Titanic Olympians

The Titanic sank 102 years ago, on 15 April 1912. There were two Olympians on board – one who had already competed (in 1906), and one who would compete in 1924. The Titanic Olympians are described below:

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Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff-Gordon, 5th Baronet of Halkin (GBR-FEN-1906)

B. 22 July 1862; London, Greater London, England, Great Britain

D. 20 April 1931; London, Greater London, England, Great Britain

1906 Fencing – Team Épée – Silver medal

http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/du/cosmo-duff-gordon-1.html

Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon was the 5th Baronet of Halkin, a title he inherited because of the title of Baron being inferred on a great-uncle in 1813. He lived on his country estate, Maryculter, in Kincardineshire, near Aberdeen, Scotland, where he was a sheriff and magistrate. In addition to his skill as a fencer, Duff-Gordon practiced martial arts.

Duff-Gordon survived the sinking of the Titanic, along with his wife and her secretary. Duff-Gordon was one of many men in First Class who were allowed into lifeboats, while many women and children, mostly from Third Class, never reached the upper deck where the lifeboats were stowed. It was also rumored that the Duff-Gordons bribed the crew in their lifeboat to not rescue people in the water, but a later investigation by the British Board of Trade’s Inquiry cleared them of this alleged cowardice.

The inquiry concluded that if their lifeboat had rowed towards the people in the water, it may have been able to rescue some of them, but the conclusion regarding the bribery allegation noted, “The very gross charge against Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon that, having got into No. 1 boat he bribed the men in it to row away from the drowning people is unfounded.”

Per his family, Duff-Gordon spent much of the rest of his life as a recluse. Because of his wealth he did not have to work and little else is known of Cosmo Duff-Gordon after the Titanic incident.

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Richard Norris “Dick” Williams (USA-TEN-1924)

B. 29 January 1891; Geneva, Switzerland

D. 2 June 1968; Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, USA

1924 Tennis – Mixed Doubles – Gold Medal; Singles – quarter-finalist; Doubles – quarter-finalist

http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/wi/dick-williams-1.html

The early years of Dick Williams’ life were spent in Lausanne where his father, a tennis enthusiast, was working; under his father’s tutelage he won the Swiss Junior title at the age of 12. In 1912, Mr. Williams accompanied his son to America when Dick was accepted for Harvard. Dick Williams was 21-years-old when he was travelling in first class aboard the Titanic with his father, Charles Duane Williams, when it struck the iceberg. His father perished in the disaster. Shortly after the collision, Dick Williams freed a trapped passenger from a cabin by breaking down a door, and Williams remained on the Titanic almost until the very end, when he was washed overboard by a wave that also took several others. He made his way to Collapsible A Lifeboat and held on to its side for awhile before getting in. The survivors in Collapsible A were then transferred to Lifeboat 14, but even after entering Lifeboat 14 Williams spent several hours waist-deep in freezing water, which left his legs frostbitten and so severely injured that the Carpathia’s doctor recommended amputation. Williams, who did not want his tennis career to be cut short, refused.

Dick Williams won the mixed doubles at the U.S. championships and the national clay court singles in his first American season (1912) and was ranked second nationally that year. In 1913, while still at Harvard, he began his Davis Cup career and in his eight single matches that year he lost only to James Parke, the Irish rugby football international, in the match against Great Britain. Williams was to remain a Davis Cup player until 1926 and in the intervening years he won the U.S. singles title twice and the men’s doubles on two occasions. Williams graduated from Harvard in 1916 and was soon with the armed forces. He saw active service as a captain of artillery and served as an aide to Major Gen. John Harbord, winning the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur in the second battle of the Marne. After the war, Williams played his tennis at the Longwood Cricket Club and started his career as a stockbroker.

In 1920 he teamed up with Charles Garland and they became the only Harvard-Yale combination to ever win the Wimbledon doubles. At the 1924 Olympics, Dick Williams went out to Henri Cochet in the quarter-finals of the singles; in the men’s doubles, playing with his former Harvard teammate, Watson Washburn, he again lost in the quarter-finals when the South Africans, Condon and Richardson, came back to win after trailing by two sets to one. However, in the mixed doubles, with Hazel Wightman as his partner, they scored a comfortable victory after disposing of the Wimbledon champions, Kitty McKane and Brian Gilbert of Great Britain, in the semi-finals.

