Who was the first modern Olympic champion?
Under the auspices of Pierre, Baron de Coubertin, founding member and president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Olympic Games were revived in Athens, Greece in 1896. On April 6, the opening day of the Games of the I Olympiad, 27-year-old James Connolly, representing the United States won the ‘hop, skip and jump’, or triple jump, with a distance of 13.71 metres, to become the first Olympic champion for more than 1,500 years.
According to contemporary reports, Connolly, who jumped last, threw his cap into the landing pit to mark the position of the leading jump, before sailing out to a metre or so beyond it. Just for good measure, later in the Games, Connolly also finished joint-second in the high jump and third in the high jump beyond compatriot Ellery Clark. In those early, pioneering days, just two Olympic medals, silver and bronze, for first and second place were awarded. However, Connolly, along with other Olympic champions in 1896 and 1900, would be awarded a gold medal, restropectively, when the IOC adopted the three-tier medal format a few years later.