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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

GEORGE W. ORTON

Inducted in 1977

Member Details

Date of Birth: January 10, 1873
Place of Birth: Strathroy, Ontario
Date of Passing: June 26, 1958
Sport: Athletics
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1892-1900

Over 100 victories in U.S. and Canadian mid-distance track and field events

1900

Paris Olympic Games Gold medal, 2,500m steeplechase, (Canada's first Olympic gold)

Paris Olympic Games - Bronze medal, 400m hurdles

Honoured Member GEORGE W. ORTON
Inspire

Story

Despite the fact that Canada did not send an Olympic team to the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, France, Canada still managed to claim an Olympic gold medal. This feat was made possible by George Orton, a Canadian by birth who had been invited to join the American team at the Games after claiming numerous victories in track and field events throughout the United States. Born in Strathroy, Ontario, Orton earned a reputation as a superb middle-distance runner while studying languages at the University of Toronto. He won the Canadian and U.S. mile titles in 1892 and 1893 before enrolling in graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 1893. While working toward his Ph. D. , Orton captained the school's track team and continued to sweep one and two-mile races, as well as steeplechase events, throughout Canada and the United States. With over 100 victories to his name, including 15 U.S. titles, Orton was a prime choice for the American Olympic track team in 1900, and, though performing for an adopted country, he did not disappoint. Orton placed fourth in the 4,000m steeplechase, claimed a bronze medal in the 400m hurdles, and won a gold medal in the 2,500m steeplechase. This was the first Olympic gold medal to be won by a Canadian athlete. An excellent scholar as well as a superb athlete, Orton further impressed the Olympic entourage with his fluency in languages. At the concluding banquet, he was able to respond for athletes from Italy, Germany, Spain, and France. Orton also had a sophisticated, methodical approach to running. One author described him as "a most consistent runner, always to be depended upon, and a most scientific student of the whole art and theory of distance and cross-country work." He authored numerous books and articles about the technicalities of running, and also chronicled the history of athletics at the University of Pennsylvania during his era. It took many years for Orton's gold to be accepted as a Canadian triumph, but the champion runner is now recognized as Canada's first Olympic gold medalist and honoured for his feats throughout the nation.


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