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At the time of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, James Connolly was a 27-year-old undergraduate student at Harvard. Desperate to compete at the Olympic Games, Connolly submitted a request for a leave of absence which, according to Harvard records, was denied. Connolly then requested an honourable withdrawal as a student, which was granted.
On 6 April 1896, Connolly won the triple jump, which was then known as the “hop, skip, jump”. This made him the first Olympic champion in 1,527 years. He also placed second in the high jump and third in the long jump.
At the 1900 Paris Games, Connolly lost his Olympic title to his compatriot Meyer Prinstein. Four years later, he attended the 1904 Olympic Games as a journalist. He later became a well-known novelist and was offered an honorary doctorate by Harvard, which he turned down.