11 Notable Medalists in the Olympic Art Competitions

Getty Images
Getty Images

Between 1912 and 1948, art competitions were a part of the Olympics. Medals were awarded for architecture, music, painting and sculpture. Here are some notable medalists in those categories.

1. Baron Pierre de Coubertin

The founder of the International Olympic Committee and the man responsible for reviving the Olympic art competitions won a gold medal in literature at the 1912 Games for his “Ode to Sport,” which was submitted under a pseudonym. Were the judges tipped off? We may never know.

2. Mahonri Young

Born 20 days before the death of his grandfather, Mormon leader Brigham Young, Mahonri won gold in the sculpture competition at the 1932 Los Angeles Games for his “Knockdown.”

3. Jack B. Yeats

The younger brother of Irish poet W.B. Yeats won the silver medal in painting at the 1924 Paris Games for his “Natation.”

4. Walter Winans

Winans was one of two people who won an Olympic medal in the arts and one in athletics, and the only person to do it in the same year. Winans, a United States citizen who lived in England, won the silver medal in the team running deer shooting competition and gold in sculpture for his bronze “An American Trotter” in 1912. Winans suffered a heart attack and died while driving a horse in a trotting race eight years later.

5. John Russell Pope

The architect of the Jefferson Memorial, the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art won a silver medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Games in architecture for his design of Yale’s Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Pope submitted an entry for the 1936 Games, but did not receive a medal or an honorable mention.

6. Alfred Hajos

The Hungarian won a pair of gold medals in freestyle swimming at the 1896 Athens Games. Nearly 30 years later, Hajos won silver in the architecture competition at the 1924 Paris Games for his design of the Budapest Swimming Center.

7. Percy Crosby

Crosby created the comic strip “Skippy,” which debuted in 1925, ran through 1945 and was published in 28 countries. During the height of his popularity, Crosby won a silver medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Games in the watercolors and drawings competition for his “Jackknife.” Crosby suffered from alcoholism later in life and in 1949 was admitted to New York’s Kings Park Psychiatric Center, where he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

8. Jean Jacoby

Jacoby, from Luxembourg, is the only artist to receive two gold medals in the Olympic art competitions. He won the gold for his painting “Etudes de Sport” at the 1924 Games and another gold four years later in Amsterdam for his drawing of rugby players. Jacoby earned honorable mentions in 1932 and 1936.

9. Aale Tynni

The Finnish poet was the only woman to win a gold medal in the Olympic art competitions. Tynni won the gold in 1948 for her poem “Hellaan Laakeri.”

10. John Copley

The 73-year-old British graphic artist was awarded the silver medal in the engravings and etchings competition at the 1948 Games for his “Polo Player.” Copley would be the oldest medalist in Olympic history if the International Olympic Committee still recognized medals from the art competitions.

11. A.W. Diggelmann

The Swiss graphic artist only submitted works in two Olympics, but he’s the only artist to win gold, silver and bronze medals, as well as an honorable mention.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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10 Fast Facts About Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Robert Riger/Getty Images

Wilma Rudolph made history as a Black female athlete at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. The 20-year-old Tennessee State University sprinter was the first American woman to win three gold medals at one Olympics. Rudolph’s heroics in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4 x 100-meter events only lasted seconds, but her legend persists decades later, despite her untimely 1994 death from cancer at age 54. Here are some facts about this U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member.

1. Wilma Rudolph faced poverty and polio as a child.

When Rudolph was born prematurely on June 23, 1940, in Clarksville, Tennessee, she weighed just 4.5 pounds. Olympic dreams seemed impossible for Rudolph, whose impoverished family included 21 other siblings. Among other maladies, she had measles, mumps, and pneumonia by age 4. Most devastatingly, polio twisted her left leg, and she wore leg braces until she was 9.

2. Wilma Rudolph originally wanted to play basketball.

The Tennessee Tigerbelles. From left to right: Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams, Wilma Rudolph, and Barbara Jones.Central Press/Getty Images

At Clarksville’s Burt High School, Rudolph flourished on the basketball court. Nearly 6 feet tall, she studied the game, and ran track to keep in shape. However, while competing in the state basketball championship in Nashville, the 14-year-old speedster met a referee named Ed Temple, who doubled as the acclaimed coach of the Tennessee State Tigerbelles track team. Temple, who would coach at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, recruited Rudolph.

3. Wilma Rudolph made her Olympic debut as a teenager.

Rudolph hit the limelight at 16, earning a bronze medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. But that didn’t compare to the media hype when she won three gold medals in 1960. French journalists called her “The Black Pearl,” the Italian press hailed “The Black Gazelle,” and in America, Rudolph was “The Tornado.”

4. After her gold medals, Wilma Rudolph insisted on a racially integrated homecoming.

Tennessee governor Buford Ellington, who supported racial segregation, intended to oversee the Clarksville celebrations when Rudolph returned from Rome. However, she refused to attend her parade or victory banquet unless both were open to Black and white people. Rudolph got her wish, resulting in the first integrated events in the city’s history.

5. Muhammad Ali had a crush on Wilma Rudolph.

Ali—known as Cassius Clay when he won the 1960 Olympic light heavyweight boxing title—befriended Rudolph in Rome. That fall, the 18-year-old boxer invited Rudolph to his native Louisville, Kentucky. He drove her around in a pink Cadillac convertible.

6. John F. Kennedy literally fell over when he invited Wilma Rudolph to the White House.

President Kennedy, Wilma Rudolph, Rudolph’s mother Blanche Rudolph, and Vice President Johnson in the Oval Office.Abbie Rowe/White House Photographs/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum // Public Domain

In 1961, Rudolph met JFK in the Oval Office. After getting some photos taken together, the President attempted to sit down in his rocking chair and tumbled to the floor. Kennedy quipped: “It’s not every day that I get to meet an Olympic champion.” They chatted for about 30 minutes.

7. Wilma Rudolph held three world records when she retired.

Rudolph chose to go out on top and retired in 1962 at just 22 years old. Her 100-meter (11.2 seconds), 200-meter (22.9 seconds), and 4 x 100-meter relay (44.3 seconds) world records all lasted several years.

8. Wilma Rudolph visited West African countries as a goodwill ambassador.

The U.S. State Department sent Rudolph to the 1963 Friendship Games in Dakar, Senegal. According to Penn State professor Amira Rose Davis, while there, Rudolph independently met with future Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah’s Young Pioneers, a nationalist youth movement. She visited Mali, Guinea, and the Republic of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) as well.

9. Denzel Washington made his TV debut in a movie about Wilma Rudolph.

Before his Oscar-winning performances in Glory (1989) and Training Day (2001), a 22-year-old Denzel Washington portrayed Robert Eldridge, Rudolph’s second husband, in Wilma (1977). The film also starred Cicely Tyson as Rudolph’s mother Blanche.

10. Schools, stamps, and statues commemorate Wilma Rudolph’s legacy.

Berlin, Germany, has a high school named after Rudolph. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp celebrating her in 2004. Clarksville features a bronze statue by the Cumberland River, the 1000-capacity Wilma Rudolph Event Center, and Wilma Rudolph Boulevard. In Tennessee, June 23 is Wilma Rudolph Day.