+

This massive immigrant broke several records for the U.S. Olympic team — and for the flag.

True
DICK'S Sporting Goods

The first foreign-born Olympic flag bearer for the U.S. didn’t even compete with his own given name.

Pádraig Mac Domhnaill was born and raised by a family of weight-throwers and strongmen in Ireland. But when he arrived in the U.S. in 1899 at the age of 21, the immigration officials changed his name to "McDonald" instead of the more common spelling of "McDonnell."

As a man who was nearly 300 pounds and clocking in at just about 6 feet 5 inches tall, the newly christened Patrick McDonald knew it was better to keep his head down than correct them — after all, misspelled names were hardly the greatest struggle for Irish immigrants at the time.


[rebelmouse-image 19530955 dam="1" original_size="1000x1596" caption="Photo via "The Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912 Official Report."" expand=1]Photo via "The Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912 Official Report."

McDonald once told a magazine his first warehouse job was hard labor, and after six long years, he joined the New York Police Department.

This certainly wasn’t an uncommon career path for Irish immigrants at the time. But when he wasn't on his beat as Times Square’s Falstaffian traffic cop, McDonald was busy honing his weight-throwing prowess through theIrish-American Athletic Association. Soon enough, his size had earned him the ironic nickname "Babe" as well as a coveted spot among the Irish Whales, an infamous group of like-sized Irish athletes who dominated track and field.

Collectively, the Whales won 25 gold medals between 1896 and 1924, when the newly formed Republic of Ireland entered the Olympics as its own free state.

[rebelmouse-image 19530956 dam="1" original_size="538x365" caption="McDonald's fellow "Irish Whales": John Flanagan, Martin Sheridan, James Mitchell. Photo via Chicago Daily News/Chicago Historical Society/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]McDonald's fellow "Irish Whales": John Flanagan, Martin Sheridan, James Mitchell. Photo via Chicago Daily News/Chicago Historical Society/Wikimedia Commons.

McDonald won his first Olympic-qualifying championship in 1907 — just as weight-throwing was dropped from the Games.

Still, he was determined to make it to the Olympics someday. So he put aside his hammer and discus, and turned his attention to the shot put. By the time the 1912 Games in Sweden rolled around, he was good enough to take home gold and silver medals for the United States.

After returning as a winner, McDonald continued to work as a traffic cop in Times Square — but even that came with its own reward. He became as well-known for his public personality as a "Living Statue of Liberty" as he was for being an Olympic champion. One reporter noted, "Never in the record of the swirling traffic of autos did any chauffeur ever venture to ignore McDonald’s great bulk. Newsboys pooled their spare pennies to buy him a loving cup."

Still, McDonald kept on training, eager for the chance to win another gold medal for his new home country.

[rebelmouse-image 19530957 dam="1" original_size="1496x1198" caption="Time Square in 1920, when Patrick McDonald was still on the traffic beat. Photo via American Studio, N.Y./Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Time Square in 1920, when Patrick McDonald was still on the traffic beat. Photo via American Studio, N.Y./Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division/Wikimedia Commons.

With no Olympic Games during World War I, McDonald had to wait eight years to compete again — but once more, it was worth the wait.

It had become a bit of a tradition for the U.S. track-and-field captain or gold medal winners to serve as flag-bearers in the Olympics’ opening ceremony. And since McDonald filled both criteria, it just made sense for him to carry the banner to the 1920 Games in Antwerp — making him the first foreign-born U.S. Olympian to have that honor. The 42-year-old earned another gold medal that year too, making him the oldest Olympic track-and-field champion in history.

[rebelmouse-image 19530958 dam="1" original_size="1024x759" caption="Pat McDonald, second from the left, with his fellow Irish Whales. Photo: Library of Congress" expand=1]Pat McDonald, second from the left, with his fellow Irish Whales. Photo: Library of Congress

McDonald carried the flag once again at the 1924 Paris Games. But that time, he didn’t compete.

He had other responsibilities at home.

McDonald had a family to take care of and new duties as a sergeant for the NYPD (he went on to make lieutenant in 1926 before retiring as a captain in 1946). Besides, he’d already beat the record for oldest track-and-field athlete, and he was only getting older — although he did continue to compete in weight-throwing competitions domestically, winning his 16th and final national title in 1933 when he was 55.

[rebelmouse-image 19530959 dam="1" original_size="1247x1181" caption="A monument to Pat McDonald, built in his hometown of Doonbeg, Co. Clare, Ireland. Photo via The Banner/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]A monument to Pat McDonald, built in his hometown of Doonbeg, Co. Clare, Ireland. Photo via The Banner/Wikimedia Commons.

McDonald was a larger-than-life figure. But his infectiously positive nature is what made him truly remarkable.

In some ways, his life may sound like the quintessential American immigrant story.But McDonald’s successes were never about wealth or fame — he simply wanted to work hard, do good, and raise a family. And while he was certainly rewarded for his efforts, those rewards came later in life, and they were not his only motivation.

Still, it speaks volumes that Team USA could come together — twice — under the flag as it was flown by a middle-aged athlete born in another country. While his native land suffered through strife and its own violent revolution, McDonald found a new home in a nation of immigrants that welcomed him with open (if misspelled) arms.

When McDonald passed away in 1954, The New York Times said that he had gone through life "with a song in his heart, a twinkle in his eye and laughter ever bubbling within him." And perhaps that was his greatest legacy after all.

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

YouTube star MrBeast sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery to help them see again

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up."

YouTube star sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery

Blindness touches people's lives around the world and YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson, more popularly known as MrBeast, is trying to do something about it. Donaldson made it his mission to help 1,000 people regain their eyesight with the help of Dr. Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida.

Levenson has been operating a program called "Gift of Sight" for over 20 years. The program provides free cataract surgery to uninsured people who are legally blind for free, so long as they meet certain criteria. Levenson had never heard of Donaldson, and he almost hung up on him when the YouTube star called to ask about a partnership.

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up," Levenson told CNN.

After figuring out that Donaldson was indeed a real person who wanted to help others, the duo called around the Jacksonville area to determine the people who needed help the most. They got their list of clients from free clinics and homeless shelters, which covered the United States portion of the surgeries.

Keep ReadingShow less

A mom makes sensory sand by putting Cheerios in a blender.

A parenting influencer who goes by the name @ellethevirgo on TikTok has shared a brilliant hack that can turn a simple box of Cheerios into a fun sensory sand experience. The great part is that the sand is edible, so you don’t have to worry if your child puts some in their mouth, which they will inevitably do.

The recipe for Cheerios sensory sand is pretty simple:

Keep ReadingShow less

Gaël Monfils makes tennis a must-see.

Tennis isn't always the most entertaining sport to watch, especially if you're not particularly interested in seeing a ball get slapped across a net at 1,000,000 mph approximately 17,000 times. You could probably get whiplash or eye strain if you focused too hard on it. While some people love the sport, others need a little more than grunts and sneaker sounds to capture their attention.

If you're in the group of people who need to be entertained, look no further than Gaël Monfils, a professional French tennis player that has earned the nickname, "The Entertainer." Monfils turned pro in 2004 and has multiple championship matches under his belt, and yet he still takes the time to be...extra while playing.

In a compilation video uploaded to TikTok, we see the 36-year-old tennis player dancing after hitting the ball across the net just out of his opponent's reach. But of course, he also doesn't hit the ball like your average player, either. In one part of the video, Monfils jumps up extremely high and bicycle kicks as he hits the ball with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

Keep ReadingShow less