History of Sport 1908: The London Olympics are Britain’s most successsful Games ever, Jack Johnson makes boxing history

Some of the main events that happened in sport in 1908:

Jack Johnson becomes the first African American World Heavyweight Champion by defeating Tommy Burns at Sydney, Australia. Johnson holds the title until 1915.

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The International Ice Hockey Federation is founded in Belgium.

The Amateur Rink Hockey Association is formed.

Inaugural International Skating Union (ISU) Championships for pair skating is held at Saint Petersburg and won by Germany’s Hubler and Burger.
Figure skating is held at the 1908 Summer Olympics and is the first winter sport to feature at the Olympics — 16 years before the inaugural Winter Games is held.  Ulrich Salchow wins the men’s title and Britain’s Madge Syers the women’s.


The 1908 Summer Olympics takes place in London
Great Britain wins the most medals (145) and the most gold medals (56).  These remain Britain’s most successful games ever although it must be said that the number of countries that competed was very limited.

Charles M. Daniels (US) wins his fourth individual swimming gold medal at his third Games.  Britain’s Henry Taylor wins three swimming golds, making a total of four at two Games.  Hungary’s Zoltan Halmay wins his ninth swimming medal since 1900.


Ray Ewry wins his eighth gold over three Games (he also won two at the 1906 Intercalated Games) when winning the standing long jump and high jump titles.



The marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yards becomes established after the Olympic marathon is run over this length from Windsor to White City.  That race is famous for the performance of Dorando Pietri who was first to finish but was helped over the line after falling over when well clear.  He was later disqualified. Britain’s George Larner wins two golds at race-walking and Wyndham Halswelle wins the 400m gold in a walkover after the American qualifiers for the final refuse to run following the disqualification of a team mate.  Other British athletics golds go to Emil Vogt in the 10000m and Arthur Russell in the steeplechase.  Martin Sheridan (US) wins his third gold and seventh medal over his career when retaining the discus title (not including two golds from 1906).  John Flanagan (US) wins his third successive hammer title.


Mel Sheppard (US) wins gold at 800m, 1500m and relay.




The pole vault title is shared, the only time this has ever happened in an individual Olympic athletics event.


Lottie Dod wins silver in the Olympic archery.  In earlier years she won five Wimbledon singles tennis titles and the British Ladies golf title.



Oscar and Alfred Swahn of Sweden become the first father and son to win golds.  Oscar wins the Running Deer shooting event aged 60, the oldest gold medallist at the Games.  Britain’s Joshua Miller is also aged 60 and wins a shooting gold.

Britain wins all five of the Olympic boxing golds with Richard Gunn taking the featherweight title aged 37 years 254 days.

England win the inaugural Olympic hockey title and Britain win the polo and water polo golds.  Canada retain the Olympic lacrosse title in the second and final time it was included in the Games.

Britain’s Harry Blackstaffe wins the single sculls gold and Britain win three other golds in rowing.  Britain also win golds in shooting, wrestling and cycling.

England play their first overseas football international, beating Austria 6-1 in Vienna.

“Punch” Fairs regains the world real tennis title.

The university of Pittsburgh’s American football team wear numbers in their game against Washington and Jefferson, the first time numbers have been worn.

The first flying club, the Aeronautical Society of New York, is set up at Morris Park racetrack.
Hunslet becomes the first team to achieve the celebrated “All Four Cups” feat winning the League, Challenge Cup, Yorkshire League and Yorkshire Cup.
Professional rugby league begins in Australia with the formation of the New South Wales Rugby League
South Sydney wins the first Australian championship, defeating Eastern Suburbs 14–12 in the final
26th Home Nations Championship series is won by Wales
As Wales also defeats France in a 1908 non-championship match, its team is retrospectively regarded as a Grand Slam winner.

In football Sofus Nielsen scores ten goals for Denmark v France in the Olympics (Denmark won 17-1).  The gold is won by the UK.

Signorinetta wins the Derby at a price of 100-1.

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