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Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, won his first gold medal at the 1912 Olympics in the 100-meter freestyle. The Games were held in Stockholm and were the last before World War I. The world would not see another Olympics until 1920. 

The 1912 Olympics are perhaps best remembered for the heroics of Jim Thorpe. The American superstar won both the decathlon and the pentathlon. At the awards ceremony, King Gustav of Sweden presented the medal for the decathlon with the words, “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.” Thorpe’s two-word response: “Thanks, King.” Thorpe was stripped of both medals in 1913 when it was discovered he had been paid to play baseball, violating the amateur code. 

Those games are also remembered for the marathon. At that time marathoners did not believe in drinking water. It was an unusually hot day. Half of the field was forced out of the race. A Portuguese runner died of heat exhaustion. A Japanese runner named Shizo Kanakuri lost consciousness and collapsed. Ashamed of his “failure,” he returned home without notifying Olympic officials. The Japanese runner would remain an official “missing person” in Sweden for more than five decades. Then, in 1967, when it was discovered he was still alive, Shizo was invited back to Sweden to finish the race. His official time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds is the slowest in Olympic history. “It was a long trip,” he remarked. “Along the way, I got married, had six children and 10 grandchildren.” 

Another American hero also competed in the 1912 Olympics. He is arguably more famous today than any other early Olympian, but not for his performance in the games. George S. Patton competed in the modern pentathlon. This was the first appearance of the event, which included running, fencing, swimming, horseback riding, and shooting. Patton finished well in four of the five events and would have medaled except for a poor performance in the shooting event. Most of the competitors used a .22. Patton considered that to be unmanly, so he used a .38 which blew huge holes in the target. Officials decided one of his five shots missed the target altogether. Patton said the shot passed through one of the holes his previous shots had made. 

George S. Patton would go on to lead American soldiers to victories in two wars. He would become almost as famous for his pistols as his victories. In North Africa he tried to shoot down an attacking German aircraft with a pistol. Patton won dozens of medals during his military career. The only medal that eluded him was that Olympic medal. 

A .38 caliber revolver is a fine gun, but it is not the right gun for target shooting or shooting down enemy fighter planes. In investing, it is equally important to use the right tool. If you are unsure which tool to use, ask someone who is not trying to sell you something. Speaking of the right tool for the job, in 1925 Duke Kahanamoku was giving a surfing demonstration near Newport Beach when a fishing trawler capsized. Seventeen of the 29 people on board died. Duke rescued eight men using his surfboard. Turns out that a surfboard is a great life saving tool.

Scott A. Grant is a local author, historian, columnist, and speaker. He is president of Standfast Asset Management in Ponte Vedra Beach. He welcomes your comments or questions at

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