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Igniting the Flame: America's First Olympic Team Hardcover – June 5, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot Press (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762778482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762778485
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,088,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Library Journal

From the Inside Flap

The first US Olympic team—a ragtag group of fourteen men, mostly Ivy Leaguers, with little support from the country—stood at the top of the podium for an amazing eleven events at the inaugural modern Games in 1896. Their unexpected triumphs caused a swell of national pride and paved the way for generations of US Olympians. Author Jim Reisler chronicles the American sports scene in the nineteenth century, the men of influence who established a modern Olympics, and how a squad of semi-talented Americans, competing without the backing of the Amateur Athletic Union or their universities, went off to Athens anyway and won the hearts and minds of the world.
Only four of the fourteen Americans could be called “world class” at their events. Yet, on the first day of the Games—following a grueling journey to Greece—Boston’s James Connolly won the triple jump (becoming the first Olympic champion in 1,500 years); Princeton’s Robert Garrett took first in the discus, an event in which he had never competed; and all three American sprinters won their 100-meter heats. As American triumphs mounted, so did headlines, legitimizing the Games back home. But somehow the team’s story has been largely forgotten. Even more forgotten is the team’s champion, William Milligan Sloane, a Princeton professor of classics whose role in establishing the modern Olympics has never before been adequately explored.
Recalling the events of the 1896 Olympics, revealing the inside story of how the United States team was put together, and telling the individual tales of fourteen fascinating athletes, Igniting the Flame is an inspiring account of how the American Olympic movement caught fire.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael on July 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Igniting the Flame is a fun read for anyone interested in the Olympics, track & field, and amateur sports. Jim Reisler is a great storyteller, transporting the reader to the time of the first modern Olympics in 1896. This was a time when there was no organized US Olympic infrastructure (like we have today) and the stories of how the first US athletes made their way to Greece in ad hoc fashion are compelling. The athletes were mostly from Ivy League schools. Even though school administrators did not always support their Olympic dreams, the athletes pressed on. Even more inspiring was the success these first US Olympians had in Athens - including some competing and succeeding in events (such as discus) for the first time. Descriptions of Greek hospitality towards the US athletes also remind us of what international sports should be about at their best. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Igniting the Flame is the story of the 14 college athletes who went to the first modern Olympics in the name of the United States in 1896. The story is a fascinating story that needs to be better known. Unfortunately, the sweep of the narrative was buried in encyclopedic data without a sense of narrative. I felt the story was told in a disjointed fashion jumping back and forth in time that obscured the story line itself. There is a great story here, but I felt it was buried in detail.

The good quality of the research showed. The story cried out for telling. It should have been exciting. But was not as it was told here.
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By Bart A. Donow on September 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Thinking that I knew a lot about the first modern Olympics and the social history of the time, I eagerly tore into this book. The more I read the more pleasantly surprised I became. The author does a masterful job of weaving the athletic, social, personal, and economic aspects of these games while telling a story that kept my interest from the first page to the last. Upon finishing the book, I was amazed at how little I had actually known about the restoration of the games and the participants.

I think this book would appeal to the casual sports fan as much as it would to the die hard. Even if you are not a sports fan, the author brings all of the characters in the book to life. You care about what happens to each as you learn of their triumphs and defeats. I recommend it without reservation.
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