In the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, the US pentathlon team consisted of:
Lt. George S. Patton — He nearly killed himself trying to win a medal, and placed 5th — or maybe he really placed higher, and was robbed by bad refereeing. Either way, destined to do big things with tanks. But first, he had to go from zero to fencing hero, ride a perfect round on a horse he didn’t know, and survive his coach drugging him.
Jim Thorpe — He won gold in pentathlon and decathlon, and is perhaps the greatest athlete of all time. He played pro football and pro baseball. A member of the Sac and Fox/Sauk tribes from the plains of Oklahoma, he kicked ass, took names, and chewed bubblegum — then had his medals taken away in disgrace.
Avery Brundage — Destined to become the highly controversial head of the International Olympics Committee for many years, for good and ill. He finished 6th and 16th in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon; and he’s the guy who informed on Thorpe to the IOC!
There has GOT to be a movie in this.
Just showing the men’s training, and their performance in the pentathlon would be a great and highly scenic movie. You’d see them swimming, running, riding horses, shooting pistols, and fencing, too. And then, when the pentathlon is over and the medals given out, the twists begin.
Was Brundage really the sorest loser of all time, turning on his teammate out of spite and (probably) racism, too? Was he acting out of idealism, perhaps tormented by the horror of having to turn in a gold medalist from his own country?
And then Patton, who’d subdued his own natural demand to win to the decision of the judges, at least publicly. Did he know about what Brundage did? (Surely he couldn’t have — but what would he have done if he’d found out about such a breach of what he’d been taught as an honor code? Would he have only suspected? Would he have tried to learn the truth? Was there any history between the two later on, especially given Brundage’s pro-Nazi sympathies later on?)
But most of all, Thorpe. What would it be like, to be the poor boy, the natural athlete, and the minority guy among a bunch of rich sportsmen who only did sports for fun, and crazy grinds like Patton who made hard work replace natural talent? What would it be like, to go from Oklahoma to the thrones of kings, and then to fall — only to get back up again, and have a full career, however checkered?
Who would have bonded with whom? Who would have understood each other’s manners and values best? Who would have made more friends among the other teams — friends destined to fight and perhaps die in the First and Second World Wars, who would perhaps trade fire with Patton?
I’m telling you, this could get more interesting than Chariots of Fire.
You could call it something like “Aiming for Gold“.
And if that doesn’t work, my dad thinks you should kidnap them through a space-time portal and bring them to a fantasy land to be destined heroes. ‘Cause, you know, Jim Thorpe would be a pretty awesome Hero of Destiny, and so would Patton. (Maybe Brundage can be Aramis. Or Judas.)