The modern Olympic games date back to their revival in Athens in 1896. French historian Pierre de Coubertin was the driving force behind their renewal which attracted 176 athletes from 12 different countries.
Among those athletes were 14 men from the United States who came to compete in track and field, shooting, and swimming. Twelve of these American athletes won at least one medal.
A member of the Boston Athletic Club, William Welles Hoyt was born in Glastonbury in 1875. He was a student at Harvard at the time.
Hoyt competed in the pole vault in Athens against three Greeks and one other American. After the Greeks were eliminated, Hoyt competed against Albert Tyler of Princeton for the gold. When the bar was raised to 10 feet, Tyler made the height, but Hoyt missed it; however, when the bar was raised to 10 feet 10 inches, Hoyt rose to the challenge and cleared the height. Tyler could not, and Hoyt got the gold.
Interestingly, Hoyt also ran in the 110 meter hurdles, finishing second in the qualifying heat. He was eligible to run in the finals for a medal but chose not to. It is possible that the finals were held on a Sunday, and some American athletes refused to compete on Sundays, reportedly for religious reasons.
The first women to compete in the Olympics did so in Paris in 1900. Margaret Abbott, born in 1876, in Calcutta, India, represented America in golf. Abbott belonged to the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois, but lived for several years in Greenwich.
Abbott became the first American woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal by shooting a 47 for nine holes. Interestingly, Margaret's mother, the novelist Mary Abbott, also competed in the same event and finished 8th, shooting a 65. It is the only known instance in Olympic history of a mother and daughter competing in the same event simultaneously.
Peggy Abbott never played in any professional tournaments and seemed to have entered the Paris Olympics almost on a whim. She happened to be in Paris studying art under Degas and Rodin.
While in Paris, she read about the golf tournament and decided to enter. The 5-foot-11-inch Abbott also happened to meet American humorist Finley Peter Dunne in Paris and married him in 1902. The couple later moved to New York and then to Greenwich.