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Myer Prinstein:
The First Jewish & Polish-American
Olympic Gold Medalist

Born Mejer Prinsztejn December 22, 1878 in Szczuczyn, Poland, his name changed to Myer (often spelled Meyer) Prinstein after his family immigrated to New York City in 1883. Shortly after arriving in New York, the Prinsteins relocated to Syracuse, where Myer attended Syracuse University and was captain of the track team. He also competed as a member of the local Y.M.C.A. team.

On June 11, 1898, at the age of 19, Prinstein set a world record for the long jump with a distance of 23' 8⅞”.

In 1900, representing the Syracuse University track team, Prinstein traveled to Paris to compete for the United States team in the second modern Olympics. He returned victorious with a gold medal in the hop, step and a jump, (now called the triple jump), and a silver medal is the long jump –– making him the first Jewish and Polish-American Olympic gold medalist.

After graduating from Syracuse University with a law degree, Prinstein moved to Queens, New York and joined the Greater New York Irish Athletic Association (predecessor of the Irish-American Athletic Club). Prinstein was the first of several prominent Jewish athletes to sport the Winged Fist of the I-AAC, including Olympic medalists Alvah Meyer and Abel Kiviat.

At the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, competing as a member of the Greater New York Irish Athletic Association, he won gold medals in both the long jump and the hop, step and jump on the same day, becoming the only athlete ever to win both events in the same Games. In addition, he finished 5th in both the 60-meter and 400-meter events.

Then, at the 1906 Athens Olympics, Prinstein – now a member of the Irish-American Athletic Club – won his fourth gold medal with a win in the long jump competition, defeating world record-holder Peter O'Connor of Ireland.

With a total of four gold medals and one silver to his credit, Myer Prinstein was second only to Martin Sheridan (and equal to Melvin Sheppard) in total Olympic medals won by a member of the I-AAC.

After retiring from athletics in 1906, Prinstein practiced law and ran a stationery business and real estate company in Jamaica, Queens, New York. He also was a trustee and served as financial secretary of the Temple Israel of Jamaica. Myer Prinstein died on March 10, 1925 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and is buried in Union Field Cemetery in the Ridgewood section of Queens, N.Y.

Myer Prinstein was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1982, the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.


Myer Prinstein, wearing the Winged Fist of the Greater New York Irish Athletic Association at the 1904 Olympic Games, in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Daily News Collection, Library of Congress.

Prinstein's Olympic Laurels:

1900 Olympics, Paris:

Triple Jump – Gold

Long Jump – Silver

1904 Olympics, St. Louis:

Triple Jump – Gold

Long Jump – Gold

1906 Olympics, Athens:

Long Jump – Gold

"The Original Orange Olympic Champ." – Syracuse University Magazine.