Olympic Bio of the Day – Hermann Weingärtner

B.     27 August 1864; Frankfurt an der Oder, Brandenburg (GER)

D.     22 December 1919; Frankfurt an der Oder, Brandenburg (GER)

http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/we/hermann-weingartner-1.html

Year-Sport Event Finish Medal
1896 Gymnastics Horse Vault 3 Bronze
Parallel Bars AC
Parallel Bars Teams 1 Gold
Horizontal Bar 1 Gold
Horizontal Bar Teams 1 Gold
Rings 2 Silver
Pommelled Horse 2 Silver

Hermann Weingärtner was one of Germany’s best gymnasts in the 19th century, and the best gymnast in Athens. With the German team, he won two Olympic titles, and added an individual gold on the horizontal bar, as well as two second places and a third. His second place in the rings event was a close one: with the jury deadlocked on a decision, Greek Prince Georgios cast the deciding vote in favor of his countryman Ioannis Mitropoulos. Weingärtner’s six medals was the most won by any athlete at the 1896 Olympics, and his three gold medals trailed only his teammate, Carl Schuhmann.

Weingärtner was a merchant, and later took over management of a swimming pool in Frankfurt am Oder, which had been established by his father. He died in the Oder attempting to save a drowning person.

Olympic Bio of the Day – Carl Schuhmann

Born
12 May 1869 in Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen (GER)

Died
24 March 1946 in Charlottenburg, Berlin (GER)

Schuhmann_18962

http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/sc/carl-schuhmann-1.html

Year Sport Event Place Medal
1896 Athletics Triple Jump 5
Shot put AC
Long Jump AC
Gymnastics Vault 1 Gold
Horizontal Bar AC
Rings 5
Parallel Bars AC
Pommel Horse AC
Parallel Bars Team 1 Gold
Horizontal Bar Team 1 Gold
Wrestling Greco-Roman unlimited weight 1 Gold
Weightlifting Two-handed 4

Only six athletes have competed in four Olympic sports: three of them did so at the 1896 Olympics (with low participations), and three participated in four different skiing disciplines. The most successful of this sextet is Carl Schuhmann. The German was first and foremost a gymnast. He won three first prizes in Athens, individually in the horse vault, and twice with the German team. With the exception of rope climbing, he competed in all gymnastic events.

His second sport was wrestling. In the small field of five, the native Berliner competed against home favorite Tsitas. The final lasted for forty minutes when it had to be postponed due to darkness setting in. The following morning, Schuhmann decided the contest in his favor, but he remained very popular with the Greek public. The tiny (1.58 m) Schuhmann further competed in weightlifting and athletics, but did not place among the first three.

The 1896 Olympics were the biggest success in Schuhmann’s career, although he had several good showings at the annual German Turnfest. He did remain involved in the Olympics, visiting Athens for a second time in 1906 as a guest of honor and German team leader. Two years later, he was Germany’s team attaché in London, the city where had been a gymnastics teacher since 1898. One of his pupils, Otto Bauscher, represented Great Britain at the 1908 Games. His final Olympic appearance was in 1936, when he was even part of a gymnastics exhibition and tribute in the Olympic Stadium, despite being well into his 60s.

Olympic Bio of the Day – Spyros Louis

Born
12 January 1873 in Marousi, Athina (GRE)

Died
26 March 1940 in Marousi, Athina (GRE)

Year Sport Event Place Medal
1896 Athletics Marathon 1 Gold

http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/lo/spyros-louis-1.html

spyroslouis
As the winner of the first Olympic marathon at Athens in 1896 Spyridon Louis’s place in sporting history is assured. Having placed only fifth in one of the Greek trial races, he was not favored to win the Olympic title but his unexpected triumph gave Greece its only victory in a track & field athletics event at the 1896 Olympics Games and Louis was accorded the status of a national hero. Despite the acclaim, Louis returned to his village of Amarousi, where he worked as a shepherd and mineral water seller, and he never raced again. He later became a rural police officer, but lost his job when he was imprisoned on charges of falsifying military documents in 1926. He spent more than a year in jail before his trial on 28 June 1927, when was acquitted. He remained an Olympic legend and was a guest of the Organizing Committee at the 1936 Games in Berlin. The 2004 Olympic Stadium was built in Amarousi, and named after him.

Personal Best: Mar – 2-58:50 (1896).

