Ray Ewry is a ten-time Olympic champion in track and field (1900, Paris; 1904, St Louis; 1906, Athens; 1908, London) and a 1981 NYAC Hall of Fame inductee.
Ray Ewry was born on October 14th, 1873 in Lafayette, Indiana. From a very young age, his life was filled with hardship; Ewry was orphaned at the age of 5 and two years later he was diagnosed with polio. He wasn’t expected to live. If by some miracle he were to survive, doctors told Ewry that he would be condemned to life in a wheelchair.
As a last resort to overcome polio, doctors suggested Ewry keep an intense workout regimen of squatting and jumping: what is referred to today as plyometrics. Ewry’s jumping career was, thus, born out of necessity. He exercised religiously, strengthening his legs enough that, eventually, he could use crutches rather than a wheelchair. Not long after that, he was strong enough to walk on his own. By the time he entered Purdue University as a freshman engineering student in 1889, Ewry was so strong that he joined the track and field team; he would eventually become a captain, and break numerous school records in the long jump and high jump. Having beaten polio, Ewry sought to conquer something much easier: the Olympic Games.
Ewry won a combined eight gold medals in the 1900, 1904 and 1908 Olympic Games. In 1900 and in 1904, he was the Olympic champion in the standing long jump, the standing high jump and the standing triple jump. Remarkably, in 1900, he won all three on the same day, for which the French named him “L’homme Grenouille,” or the Human Frog.
In the 1908 Olympic Games, he won the gold medal in the standing long jump and the standing high jump. The standing triple jump was discontinued after 1904, which prevented Ewry from winning his third consecutive gold medal in three different events. Ewry also won two gold medals at the 1906 Inter-Calated games in Athens, in the standing long jump and the standing high jump; however, the IOC doesn't currently recognize medals won at those games.
Ewry died on September 29th, 1937. Although the legitimacy of the two medals won in 1906 is often debated, Ray Ewry’s legacy as an Olympic legend is, and will forever remain, undisputed.