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Genereal George Smith Patton

He is famed for his military accomplishments, but American General George Patton was also an accomplished sportsman in his youth and a Modern Pentathlon specialist who took part in the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Summer Games. This is what gained him a place in the first edition of Pierre de Coubertin’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Genereal George Smith Patton's biography

He is famed for his military accomplishments, but American General George Patton was also an accomplished sportsman in his youth and a Modern Pentathlon specialist who took part in the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Summer Games. This is what gained him a place in the first edition of Pierre de Coubertin’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Born on November 11, 1885 in San Marino in California into a family with a strong military tradition, Patton studied at the Virginia Military Institute and then at the Military Academy at West Point. Patton was keen on sport and had several tries at American football but had to quit due to an injury to his arm. He then pursued athletics and fencing and very quickly became one of the best fencers at West Point.

As a lieutenant in the cavalry from 1909, his good sportsmanship qualities gained him a place in the American team for the Olympic Games of 1912. With 42 athletes battling to be first-ever Modern Pentathlon gold medallist, he excelled in all the contests except in Shooting - a hard blow for a military man.

In fact, Patton was 9th in Fencing, 3rd in Riding, 7th in Swimming and 15th in Running, but could only finish 21st in Shooting. There was a certain controversy about the General’s performance on the range: he was using a 38-calibre while most of his competitors were using a smaller 22-calibre.

Patton put forward an explanation, which failed to convince officials, that his first shots had made such big holes in the target that some balls had passed through the same hole as the previous shots. The judges decided that he had missed the target and the future General had to be content with 5th place overall. Certainly, George Patton missed out on an Olympic medal which he had been expected to win.

After the Olympic Games Patton went to France to the Cadre Noir cavalry school of Saumur, where he made progress with his Riding and learnt new Fencing techniques with Charles Cléry. Thereafter he concentrated on his military career and became a General recognized throughout the world. He died in Heidelberg in Germany on December 21, 1945, aged 60.