Tug of war at the 1900 Summer Olympics
|Tug of war
at the Games of the II Olympiad
The tug of war competition
|Venue||Catalan Cross, Boulogne Forest, Paris|
|Competitors||12 from 3 nations|
A tug of war tournament was held on 16 July at Catalan Cross, Boulogne Forest in Paris as part of the 1900 Summer Olympics. The only match of the tournament was played between a team from the Racing Club de France, representing France, and a mixed team consisting of three Danish athletes and three Swedish athletes. The mixed Scandinavian team won the match 2–0.
Originally, the French team were scheduled to play a team from the United States, but the latter withdrew from the competition as three of their team were taking place in the hammer throw at the same time. The Scandinavians were accepted as late entrants by the organisers, and their team was composed primarily of athletes who were competing in other events, though it also included a journalist, Edgar Aabye, to make up the numbers. The mixed team won each of the first two pulls against the French in a best-of-three contest to win the gold medal. Due to a second, unofficial, match subsequently taking place between the United States and the Scandinavians, some records have erroneously listed the United States as gold medalists.
The modern Olympic Games were first held in Athens in 1896, and travelled to Paris four years later as part of the 1900 Exposition Universelle world's fair. The second Games featured a greatly expanded range of events from the first, up from 43 to 95. Among the events added in 1900 was the tug of war. Two tug of war teams were entered for the Paris tournament; Racing Club de France represented the host nation, along with a team from the United States which was composed of six athletes that were taking part in various other events during the Games. The American team withdrew from the competition, as they discovered that the tug of war was scheduled at the same time as the hammer throw which three of their team were competing in.[a] A Scandinavian team was accepted as a late-entry by the organisers, comprising a mix of Swedish and Danish athletes competing at the Games. Various reports assign the credit for the formation and entry of this team to different sources; a Danish account claimed that it was one of the Danish pullers, Eugen Schmidt who was responsible, while a Swedish record attributed it to their representative at the Games, Lieutenant Bergh.
The French team, representing the Racing Club de France, included 3 players who were later part of the gold-winning rugby team for France.[b] Jean Collas, Charles Gondouin, and Émile Sarrade were all part of both teams, while it is often misreported that another of their rugby teammates, the Haitian-born Constantin Henriquez was also on the tug of war team, but this was a case of mistaken identity due to their similar names, with Colombian-born Francisco Henríquez de Zubiría taking part in the tug of war. The other two members of the tug-of-war team were Raymond Basset and Joseph Roffo. The combined Scandinavian team featured three athletes from each of Sweden and Denmark. The Swedish competitors were August Nilsson, who also took part in the pole vault and shot put, Gustaf Söderström, who was competing in the shot put and the discus throw, and Karl Staaf, who did the pole vault, triple jump, standing triple jump and hammer throw. Only one of the three Danish pullers took part in any other events; Charles Winckler competed in the shot put and discus throw. Dane Edgar Aabye was at the Games as a journalist for the Politiken newspaper, but was recruited into the team to make up the numbers as one of the original entrants was injured. Eugen Schmidt, the sixth member of the team, had competed in the 100 metres sprint and the 200 metre rifle shooting at the 1896 Games, and founded the Danish Sports Federation that same year.
The match was played as a best-of-three. The mixed Scandinavian team won both of the first two pulls, using their greater weight, particularly that of Söderström and Winckler, to their advantage. The Swedish paper Ny Tidning för Idrott reported that the French team "put up desperate resistance" but were unable to cope with their opponents. There are sources that report that the Scandinavian team won by two pulls to one, but the majority record it as a 2–0 victory.
As late as 1974, the Olympic Review listed the United States team of John Flanagan, Robert Garrett, Truxton Hare, Josiah McCracken, Lewis Sheldon and Richard Sheldon as the gold medalists for the 1900 tug of war. A report in the Paris edition of the New York Herald described the tug of war contest at the Olympic Games as being "an object lesson in how not to do a thing". The report mentioned the Scandinavian team's defeat of France, before detailing a second match, between an American team and the Scandinavians. The New York Herald recorded that in the second contest, a group of Americans formed a team to take on the victorious Scandinavians, beating them in two pulls, the second of which took over five minutes. In contrast, the Journal des Sports suggested that the Americans initially wanted to wear spiked shoes to take part in the match, but were then forced to remove them after protests. They then won the first pull against the mixed Swedish/Danish team, but during the second pull, some of their compatriots joined in pulling the rope to help the tiring team. A fight nearly broke out, but was avoided by the intervention of officials. Irrespective of the result of this second contest, it was not considered to be part of the official competition, but rather a private contest, and the United States were not considered to have officially taken part.
| Mixed team (ZZX)
Edgar Aabye (DEN)
August Nilsson (SWE)
Eugen Schmidt (DEN)
Gustaf Söderström (SWE)
Karl Staaf (SWE)
Charles Winckler (DEN)
| France (FRA)
Francisco Henríquez de Zubiría
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