Today we wanted to continue to keep our blog simple by maintaining our focus on individual athletes and concentrating today on an Olympian who would have recently turned 90 were he alive, but is otherwise a bronze medal mystery. During the course of our work, however, we noted that there was another bronze medal mystery that we missed when we undertook our original series on this topic, and thus today will be a double feature as we rectify our previous oversight.
Valentin Prokopov – Bronze medalist with the Soviet water polo team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics
Valnetin Prokopov, born June 10, 1929, is probably best known as the player who struck Ervin Zádor in the famous “blood in the water” water polo match at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. With the Soviets having just invaded Hungary to quell an uprising, tensions were high during the game, which quickly turned physical. The match was called in favor of the Hungarians when, with his opponents already ahead 4-0, Prokopov attacked Zádor and opened a cut beneath his eye, causing him to bleed profusely. The Soviets eventually settled for bronze in the tournament, while the Hungarians went on to win gold.
With the Russian-language barrier, there was little else that we could find on Prokopov, although we know that he had taken part in the 1952 Helsinki Games as a member of the Soviet water polo team (which finished seventh) and was scheduled to compete in the 1,500 metres freestyle, although he did not start. He also won three national championships in water polo, in 1956, 1959, and 1964. We suspect that he is still alive, and that the main obstacle is the language but, unfortunately, we could not find anything to confirm our suspicions.
(Baumann on the podium, in the center of the photograph)
Hermann Baumann – Bronze medalist for Switzerland in lightweight, freestyle wrestling at the 1948 London Olympics
We know even less about Swiss wrestler Hermann Baumann, born January 23, 1921, which is probably why we accidentally overlooked him before. Baumann represented his country in the lightweight, freestyle event at the 1948 London Olympics, and earned the bronze medal by defeating Italian [Garibaldo Nizzola]() in a tie-breaking match. Unfortunately, there is much less information out there on Swiss Olympians than one might expect, and thus this is all we know about him. Unless and until someone can provide additional information, Baumann will remain a bronze medal mystery to us.
Today Oldest Olympians is focusing another post on a single athlete. This time we are looking into Canadian wrestler Morgan Plumb, for whom we feel we are a hair’s breadth close to unlocking his entire life story, yet we cannot find the smoking gun.
We know a few things for certain about the Olympian, much of which comes from a feature of Royal Canadian Air Force wrestlers published on January 16, 1950 in “The Province” from Vancouver, British Columbia. He was born in 1913, likely as George Morgan Plumb, and took up wrestling at the Toronto West End YMCA in the early 1930s. He was selected to represent Canada in wrestling at the 1938 British Empire Games, having travelled to the trials at his own expense, but was later dropped from the team due to a lack of funds. He joined the RCAF at the outbreak of World War II and continued competing in military tournaments.
(Plumb, third from the left, during his wartime service, from Canadian Colour)
At the end of the conflict, he was chosen as Canada’s freestyle lightweight wrestling representative to the 1948 London Olympics, where he was eliminated from contention in the third round. He then represented Canada at the 1950 British Empire Games, where he won a silver medal in the same event. Prior to 1950, he had earned five Ontario provincial titles and three Canadian national ones. The January article listed his hometown as Aylmer, Ontario and noted that he had been married for six months, although it neglected to mention the name of his spouse.
(The grave of “Morgan Plumb”, who lived from 1913-1971, from Find A Grave)
Ancestry.com lists a George Morgan Plumb born April 12, 1913 in York, Ontario, which would align with what we know about the Olympic Morgan Plumb. From the other end of his lifespan, Find A Grave has a picture of a family grave in Prospect Cemetery, Toronto, which includes a “Morgan Plumb” who was born in 1913 and died in 1971.
