Track & Field
Myer Prinstein was an athlete who held the world record for the long jump and won gold medals in three Olympic Games. Prinstein was the third of nine children of a Polish-Russian Jewish family that migrated to New York City in 1883. But shortly after, the Prinsteins moved to Syracuse where Myer was raised. Prinstein enrolled at Syracuse University in 1897 and became captain of the school's track team and graduated with a law degree.
The long jump and triple jump were his specialties. He set a long jump world record of 23'8 7/8" in New York on June 11, 1898. The record was broken, first by William Newburn of Ireland on June 18 of that year and later by Alvin Kraenzlein on May 26, 1899. On April 28, 1900 Prinstein set a new record of 24' 7 1/4" in Philadelphia. Four months later on Aug. 29, 1900 the record was broken by Peter O'Connor of Ireland.
Prinstein competed in the 1900 and 1904 Olympics and the 1906 Games that were later classified as unofficial as they did not adhere to the four-year competition cycle. Prinstein won the silver medal in the long jump at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, losing to Kraenzlein after being denied permission by Syracuse officials to compete in the final because it was contested on a Sunday. Prinstein was Jewish and Kraenzlein was a Christian. Neither was to compete, however, Kraenzlein did, thereby winning. Reports indicate that Prinstein was so angry at Kraenzlein reneging on the arrangement that he punched him in the face. The next day Prinstein won the gold medal in the hop, step and jump (triple jump) beating 1896 champion James Connolly.
After graduating from SU he moved to New York City where he began competing for the Irish-American Athletic Club. In the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, he turned in a remarkable performance by winning gold medals in both the long and triple jumps in the same day. In the long jump he beat Kraenzlein’s controversial record of 1900. He also finished fifth in 60 and 400 meter dashes.
In 1906 Athens Games, he again won the long jump competition, beating rival O'Connor who had held the previous world record. He did not compete in any other Olympic Games after 1906. At SU, Prinstein also played on one of the school’s earliest basketball teams. He was 5' 7 3/4" tall and weighed 145 pounds.
After his Olympic career, he practiced law and was a businessman in Jamaica, Queens. He died at the young age of 45 from a heart ailment in Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He was survived by his wife and a young son. In his obituary in the Syracuse Post-Standard he was cited as one of the greatest athletes developed at SU. Posthumously he was inducted into the International Jewish Hall of Fame in Israel.
(Special thanks to Bob Snyder for providing research information through SU magazine (Jay Cox writer) and other sources.)