Olympic Bio of the Day – Launceston Elliot

Born
9 June 1874 in Mumbai, Maharashtra (IND)
Died
8 August 1930 in Melbourne, Victoria (AUS)
Launcs

Year Sport Event Place Medal
1896 Athletics 100m 3 h2 r1/2
Gymnastics Rope Climb 5
Weightlifting One-Handed 1 Gold
Two-handed 2 Silver
Wrestling Greco-Romam Heavyweight 4
1900 Athletics Discus 11

Britain’s first Olympic champion, Launceston Elliott was born in India to Charles Elliot and his third wife Ann, but he was named for the Tasmanian city in which he was conceived. He spent part of his early childhood in Australia and it was only when his father, a kinsman of the Earls of Minto gave up his post as a magistrate in India in 1887 and returned to farm in Essex that young Launceston saw England for the first time. He soon showed a keen interest in weightlifting and in 1891 at the age of 16, at which time he was already a pupil of the great Eugen Sandow, he entered for the first British weightlifting championship and made a creditable showing in a contest won by Lawrence Levy. In 1894 he won the British title and in 1896 he went to Athens for the first modern Olympic Games.

Elliot was often described as one of the most handsome men of his generation and he certainly appealed to the Greeks. The 1906 Official Report noted: “this young man attracted universal admiration by his uncommon beauty. He was of impressive stature, tall, well-proportioned, his hair and complexion of surprising fairness”. Clearly the Englishman created something of a stir in Athens and one paper carried the report that “his handsome figure procured for him an offer of marriage from a highly-placed lady admirer”. Elliot was evidently not distracted by the publicity – he won the one-handed lift and his second place in the two-handed rested on a disputed decision. He raised the same weight as the winner, Viggo Jensen of Denmark, but as Elliot moved one of his feet during the lift, the Dane was awarded first prize on the basis of having a “superior style”. In Athens, Elliot also ran in the 100 metres, took part in the rope-climbing event and was fourth in the Greco-Roman heavyweight wrestling.

In 1899 he literally went from strength to strength and set four new British records at the amateur championships. Around 1905, he turned professional and put on a Music Hall act with a partner named Montague Spencer. The two strongmen performed amid scenery representing the Roman arena and, bedecked in the garb of gladiators, they engaged in a mock contest during which they used the cestus, trident, net and other weapons of the arena. At the end of the show, Elliot gave exhibitions of strength, the favorite of which was to support across his shoulders a long metal pole from which, at each end, was suspended a bicycle and rider. With this load Elliot would start revolving, slowly at first, but finally at such a speed that the “riders” would be swung into a horizontal position.

Despite being offered the hand of a “highly-placed lady” in Athens, Elliot married Emelia Holder, the daughter of a Kentish vicar, in 1897. In 1923, they settled in Australia, the scene of Launceston’s early childhood, and he became an honored member of a group of old-time athletes. In 1930, he failed to recover from an operation for cancer of the spine and is buried in the Fawker Cemetary in Melbourne.

Olympic Bio of The Day – James B. Connolly

Born
28 October 1868 in South Boston, Massachusetts (USA)

Died
20 January 1957 in Brookline, Massachusetts (USA)

See also http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/co/james-b-connolly-1.html
James Connolly

Year Sport Event Place Medal
1896 Athletics Triple Jump 1 Gold
High Jump 2 Silver
Long Jump 3 Bronze
1900 Athletics Triple Jump 2 Silver
(1906) Athletics Triple Jump AC
Long Jump AC

For purely historical reasons, James Connolly must be considered the most distinguished of all United States Olympians because, on 6 April 1896, he became the first winner at the Modern Olympic Games and the first known Olympic champion in over 1,500 years. In addition to his triple jump crown, Connolly won medals in the high jump and long jump. One can safely assume that this victory adequately compensated Connolly for the decision he had made at Boston some two months earlier. Connolly’s dean at Harvard had counselled him not to make the trip to Athens because his low academic standing might prejudice his being readmitted to the university upon his return. Connolly, however, entertained no doubts as to his priorities and walked out of Harvard, not setting foot there until 50 years later when, as a well-known writer of Gloucester fishing stories, he was invited to speak on literature before the Harvard Union. In 1898, Connolly was with the 9th Massachusetts Infantry at the Siege of Santiago, but in 1900 he again sought Olympic honors. He improved on his 1896 winning mark, but had to settle for second place behind Meyer Prinstein. Connolly missed the 1904 Olympics but competed in 1906, failing to make a valid jump in either the long or triple jump. Connolly later served in the Navy and in 1912 he ran for Congress as a Progressive, although he was defeated. Connolly covered Pershing’s “punitive expedition” into Mexico for Colliers and in 1917 he became European naval correspondent for the magazine. He remained a writer for the rest of his life.

