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London 1908 - Key Moments

Ewry, "the rubber man"

Sports fans and enthusiasts could be forgiven if they had never heard of a turn-of-the-century athletics star who, after four consecutive Olympiads (including the Intercalated Games in 1906), succeeded in picking up a total of ten gold medals.

That Raymond Ewry took part in events which are no longer practised and which therefore play no further part in the Olympic programme should not deflect from the amazing feats he achieved in numerous events from the standing high jump to the standing triple jump.

But what perhaps makes Ewry's Olympic success even more poignant is the fact that, since contracting polio as a young child and being threatened with spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair, he truly battled adversity to finally realise his dream of excelling on the field of competition.

From the wheelchair to Olympic gold

Born on October 18, 1873, in Lafayette, Indiana, an Olympic triple looked the last thing the near-debilitated Ewry would win.

But with a spirit which defied the odds, the man who would consequently smash the pre-conceived mental and physical barriers of debilitation, launching a personal campaign against his illness.

He began exercising on his own, finally regaining the use of his legs. Soon, he was able to leave the confines of his wheelchair.

It was in Paris in 1900 that 27-year-old Ewry let the result of years of difficult and painful training move to the fore.

On July 16, he promptly swept the board in the standing events - high jump (new world record), long jump and triple jump.

Four years later in his home country in the city of St Louis, he repeated this feat, defending all his Olympic titles and setting a new world record in the standing long jump. His amazing versatility and determination to succeed afforded him the nickname "the rubber man".

In 1906 and 1908 the triple jump was eliminated from the Olympic programme and Ewry had to settle for double victories in the long jump and high jump.

Finally, the standing events were eliminated from the Games after 1912 - shortly after the inspiring Ewry had retired from the athletics field.

He died on September 27, 1937 at the age of 63.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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