, with Herbert’s encouragement, was an enthusiastic advocate of the new venture, the NYAC, whose influence guided a far broader range of sports, was more cautious. Nonetheless, Herbert initiated a correspondence that brought about the celebrated NYAC vs LAC track meet of 1895 (in which the NYAC scored a stunning upset), following which the Club’s Thomas Burke traveled to Athens one year later. He returned home with a silver medal (yes, silver), a laurel wreath and a diploma for victories on the track in both the 100m and the 400m. Thus began an alliance between the NYAC and the Olympic Games that is unprecedented in the world of club competition. 

Consider, for example, that following Burke’s win in the Athens 400m, NYAC runners also won that event in 1900 (Maxey Long), 1904 (Harry Hillman), 1906 (Paul Pilgrim at the Intercalated Games), 1912 (Charles Reidpath) and 1928 (Ray Barbuti). Though the standing jumps (long, high and triple) are no longer contested, that cannot undermine the accomplishments of Ray Ewry who, between 1900 and 1908 won 10 gold medals in those events. (Just for the heck of it, see if you can high jump 5’5” with no run-up, as Ewry did in 1900. Or long jump 11’ 4  7/8”, as he did in 1904). Later, the NYAC's Al Oerter, as has been extensively documented, won consecutive gold medals in the discus throw in 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968, a feat matched only by Carl Lewis in the long jump (1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996). 

All of which is to offer only the barest of glimpses into the NYAC’s entrenched involvement with the Olympic Games, an involvement that continues to this date. In Athens in 2004, 39 Club members took part, returning to the City House with 11 medals - five gold, two silver and four bronze. In Beijing, in 2008, 40 Club members earned 16 medals - one gold, 10 silvers and five bronzes. The story of London is still to be told; but tradition is on our side.

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Distinguished Emerald Club of the World, 2013
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