• Antwerp 1920

Antwerp 1920 - Key moments

ESPN staff
October 12, 2011
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USA beat France in the final of the rugby © PA Photos
Doves of peace
After an interruption of eight years due to World War I, the Olympic Games returned in Antwerp. The Belgian city, which had been severely bombarded during the war, was chosen to host the Games shortly after the end of the conflict. The Games did not welcome Germany and its allies, and would be organised with one underlying necessity for the 29 nations involved: austerity.

In some senses these Games were historic: The five-ringed Olympic flag and oath - pronounced by Belgian fencer Victor Boin - made their first appearance (even though the oath had been read during the intercalated Games in 1906). Another innovation was the public's involvement in the releasing of hundreds of doves during the opening ceremony, symbolising the return of peace to the continent of Europe.

A Finnish surprise
The United States came out on top with 40 gold medals, with a total of 94, although the track and field events were ill-attended, primarily due to the elevated price of tickets for the competitions.

One surprise victor was Finland, mostly thanks to a young long-distance specialist - a 23-year-old who won three gold medals and one silver, a certain Paavo Nurmi. The other big Finnish name at these Games was Hannes Kolehmainen, who, having won the 5,000 and 10,000 metres in 1912, went on to win the marathon.

As in Stockholm, the Hawaiian swimmer Duke Kahanamoku was the fastest in the 100-metre freestyle, while the Italian fencer Nedo Nadi left Antwerp with five titles. His brother Aldo had to make do with "only" three team titles and an individual silver medal in the saber event.

American boxer Edward Eagan, who won an Olympic title in the light-heavyweight category, became the only athlete to win both Olympic Summer and Olympic Winter titles after his bobsled gold medal with three other team members during the Games in Lake Placid (1932).

Overall, the first postwar Games of the modern era allowed the peoples of Europe to find hope and strength in a sporting and spirited atmosphere.

Kelly bent double on revenge
Jack Kelly took his revenge on the organisers of the Henley-on-Thames rowing regatta, who had previously prevented his participation in the event. Undoubtedly, this, coupled with his obvious talent for rowing, formed a major part of his determination until realising victory in the skiff in Antwerp.

Kelly, a 20-year-old manual worker from Philadelphia, beat Britain's Jack Beresford, winner of the famous regatta a few weeks previously, by a mere second.

A half-hour following Kelly's victory, he embarked on the double sculls event joined by his compatriot Paul Costello. In 7 minutes and 9 seconds, he won his second gold medal. Two titles in thirty minutes: a feat no other athlete has since accomplished at the Olympic Games.

His exclusion from the English regatta was apparently due to the fact that he belonged to the Vesper Rowing Club of Philadelphia, a club that was considered semi-professional by the English organisers. Officially, they gave the excuse that the British "gentlemen" did not find it sporting to compete against a manual worker.

Four years later, Kelly, whose daughter grew up to become Princess Grace of Monaco, retained his title in the coxed pairs.

Yet his most noted revenge on the conformity of the English came when his son, John Jr., won the Henley Regatta twice (1947 and 1949) - the same event in which Jack was denied the chance to perform at the time of winning his gold medals.

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