(Morgan Plumb’s obituary from the Globe and Mail, August 3, 1971)
We were then thankful that frequent contributor Connor Mah forwarded us a copy of the obituary for the Morgan Plumb on the gravestone. It noted that Plumb died on August 1 in Oakville and listed the names of his children, wife, and siblings. Unfortunately, there was nothing in the obituary that could tie him conclusively to the Olympian, or even the George Morgan Plumb who had been born in York. Unable to find contact information for any of his family members or descendants, it was here that the trail finally went cold. We find it very likely that all three Morgan Plumbs are the same individual, particularly as his name is not overly common, but until we can locate some evidence that confirms this fact, this Canadian wrestler will remain an Olympic mystery.
Today Oldest Olympians is resuming its focus on individual athletes. In this case, we are raising the mystery of Egyptian fencer, Farid Abou-Shadi, and how he might have been confused with another similarly-named fencer of his era.
(Farid Abou-Shadi, the Olympian)
This is what we know for certain. A man by the name of Ahmed Farid Abou-Shadi, born November 28, 1909, from Shibin El Kom, represented Egypt twice in sabre fencing at the Olympic Games, in 1948 and 1952, in both the individual and team tournaments. He was eliminated in the opening round of each event, except for the team sabre in 1952, where the squad survived to the quarterfinals. This individual also won three bronze medals at the World Championships (team sabre in 1949 and 1950, and team foil in 1951) and a silver medal in team sabre at the inaugural Mediterranean Games in 1951. He was a member of Cairo’s Cercle Royal d’Escrime and Haras Galalat Al-Malik (The King’s Bodyguards). We do not know what happened to the Olympian after this, although, given his date of birth, he is certainly deceased.
(M. Shafik Farid from the University of Texas Yearbook)
At the same time, however, there was another Egyptian fencer with a similar name active in sabre fencing. We first heard about him in the July 19, 1948 edition of the Egyptian Gazette, in an article titled “Egyptian Wins Sabre Tourney in Texas”:
“Shafik Farid of Cairo, won the first annual W.A. Franks Memorial Sabre tournament in Texas. Farid attends the University of Texas but his home is in Cairo where he is a member of the Royal Fencing Academy. He scored four wins and one loss.”
We then scanned through some old newspapers and discovered that his fencing exploits were covered eclectically in Texas newspapers. We learned that he founded a fencing club at the University shortly after his victory, that he had been fencing for approximately ten years as of 1947, that he was a member of the national Egyptian fencing team, that he was a graduate of Cairo University, and that his full name included an “M.” among the initials.
It should be noted at this point that, despite the differences in name, “M. Shafik Farid” and “Farid Abou-Shadi” could indeed be the same individual. “Abou-Shadi” is an honorific, which, in Arabic, simply means “father of Shadi”, so it is a reference to his status as a parent. Since Arabic names do not follow strictly the formula of “given name, family name”, it would be entirely possible that “M. Shafik Farid” was known as “Farid, the Father of Shadi” once he had a son, but that in America he was known by his “legal” name. Many Egyptians also have multiple parts to their name, so the fact that Farid Abou-Shadi included the name “Ahmed” while Shafik Farid did not is not necessarily an indicator that they are different people.
Our next stop was contacting expert fencing historian and two-time Olympian George Masin with our findings to see if we could tease out any smoking guns that would connect these two individuals. He found information that a Mohamed Shafik Farid, born in Alexandria on November 30, 1920, was residing in Houston when he applied for US Citizenship in 1957 and changed his name to Steven Shafik Farid. Steven Farid was active in fencing in both Kansas and Texas during the 1960s, and had married Dorothy Rawls in 1953. He also provided a picture of Farid, who was a chemical engineering major, from the 1949 University of Texas Yearbook.
Unfortunately, despite numerous references to his fencing career, neither of us were able to find any mention of his Olympic participation, with the closest clue being the note above that mentioned his membership in the Egyptian national team. His wife Dorothy died April 2, 1978 in Texas, but we were unable to find a record of Shafik’s death. A Shafik B. Farid born November 20, 1929 died in Florida on November 8, 2010, but although this person had lived in Texas, the date of birth makes it unlikely that this was the fencer, as having 10 years of experience in 1947 would have required him to take up fencing at the age of eight. “Steve Fared”, born November 30, 1920, was apparently living in Houston as of 2008, although these public records have noted deceased individuals incorrectly as living in the past.
