Michigan in the Olympics


1900 - Paris

There was not an organized U.S. team for the Paris Olympics, rather, a number of universities sponsored squads. Michigan had just defeated Chicago for the Western Conference track crown when it was learned that Chicago was sending athletes to Paris. For professor Albert Pattengill and others it became a point of pride that the champions of the West should also be represented at the Olympics. Funds were solicited from faculty, students, alumni and Ann Arbor businessmen to send four track men to Paris. Coach Keene Fitzpatrick and two students accompanied them. The U of M squad brought three silver medals back to Ann Arbor, but not without some controversy.

1900 Olympians   Keene Fitzpatrick   Alvin Kranzlein

left, clockwise from top left: U of M 1900 Olympians: Howard Hayes, Charles Dvorak, John McLean, Clark Leiblee
center: U of M track coach and football trainer Keene Fitzpatrick, 1898-1910
right: Alvin Kraenzlein, U of M track coach, 1911-1912

The U. S. athletes had understood there would be no competition on Sundays. When finals of some events were scheduled for Sunday, the U.S. university teams, after much discussion, agreed they could not violate the Sabbath. Some individuals and university teams then broke the agreement, which led to more controversy. Among the finals scheduled for Sunday was the pole vault, in which Michigan's Charles Dvorak was a favorite. Dvorak is supposed to have reported to the competition area only to be told that the pole vault final was rescheduled. After he and another American had left the finals were held. Eventually several special competitions were held to accommodate the Americans, which allowed Dvorak to win a silver medal.

Alvin Kranzlein
Kranzlein at Penn

John McLean, twice Western Intercollegiate champion in the high hurdles, finished second to Alvin Kraenzlein of Pennsylvania. Kraenzlein was the star of the Paris games. He won four gold medals in the 60 yard dash, 110 and 220 hurdles and the long jump. Kraenzlein later served as UM track coach and football trainer, 1910-1911. Kranzlein is credited with introducing the "straight-leg" hurdle technique. In 1913 Kranzlein signed a five-year contract to coach the German Olympic team at a reported salary of $50,000. He had moved to Berlin and begun training the German team when, supposedly, the Kaiser himself warned Kranzlein that World War I was about to break out and that he should leave the country. Kranzlein later served as a coach for the Cuban national team and an assistant coach at Penn.

In addition to the "official" events, the 1900 Olympics included a number of special competitions and "handicap" races. Hayes and Leiblee competed in these events and are therefore sometimes not listed as members of the U.S. team.

Mike Murphy, who had served as the first trainer/coach of the Michigan football team in 1891 , was the unofficial coach of the U.S. team. Murphy was Kranzlein's coach at the University of Pennsylvania (he had influenced Kranzlein to transfer to Penn after competing at Wisconsin for a year.) Murphy is regarded as among the greatest of U.S. track coaches and would be involved, formally or informally, with U.S. Olympic teams though 1912.

The U-M Results-1900

John McLean
   high hurdlessilver
    broad jump did not compete in Sunday finals
    800 metersfinished 3rd in fastest heat
    low hurdlesfinished 3rd in fastest heat
Charles Dvorak
   pole vaultsilver, in a special event
Howard Hayes
   800 meters silver in "handicap" race
Clark Leiblee
   100 metersmade it to semi-finals

John McLean at 1900 Western Conf. meet
John McLean wins 220 hurdles at 1900 Western Conference Meet

Photo Credits:

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