New book: Igniting the Flame: America’s First Olympic Team, by Jim Reisler (Lyons Press)
The book: Four of the 14 members of the first U.S. Olympic team were Princeton students: Robert Garrett 1897 won the discus and shot put, was runner-up in the long jump and third in the high jump; Albert Tyler 1897 was runner-up in the pole vault; Herbert Jamison 1897 was runner-up in the 400 meters; and Francis Lane 1897 competed in the 100 meters. William Sloane, a Princeton classics professor, was influential in establishing the team. Igniting the Flame tells the story of the Princetonians’ role in the inaugural modern Games in 1896. Another Princeton connection: Keith Wallman ’00, an editor at Lyons Press, acquired and edited this book.
From the book: “Equally remarkable was that the man most responsible for putting the team together — one William Mulligan Sloane — was noted more for scholarship than for athletics. And yet Sloane, the eminent Princeton University historian, had been a tour de force in building the U.S. team. As the American representative of an international committee appointed by the French nobleman Baron Pierre de Coubertin to revive the ancient Greek games, Sloane had worked for two years to assemble a U.S. Olympic team. Overlooked and belittled by U.S. amateur sports officials who showed no interest in the Olympics, Sloane had soldiered on, determined to find a way to get his small band of athletes to Athens.”
Review: “Reisler weaves a handful of narrative threads: the story of the resurrection of the Olympic Games, and of the men who accomplished it; the primitive means of travel and lodging; the stories of the individual American athletes and accounts of the events; and some whatever-happened-to-those-guys follow-up,” wrote Kirkus Reviews. Reisler “skillfully records the cries and struggles attending a nearly miraculous rebirth.”