Of course, if the Olympian and the Texas fencer were one and the same, then obviously there would be an error somewhere in the year of birth, as both were born in November on different dates and allegedly 10 years apart. Date of birth errors are common, so it is not outside the realm of possibility, but it is also worth noting that public records only acknowledge one son, Robert, and of course no wife other than Dorothy. So unless “Abou-Shadi” was an honorific for a non-biological son, or he left his previous family back in Egypt, it seems ultimately that all of this is just a confusing coincidence. Regardless, it demonstrates just how complicated matters can get when trying to decipher Olympic mysteries.
Today on Oldest Olympians we are taking a break from focusing on individual athletes in order to bring back a past feature for a day. Since we concluded our Olympic Missing Links series several months ago, we have come across a handful of new candidates and decided that it was an appropriate time to review them. Thus, today we are once again looking at cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As always, we present them here not only in the hopes of solving some of these cases, but to continue our commitment to transparency in our research.
Božena Moserová – Member of Czechoslovakia’s alpine skiing team at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics
The international skiing career of Božena Moserová, born June 30, 1926, was relatively limited, with her most significant appearance coming at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics. There, she finished 18th in the combined, 19th in the slalom, and 25th in the downhill. She later became an obstetrician and took the married name Žemličková. The Czech-language Wikipedia lists her as dying in either 2016 or 2017, presumably at the age of 90, but although we were able to confirm that she was still alive in the 2000s, we have not been able to verify when (or even if) she died.
Kazuhiko Sugawara – Member of Japan’s speed skating delegation to the 1952 Oslo Olympics
Kazuhiko Sugawara, born May 1, 1927, was one of Japan’s top speed skaters in the immediate aftermath of World War II and won numerous national titles in the late 1940s. The peak of his career came in 1952, when he finished 15th and 7th in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres events respectively at the Oslo Olympics. By career he was an engineer at a paper factory, and the Japanese Wikipedia lists him as dying on October 27, 1962 at the age of only 35, due to kidney disease. We have thus far been unable, however, to confirm this information in other sources.
Pedro Theberge – Member of Brazil’s water polo squad at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics
As is often the case with our Olympic missing links, we know very little about Pedro Theberge, born January 1911, especially as he was a member of a team sport rather than an individual athlete. We know nothing of his life other than that he was a member of Brazil’s water polo squad at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, which placed fifth after being suspended for attacking a referee. We were able to find a death record for a Pedro Theberge who died June 24, 1972 in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 63. This would make him born c. 1909 rather than 1911, and thus we cannot conclude for certain that this is the Olympian, despite the fact that his name is not particularly common in Brazil.
Eulogio Quiroz – Member of Peru’s boxing delegation to the 1936 Berlin Olympics
To round out our entry today, we have a particularly obscure Olympic contributor: Eulogio Quiroz, born March 11, 1914. Quiroz was slated to represent Peru in boxing’s light-heavyweight division at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but did not ultimately take part in the competition. His first bout would have been against upcoming gold medalist Roger Michelot of France, however, and thus it seems unlikely that he would have advanced. We do not know anything else about his boxing career or later life, but we did find the record of a Eulogio Quiroz Andrade born March 11, 1913 in Huacho. This individual died October 7, 1976 in Lima, but without further corroborating details on his life, we cannot verify that the person in the record and the Olympian are one and the same, despite how likely it seems.
That is it for today, but we hope that you will come back next week, when we will have even more Olympic mysteries to share with you all!
Today on Oldest Olympians, we are continuing our series of posts that are looking at a single athlete. In this case, our subject is Japanese footballer Motoo Tatsuhara, born January 14, 1913. Like Korean, Japanese is not a language in which we are able to work, but it appears that even if we were fluent, the mystery would remain.
Tatsuhara played football at Waseda University, which was well-known at the time for its sporting culture. He made his début for the national team at the 1934 Far Eastern Championship Games and followed this up with his participation at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. There, Japan defeated Sweden 3-2 in round one, but was then bested 8-0 by the upcoming gold medalist squad from Italy. This was the end of Tatsuhara’s international career, but he continued playing through at least 1942.
