A long-ago London connection for Vikings' Bethel-Thompson

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 27, 2013 - 6:09 AM

In London 65 years ago, a Vikings QB’s grandfather became an Olympic champion.

 

– McLeod Bethel-Thompson might not play in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That doesn’t mean the game — and venue, Wembley Stadium — won’t hold special meaning for the second-year Vikings quarterback.

Bethel-Thompson’s grandfather, Wilbur Thompson, won a gold medal in the shot put at the 1948 Summer Olympics in the original Wembley Stadium, which was demolished in 2003 to make room for the new stadium.

Bethel-Thompson didn’t know about the Wembley connection until this week.

“It will be awesome,” he said. “Pretty sweet.”

At age 92, Thompson is the sixth-oldest living U.S. Olympic gold medalist, according to the United States Olympic Committee. Bethel-Thompson said his grandfather rarely talks about his Olympics experience or his gold medal performance during their family visits.

“He’s a pretty stoic, quiet man for the most part,” Bethel-Thompson said. “He doesn’t talk about it unless he’s asked. Every once in a while I try and pick his brain, but he’s pretty quiet about it. He never bragged about it.”

In fact, Bethel-Thompson said he’s seen his grandfather’s gold medal only a few times.

“He doesn’t display it all,” he said. “He keeps it in a wooden box in the back [of his home].”

Thompson has a simple reason for that.

“I don’t want it to be stolen,” he said.

Thompson, whose nickname is “Moose,” competed in track at Southern California and was team captain in 1946. He finished fifth in the shot put at the NCAA Championships in 1942 and second in 1946. That’s when he started to consider training for the Olympics.

The Olympic Games were not held in 1940 or 1944 because of World War II. Thompson had served three years in the Army before returning to USC to pursue his degree in engineering and to compete in track and field.

Thompson recalled the tough economic realities of postwar London, which included food rationing for Olympics athletes.

“Things were really tight,” he said. “I remember one of my coaches saying, ‘Can my athlete have two potatoes instead of one potato?’ This guy was a weightlifter. But no, couldn’t do that.”

Thompson had the best meet of his career at the Olympics, setting a personal and Olympic record at the time with a throw of 56 feet, 2 inches.

Thompson competed at the U.S. Indoor Championship after the Olympics and then retired from competition to begin his career as an engineer.

“It was fulfilling something that I wanted so bad and had worked on so hard for,” he said. “It was worth it.”

Now, 65 years later, his grandson will visit the place where he made those lasting memories. If starter Christian Ponder (ribs) is unable to play, Bethel-Thompson would back up Matt Cassel, increasing the chances for his first regular-season NFL appearance.

“I think that’s wonderful,” Thompson said. “That really means something to me. I’m so proud of him. He’s a real athlete and a nice guy.”

  • related content

  • Video: McLeod Bethel-Thompson and his gold medal grandpa

    Thursday September 26, 2013

    McLeod Bethel-Thompson about his grandfather Wilbur, who won a gold medal in 1948 London Olympics.

  • Ponder has fractured rib; Cassel will start

    Friday September 27, 2013

    Christian Ponder fractured his rib during the second quarter against Cleveland, and the Vikings announced this morning that Matt Cassel will start against Pittsburgh.

  • Jennings faces season without superstar quarterback

    Friday September 27, 2013

    Greg Jennings achieved much in his years in Green Bay, but he strives to help the team more than himself.

  • Wilbur “Moose” Thompson, 92, is one of the oldest living Olympic gold medalists. The grandfather of Vikings QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who now lives in Long Beach, Calif., remembers food rationing during the post-WWII London Games.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota - T. May 6:05 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
NY Yankees - C. Capuano 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
Boston - A. Ranaudo 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Miami - T. Koehler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll
Texas - S. Baker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 7:00 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close