HAD there been Olympics in the mid-1700s, George !c...

Salmagundi

February 22, 1994

HAD there been Olympics in the mid-1700s, George !c Washington would have surely been a star. That is, if you can believe his first biographer, Parson Mason L. Weems. Here is how he described the athletic attributes of young George in "A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington":

"George['s] passion for active exercise was so strong, that, at play-time, no weather could keep him within doors. His fair cousins, who visited at his mother's, used to complain, that 'George was not fond of their company, like other boys; but soon as he had got his task, would run out to play.' But such trifling play as marbles and tops he could never endure. They did not afford him exercise enough. His delight was in that of the manliest sort, which, by stringing the limbs and swelling the muscles, promotes the kindliest flow of blood and spirits. At jumping with a long pole, or heaving heavy weights, for his years he hardly had an equal. And as to running, the swift-footed Achilles could scarcely have matched his speed.

" 'Egad! he ran wonderfully,' said my amiable and aged friend, John Fitzhugh, Esq., who knew him well. 'We had nobody here-abouts who could come near him. . .' Col. Lewis Willis, his play-mate and kinsman, has been heard to say, that he has often seen him throw a stone across the Rappahannock, at the lower ferry of Fredericksburg. It would be no easy matter to find a man now a-days, who could do it."

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