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London 1908 - Key Moments

Ewry, "the rubber man"

Sports fans and enthusiasts can be forgiven if they have never heard of a turn-of-the-century track and field star who, in four consecutive Olympics (including the Intercalated Games in 1906), succeeded in picking up ten gold medals.

That Raymond Ewry took part in events that are no longer practiced should not deflect from the amazing feats he achieved in numerous events from the standing high jump to the standing triple jump.

But what 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 battled to realize his dream of excelling on the field of competition.

From the wheelchair to Olympic gold

Born on Oct. 18, 1873, in Lafayette, Ind., Ewry soon was nearly debilitated. It looked like an Olympic triple was the last thing he would win.

But with a spirit that defied the odds, the man, who consequently would smash preconceived mental and physical barriers, launched 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 1900 in Paris that 27-year-old Ewry let the results of years of difficult, painful training move to the fore.

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

Four years later in his home country, in the city of St. Louis, he repeated the feat, defending all his Olympic titles and setting a 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 program, and Ewry had to settle for double victories in the long jump and high jump.

After 1912, the standing events were eliminated from the Games -- shortly after the inspiring Ewry had retired from competition.

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

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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