1,200 competitors are expected to take part in a multi-sport competition
honoring one the greatest athletes from the 20th century. The 3rd
annual Jim Thorpe Native American Games will be staged June 8-14
in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
During its first two years, the Games were held in Oklahoma
City. Instead, organizers opted to move the games to Shawnee, located
about a 30-minute drive east of Oklahoma City. "It was really done
to have the Games have more of an Indian community feel," Annetta
Abbott, the Games' executive director, told ICTMN. "We are more
in Indian country now."
The Games were first staged in 2012, in honor of the 100-year
anniversary of Thorpe's medal-winning performances at the 1912 Summer
Olympics in Sweden. Thorpe captured gold medals in both the pentathlon
and decathlon events in Sweden. He later played pro baseball and
football. About 1,500 athletes from across the country took part
in the inaugural Jim Thorpe Native American Games. "The plan was
to stage the Games every two years," Abbott said. "But after that
first year, people were asking if we could have it again the next
year. So it became an annual event."
Organizers are also hoping to expand the Games in future years
and to stage regional qualifiers across the country. A goal is to
then have winners from those regional competitions have a portion
of their expenses covered to attend the national Games.
Organizers are anticipating athletes representing at least 60
tribes will take part in this year's Games. "We've got athletes
from all corners of the country coming," Abbott said.
Last year's participation numbers were down from the first year
in large part because of Mother Nature. Abbott said numerous athletes
withdrew from the event as tornadoes were rampant, and many parents
did not want their children travelling to Oklahoma. "We are really
pleased with the numbers we have this year," Abbott added. "We've
been able to see what sports work well and we've added some divisions
in those sports."
A total of 12 sports will be contested at this year's Games.
Stickball is a new addition. It had been an exhibition (demonstration)
sport during the first two years of the games, but is now a full-medal
sport. Lacrosse is an exhibition sport this time around.The other
sports being offered are basketball, beach volleyball, cross-country
running, football, golf, martial arts, softball, tennis, track and
field and wrestling.
For the first time, games' organizers will also offer two $2,500
scholarships to competitors who are college-bound high school seniors.
One female and one male winner will be selected.
Abbott said the calibre of athletes at these Games is rather
high. "We've had some really good athletes," she said. "Some of
the tennis athletes are on the junior amateur circuit. And some
of the football and basketball athletes were going to go on to NCAA