After that is where the mystery begins, as there seems to be no further information on his life after World War II. In September 2014, a user added a date of death of November 1984 to Tatsuhara’s Japanese Wikipedia page:
The source, however, was not explicitly stated, although the talk page suggested it might have come from a book. This, however, was contested as being related possibly to a different individual, and the information on the Japanese Wikipedia was removed in April 2016. We here at Oldest Olympians have been unable to confirm this information elsewhere and thus we are taking it to our blog. We know that Tatsuhara is deceased, but the question is whether or not he is the individual who died in November 1984. If not, then when did he die? Like many other Olympians we have profiled, it seems that he has been unfortunately lost to history… and not just in the English language either.
This week on our Oldest Olympians blog, we are going to be taking a look at our third sport shooter in a row: South Korea’s Kim Nam-gu, born October 8, 1923. We here at Oldest Olympians can work with many languages, but unfortunately Korean is not one of them. Nonetheless, we were able to do enough to produce an Olympic mystery for today.
(Kim, as pictured in the article described below)
Kim’s participation at the Games was limited to one event, the trap competition in Munich in 1972, where he placed 41st in a field of 57 competitors. He had more luck at the 1974 Asian Games, however, where he took home a bronze medal from the team trap shooting tournament. He also competed at the 1966 World Championships and, by career, was a successful businessman.
Our mystery here is simple, and likely related to our inability to work effectively within the Korean language. We located an article from 2007 about Kim, then aged 84, which highlighted his status as the oldest active shooter in the South Korean federation.
We have been unable, however, to find any updates after this date, whether about his continued participation or his death, likely because his name is not an uncommon one in his country. A “last update” from 2007 is just outside of the boundaries where we would list someone in our charts as living, but usually such cases resolve themselves one way or another within a decade. Thus we are sharing this information with the internet in the hopes that someone may be able to locate additional information on what happened to him, and help us solve another one of our Olympic mysteries.
Norman Brinker never competed in the Olympic Games. However, he was on the US Olympic team in 1952 in show jumping, but only served as an alternate and never saw competition. It was only a prelude to an amazing life, whose tentacles within his families would reach multiple aspects of American life.
Brinker made the 1952 US Olympic team while a seaman in the US Navy, stationed in San Diego, where he also attended San Diego State University. A good athlete, he did compete at the 1954 World Modern Pentathlon Championships in Budapest. While Brinker was studying at San Diego State, he met a young tennis player named Maureen Connolly.
Maureen Connolly, often called “Little Mo”, is not well-remembered by today’s sports fans, or even tennis fans, yet she is one of the greatest female tennis players of all time. Little Mo won the US Open Championship, then called the US Championships, at the end of 1951, when she was only 16-years-old. She would retire in late summer 1954, before the US Championships, having won 9 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments that she played in, including the calender-year Grand Slam in 1953, the first woman to achieve that. In that Grand Slam, she lost 1 set. After her 1951 US Championship, there is no record that she was ever beaten again in a match.
Maureen Connolly retired before she turned 20-years-old. She had won Wimbledon and the US Championships in 1952, the Grand Slam in 1953, and the French and Wimbledon Championships in 1954 – she did not play the Australian that year. In late July 1954, she was riding a horse that threw her and broke her leg, sustaining an open fracture. She never played tennis competitively again, officially retiring in February 1955, when her leg had not healed well.
A few months after the accident, June 1955, Maureen Connolly and Norman Brinker married. They would have two daughters together, Cindy and Brenda.
Norman Brinker’s career was not overshadowed by his wife’s tennis feats. He helped start several restaurant chains, including Jack-in-the-Box, Chili’s, Bennigan’s, and Steak and Ale. His company, Brinker International, would later oversee all those restaurant chains, and also Burger King and Häagen-Dazs. Brinker is considered the father of the popular modern casual dining concept. He is also considered to have either invented, or at least, popularized the salad bar, that is now so ubiquitous in many restaurants.
