Orphaned at age 5 and diagnosed with polio at age 7, Ray Ewry found himself confined to a wheelchair. Just being able to walk again would be a significant accomplishment.
Ewry, however, was determined. Every day, he did leg exercises, hoping that he could somehow strengthen his legs.
Amazingly, Ewry’s hard work paid off. And then some. He enrolled at Purdue University and worked his way to become captain of the track team. After graduating with a master’s degree in engineering, Ewry eventually took a job as a Navy inspector outside New York City. He joined the New York Athletic Club and started training for the Paris 1900 Olympic Games, the second-ever modern Olympics.
Nicknamed “the human frog,” Ewry was dominant in jumping events, which at the time were conducted without a running approach. The standing long jump, standing high jump and standing triple jump (also known as hop, skip and jump) have long been discontinued. But in the early 1900s – and ever since – no one performed these athletics feats better.
In Paris, Ewry won gold medals in each event. Four years later, at the St. Louis 1904 Olympic Games, Ewry successfully repeated as the gold medalist in all three events. He only won two golds at the London 1908 Olympic Games – the standing triple jump had been dropped from competition. Ewry set world records for the standing long jump and standing high jump. Ewry’s eight gold medals in individual events stood as a record for the most by any athlete for the next 100 years and he is generally considered among the greatest Olympians ever.
Ewry passed away in 1937. He was 63.