James Brendan Connolly


Boston's first Olympic champion was a man of many pursuits-athlete, journalist, soldier, sailor, would-be politician, and respected author. Connolly was born in South Boston in 1869, one of twelve children in an Irish immigrant family. Despite his lack of a formal education, Connolly passed the entrance exam to Harvard College and began his studies there at the age of 27. But Connolly opted to drop out of school to compete in the first Olympic Games of the modern era, held in 1896 in Athens. The Games kicked off with the hop, skip, and jump event-similar to today's triple jump. Connolly took first place in the event, making him the first Olympic champion in over 1500 years. (However, it would be inaccurate to call Connolly a 'gold medalist,' since silver medals, not gold, were awarded for first place in 1896.) Connolly also competed in the Paris Olympics of 1900, where he took second in the hop, skip, and jump event. This dynamic sculpture shows Connolly in the process of landing a long jump, planting his heels and thrusting his torso forward in an effort to keep his balance. As his athletic career came to a close, Connolly focused his energies on writing, serving as correspondent during World War I for several publications, including the Boston Globe. Before his death in 1957, he published numerous novels and short stories, mostly about life at sea, which gained him the admiration of English poet T.S. Eliot and president Teddy Roosevelt. Courtesy of Boston Art Commission.

Installed, 1987