The first Russian Olympian in history: a nobleman-journalist got to Athena, but drank right there and starred – Stream of Consciousness – Blogs
Many people know about the first Olympic champion in the history of Russia – Nikolai Panin-Kolomenkin took gold in figure skating at the 1908 Summer (!) Games in London.
But still, he was not the official first Olympian – he visited the debut Games of 1896 in Athens Nicholas Ritter. However, Ritter did not officially perform at that Olympics, but adventures were attracted.
Athletes from the Russian Empire rushed to the first games, but did not find money
Fashion – briefly about why of the Russian athletes only Ritter got to that Olympics.
In fact, in the Russian Empire, athletes from St. Petersburg, Odessa and Kyiv were preparing for the Games and tried to participate, first of all, and even our chances for medals were. But everything was covered for a banal reason: the event was not captured.
Olympic Games 1896 in Athens
Athletes traveled to Athens on their own – some even got to Istanbul, but miscalculated messages, and often returned to their homeland.
At that time, our representative, General Aleksey Butovsky, worked in the small IOC that had been created; Baron Pierre de Coubertin himself elected him in the committee. But Butovsky was not rich and could not help the athletes financially.
And so it happened that only one Russian came to the first Olympics in history – a 30-year-old journalist from the Kievlyanin newspaper.
Resigned from the civil service of Radio Olympics
Ritter was born into the family of a Russian nobleman of German origin. Perhaps in this plane it was easier for him than for many – he received a good education immediately after entering the civil service.
Nikolay got interested in sports early and often traveled abroad, where he trained with masters: almost all his free time (and sometimes he was fond of it) was devoted to preparation.
When Ritter learned about the revival of the Olympics, he really got excited about this idea. But it was clear that the service would interfere with the performance at the Games, so Ritter simply quit his job – all for the sake of a dream.
However, Ritter did not want to be completely without income, and therefore got a job as a journalist in the Kievlyanin newspaper and the Cyclist magazine. It turns out that he became the first public sports journalist in history to visit the Olympics.
Athletics at the 1896 Olympics
Nikolay took his new work seriously – both wrote essays and notes in the magazine, both talking about his travels and impressions of the Olympic Games in general.
“The Olympics opens a new era of the famous event, which is approaching the time period of world manifestations and our era is coming, demanding more than ever,” wrote Ritter.
Played in three sports and won all at the preselection
It is calculated with a truly universal growth – at the Olympics he performed in three types at once: shooting at a moving target, Greco-Roman wrestling and fencing with rapiers. Receiving an offer made exactly the latter look – a lot of training with Italian taxes, which suggest that Nikolai will become the best swordsman in the world.
The combined tournament went well. Here is how Ritter himself wrote it down:
“There are almost no Russians, I am the only one from the participants. I can tell you about myself that at the trial test in shooting at a moving target and in wrestling, I was the first: all the bullets successfully hit the targets, the one who wanted to compete in wrestling managed to overcome. The trial study was about noon – the same day in the evening all the Athenian newspapers gave an evening report. Surprisingly, I saw my image in different poses in all the major newspapers.”
It turned out that Ritter really had very good chances for awards, besides, the competition at the Olympics was then ridiculous by today’s standards – there were only five athletes in the wrestling tournament, 15 in fencing.
Fencing at the 1896 Olympics
Random prize-winning wrestlers won only two fights – the honored German Karl Schumann (at the same Games he took three more gold medals in artistic gymnastics – yes, then almost all the athletes were generalists).
But why didn’t Nikolai succeed?
Lost the talisman and withdrew from the Games. And the wine is to blame
Despite the success in qualifying, Ritter unexpectedly did not come out in the final competition. Later, the athlete himself showed a “failure” of sensitivity.
Firstly, I got confused at the Olympics and got confused in the program. Ritter wrote that it was uncomfortable, the arenas were located far from each other, and Nikolai did not like the start time either. But this is only half the trouble – much more serious than other reasons.
Secondly, Ritter managed to lose his lucky talisman in Athens – a medallion presented by his mother. Nikolay wore it around his neck all the time and believed that without it he would not be able to win. The loss so broken Ritter that he is disposed of at the start.
Olympic medals 1896
Ritter told about other cases much later and only to friends – Apparently, he was shy. The fact is that the route from Istanbul to Athens was by sea, and Ritter developed seasickness on board. He suffered greatly, and experienced sailors spotted the right remedy – dry wine.
Nikolai did not drink at all and led a healthy lifestyle. But I also didn’t want to suffer any more, because Ritter listened to the advice. And he became very addicted to a new drink for himself, that treatment would resume already on land – right during the Olympics.
Now it’s easier to understand how Ritter lost his lucky talisman, never parted with animals.
He wanted to create the Russian Olympic Committee, but he was not given
Ritter no longer went to the Games, but the Olympic ideas did not protect him either. After returning from Athens, Nikolai actively promoted sports, a healthy lifestyle and the Olympic Games in Russia.
He still wrote articles for newspapers and magazines that worked with lectures. At the beginning of 1887, Ritter, together with the biologist Peter Lesgaft, gave a lecture in St. Petersburg on the topic “Physical perfection of man, bodily development, hunting and sports, the 1896 Olympic Games.”
Ritter could become the founder of the first Russian Olympic Committee. A year after the games in Athens, he submitted a petition to the Ministry of Public Education to establish the Russian Athletic Committee “for the bodily education of the people and for health improvement with the department of the Olympic Games and all sports.”
But the officials did not accept the ideas of Nikolai – they refused to finance, since there were no prospects for the development of Olympic sports.
Later, Ritter, at the invitation of Baron de Coubertin, took part in the work of the second in the history of the Olympic Congress in Le Havre.
Pierre de Coubertin
He was even elected to several commissions, and Nikolai himself made a report that called for the admission of professionals to the interests of the Olympic Games and the introduction of a special category of sports professors (teachers in sports), who at that time were classified as professionals and deprived of their rights and opportunity to participate in the Games.
Ritter’s idea was rejected, although later, in the new century, they nevertheless returned to it. After 14 years from the petition of Nikolai in Russia, all the same, the consequences of the Olympic Committee – it appeared in 1911.
Ritter continued to play sports and won in the athletic society of Count George Ribopierre, and then, according to rumors, he left for Europe. Nothing is known about his further fate.