Paul Pilgrim is a three time Olympic champion in track and field (St. Louis, 1904; Athens, 1906) and a 1986 NYAC Hall of Fame Inductee.
Pilgrim was a member of the NYAC’s track and field team that competed at the 1904 Olympic Games in St Louis. Pilgrim and his teammates competed against the Chicago Athletic Association in the Four Miles Team Race. Although he finished in sixth place, the NYAC team defeated the CAA and won the gold medal. However, because of his underwhelming performance, Pilgrim was written off as a serious competitor for the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens.
Initially, Pilgrim was not a part of the 1906 US Olympic team at all. In fact, he was only added to the team at the last minute and had to pay his own way to Athens. What was humiliating at the time turned into a blessing in disguise. Several American athletes, on board the official boat to Athens, were injured when a huge wave crashed onto the deck. Among the injured was fellow NYAC member and the favorite in the 400m, Harry Hillman.
While Pilgrim certainly didn’t wish ill against his fellow club member, he took full advantage of his absence. Pilgrim became the first man to win gold in the 400m and the 800m in the same Olympic Games, a feat which was not replicated until Alberto Juantorena did so in 1976.
After retiring from competition Pilgrim served as the Athletic Director for the NYAC from 1914-1953.
Paul Pilgrim passed away January 8th, 1958.