Brinker and Little Mo were together for only 14 years, unfortunately. In 1966 Little Mo was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she died in June 1969, at only 34-years-old. A fleeting meteor in the sports world, who flamed out early, she also lost her life early, both times from instances beyond her control. Her story was told in a made-for-TV movie in the 1970s, “Little Mo,” starring Glynis O’Connor.
Norman Brinker went on. He re-married in 1971 but that marriage was short-lived. In 1981, he met and married Nancy Goodman, who had worked as a buyer for Neiman Marcus, and then with various public relation firms. They would remain married until 2000, when they divorced, although they stayed friends and worked together in the charity that Nancy would found.
Nancy Goodman had a sister, Susan Goodman. Both were born in Peoria, Illinois. In 1976, at age 33, Susan developed breast cancer and died in August 1980, at 37-years-old. By then married and named Susan G. Komen, Nancy Brinker vowed to her sister that she would fight the disease in her memory. Using some of Norman Brinker’s fortunes from his restaurant businesses, she formed the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 1982. In 2008 the foundation would change its name to the Susan G. Komen Fight for the Cure.
Brinker not only founded the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but eventually served as its CEO until 2012. It has become the largest and best-funded breast cancer organization in the world.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation was not Nancy Brinker’s only accomplishment in life. In 2001 she was named Ambassador to Hungary by George W. Bush and served in that role from 2001-03. She later was US Chief of Protocol under President Bush from 2007-09, holding the title of ambassador and assistant under-secretary of state in that role. Continuing her fight against cancer, Nancy Brinker later became the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control.
Norman Brinker, like his first wife, Little Mo, was badly injured in a riding accident in 1993, breaking multiple bones, residing in a coma, and ended up partially paralyzed. Still, he returned to his restaurant businesses six months later and would live until 2009. After their divorce in 2000, he and Nancy Brinker stayed close, and he remained on the board of the Susan G. Koman Foundation until his death. In his honor, the restaurant business gives out The Norman Award annually, to industry executives.
Norman Brinker – an Olympian and restaurant pioneer; Maureen Connolly – one of the greatest tennis players ever; Susan G. Komen – a breast cancer victim whose death spurred the greatest charitable breast cancer organization; and her sister, Nancy Brinker – who vowed that Susan’s death would not be in vain. A remarkable family touching so many aspects of American and world life. You should know about them.
Last week on Oldest Olympians, we looked at the case of British sport shooter Joe Wheater, a relatively famous sportsman in his time who died at some point in the 2000s, without any fanfare or so much as an obituary. Such an occurrence may seem rare but, as we have seen with many of our Olympic mysteries, it is not at all uncommon. Another case and point is that of the Olympian that we are blogging about today: India’s Harihar Banerjee, born March 1, 1918.
Banerjee competed in sport shooting at time when only the elite, or those with patrons, could take part. He soon rose to become India’s most prominent rifle shooter and captained the national team during the 1950s. In 1952 he became the first Indian to take part in the ISSF World Championships. A few weeks later, he earned the distinction of being the first Indian Olympic sport shooter, alongside Souren Choudhury, by competing in three events at the Helsinki Games: the Free Rifle, Three Positions, 300 metres; the Small-Bore Rifle, Three Positions, 50 metres; and the Small-Bore Rifle, Prone, 50 metres, where he placed 24th, 36th, and 29th respectively.
Banerjee also competed at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where he finished 35th in the Small-Bore Rifle, Three Positions, 50 metres event. Outside of sport, he was a physician who had trained at the Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata and had a long career in that city. After he died, an annual Memorial Air Weapon Shooting Championship was named in his honor.
The above would make it seem as if his life was wrapped into a nice biographical package, but there is one piece of information missing: his date of death. We had been paying attention to Banerjee for a while, as it seemed that he was still alive and active into his 90s, perhaps as late as 2011. We heard nothing definitive about him, however, until we discovered the Dr. Harihar Memorial Air Weapon Shooting Championship.
