Robert LeGendre was born on January 7, 1898 in Lewiston Maine. After a year of studying at Hebron Academy, he enrolled at Georgetown University where he balanced playing two sports – football as a half-back and baseball as a pitcher. On top of playing these sports, LeGendre was also a track and field star. He competed in the pentathlon – at the time consisting of a 200 meter sprint, javelin-throw, discuss-hurl, long-jump and 1500 meter run. The pentathlon dates back to Ancient Greece and was part of the Ancient Olympic Games. It was considered to be the “greatest test of all around athletic prowess” because it required competitors to excel in a number of different disciplines. This sport was later taken out of the Olympic Games in 1932, but was still very well regarded at the time as an extraordinary test of athleticism. During his freshman year of college in 1918, LeGendre lead Georgetown to take the collegiate pentathlon crown from the University of Pennsylvania for the first time in many years, resulting in several people deeming him as the “greatest athlete of his division.” He enlisted in the Student Army Training Corps at Georgetown, and the United States’ entry into the World War interrupted LeGendre’s college studies.
At the Inter-Allied Games of 1919, Robert LeGendre competed in the pentathlon where he went on to beat Eugene Vidal (USA) and Geo Andre (France), taking the gold medal. He returned home a hero to his hometown of Lewiston. He was highly regarded in the Franco-American community and was greatly praised for his athletic accomplishments. This gold medal at the Inter-Allied Games only began his international athletic career. He participated in the 1920 Olympic Games in Belgium. Once there, he ultimately finished in fourth place, narrowly missing a bronze medal. In the 1922 collegiate championship, LeGendre won the pentathlon for the third time in a row. He broke records at this event in the 200 meter run (22.2 seconds) and javelin toss (168 feet, 11 ¾ in.). He returned to the Olympics in the 1924 games, this time winning the bronze medal in the pentathlon. Ironically, he failed to qualify for the individual long jump event at the 1924 Olympics, however in the pentathlon at the games he ended up setting a world record in that event at 7.76 meters (25.5 ft).
After returning to the United States, he earned both Ph.D and D.D.S. degrees from Georgetown and even signed a Hollywood film contract as an actor. Though his film career never materialized, he did star in a re-enactment of his victories in 1919 Inter-Allied Games filmed by family friend Dr. Wiseman. After this, he abandoned the acting career all together. He decided to enter the Navy and train to be a dentist. He pursued this career until he died suddenly of pneumonia in 1931 at the young age of 33.
Myall, James. ““The World’s Greatest College Athlete” – and Maine Olympian – Robert Legendre.” Parlez-Vous American? BDN Maine Network, 04 Aug. 2016. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.