The tournament was in its third edition in 2015, which would suggest that he died c. 2011 or 2012. No one we contacted responded to our inquiries, however, and we cannot be sure that it did not take many years after his death before a tournament in his memory was organized. Therefore, we are left with another Olympic mystery: a sportsman so well-known that they named an annual local tournament after him, but apparently not so well-known that his death, occurring in the internet era, merited mention in any papers that we were able to locate. It is very likely that his obituary was published somewhere but, until we find it, he, like Wheater, will remain an Olympic mystery.
Wheater came into competitive sport shooting somewhat later in life but, when he arrived, he wasted no time in demonstrating his prowess as being among Great Britain’s best. Over the course of his career, he won over 60 English titles, appeared in three editions of the Olympic trap shooting competition (1956, 1960, and 1964), and set a world record in clay target shooting in 1956. While his best finish at the Games was sixth in 1960, he earned several medals in the sport at the European Championships over the years.
One would assume that a sportsman with such a distinguished record would be among the last candidates for being involved with an “Olympic mystery” but, as we have seen, mysteries can occur in unexpected places. In Wheater’s case, there are numerous websites that continue to list him among the living, and thus for many years we made the assumption that he was still alive. One website, however, intrigued us, as it explicitly listed Wheater as deceased:
We contacted the owner of the website, Keith Coyle, who informed us that Wheater had sold his shooting grounds in the late 1990s and then retired. While living abroad in 2009, Coyle was informed by friends that Wheater had died, but unfortunately could not locate any obituaries to confirm this fact. We passed this information on to the dedicated team of researchers at the OlyMADMen, but they were unable to come up with any records concerning his death. Earlier this year, one member did locate a probate record for a Joseph Wheater who died November 24, 2011 near Leeds, but unfortunately there was insufficient information to determine that this was the Olympian, and, moreover, it did not align with Coyle’s information.
Given all of this, we are left wondering: when did Joe Wheater die and how did such a notable sportsman manage to elude everyone’s attention when he did? Many sources still list him as being alive, or as having been alive more recently than 2009, which is not surprising given that one would assume that at least one obituary would have been published for him. Until we can locate additional information, Wheater will remain among our Olympic mysteries.
Today on Oldest Olympians we are focusing on the case of Canadian speed skater Leo Sylvestre, an athlete who is certainly deceased, but nonetheless presents a mystery worth raising here on our blog.
Sylvestre was relatively successful on the domestic scene, but had less luck when he represented his country at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics. He was entered in all four speed skating events at the Games, but only started in the 500 metres, where he was eliminated in round one. He continued to compete at home, but eventually settled into a career as a coach and trainer in his sport of choice.
We here at Oldest Olympians believed that we had determined his fate nearly a decade ago when we discovered a report of a Mrs. Leo Sylvestre, who died while giving birth in January 1953. Mrs. Sylvestre had been in a car accident three months earlier that had taken the life of her husband. There was, however, nothing to suggest that the Leo Sylvestre mentioned in the report was the Olympian, as it was not an uncommon name.
When we shared this finding, however, Arild Gjerde, a Norwegian Olympic expert, related a story he had heard “about a Canadian speed skater […] who was killed in a car crash. His pregnant wife was severely injured and died some times later giving birth to her child.” This seemed to be confirmation that the Leo Sylvestre in the article was the Olympic speed skater.
There was just one problem. According to the Quebec Death Index, as well as research conducted by other Olympic historians, the Leo Sylvestre who died in the car accident was born January 29, 1918. While it would not be impossible for a speed skater to compete at the Olympics at the age of 14, it seemed very unlikely.
Our theory was completely debunked by a solitary report that we uncovered many years later that listed Sylvestre as alive and working as a coach in his native Quebec. It remains the only evidence that we have located of his being alive after the other Leo Sylvestre died in the car accident:
Other researchers also discovered that the Olympic Sylvestre’s full name was Joseph Henry Léopold Sylvestre, and that he was born on December 14, 1912 in Montreal, Quebec. We have not been able to uncover any information about his death, although we know that he is deceased. Our research, therefore, continues, despite having uncovered enough Olympic mystery (or at least coincidence) for one speed skater’s lifetime.