Personal Bests: HJ – 5-5 (1.65) (1896); LJ – 20-0½ (6.11) (1896); TJ – 45-10 (13.97) (1900).

The 1st Modern Olympic Games

 THE GAMES OF THE Ist OLYMPIAD

On 6 April 1896, 118 years ago today, the 1st Modern Olympic Games began in Athens, Greece. They would last for 10 days, until 15 April 1896, although in that era, Greece used the Julian Calendar, not the more modern Gregorian Calendar, so by their reckoning, the Games took place from 25 March to 3 April 1896. Here is a detailed summary of what happened, 118 years ago.

Dates:  6 – 15 April 1896  [25 March - 3 April 1896]

Host City:  Athens, Greece

President, Organizing Committee:  Crown Prince Konstantinos

Secretary-General, Organizing Committee:  Timolen J. Filimon

Official Opening By:  King Georgios I

Number of Countries Competing:  15

Number of Athletes Competing:  ca. 246  [246 Men - 0 Women]

Number of Sports:  9  [9 Men - 0 Women - 0 Mixed]

Number of Events:  43  [43 Men - 0 Women - 0 Mixed]

Number of Nations Winning Medals:  11

Nations Making Their Summer Olympic Début:  Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, United States  (15).
#olympic_stadium_2_18961
The Bid: Athens was selected as the host city for the Games of the Ist Olympiad of the Modern Era at the Sorbonne Congress in Paris on 24 June 1894.  London and Paris were also given consideration as hosts, but Athens was elected by acclamation.

Games Summary:     The obvious choice for the first modern Olympics was Greece and the 1896 Olympics were awarded to Athens at the end of the 1894 Sorbonne Congress at which Pierre de Coubertin convinced the delegates to reestablish the Olympic Games.  The city of Athens embraced the Games, but the politicians were initially ambivalent, and in fact, in some correspondence reveals that they asked to be relieved of their duty to host.  Only through the efforts of Coubertin and IOC President Dimitrios Vikelas, were the politicians convinced to lend their support to the project.  Coubertin addressed a meeting of the Parnassus Literary Society, and finished by telling them, “We French have a proverb that says that the word `impossible’ is not in the French language.  I have been told this morning that the word is Greek.  I do not believe it.”  Credit for saving the 1896 Olympic Games for Athens must go to Greek Crown Prince Konstantinos, who headed the Organizing Committee and lent his considerable prestige behind the Athens Games. And although money was short, a last minute donation of 920,000 drachmas by Georgios Averof allowed the ancient Panathenaic Stadium (built in 330 B.C.) to be refurbished and used for the Olympics.

The Games themselves were far from the caliber of sport we expect today.  Only 15 countries participated and many of the top athletes in the world did not compete, as the Games were not well advertised.  The Modern Olympic Games began with an Opening Ceremony on 25 March 1896, or 6 April 1896, depending on whether or not one used the Julian Calendar (then used in Greece) or the more modern Gregorian Calendar, used by most of the world in 1896, and to this day.

The first event of the modern Olympics was the first heat of the 100 metres, won by Frank Lane, a student at Princeton.  But the first championship decided was that of the triple jump, won by James Connolly, a Harvard student, who left the Cambridge school to compete in the Olympics.  He became the first known Olympic champion since Varasdates of Armenia had won the boxing in 369 A.D.

The Americans dominated the athletics events, winning all but the 800 metres, 1,500 metres, and the marathon.  The marathon was based on the legend of Pheidippides although the more likely spelling was Philippides.  According to Herodotus, Philippides was sent to Sparta from Athens asking for help in the battle.  After the battle, a runner, whose name was Pheidippides per Lucian and Eucles per Plutarch, was sent to Marathon from Athens to tell of the victory.  Further details are sketchy, though modern legend has Pheidippides/Philippides arriving in Athens to tell of victory in the battle with the words, “Rejoice, we conquer,” and then dying from his effort.  The legend is now felt to be apocryphal but it was the reason for the creation of the race from Marathon to Athens, a distance of about 25 miles.

In the marathon, there were several early leaders, notably Edwin Flack of Australia, who had won the 800 and 1,500 metres.  But midway through the race, Spiridon Loues, a Greek shepherd, took the lead and maintained it to the end.  When he neared the stadium, messengers came into the ancient vestibule and cried out, “Hellene! Hellene! (A Greek!  A Greek!),” sending the crowd into a frenzy.  The Olympic pride based on millennia of tradition was then realized by the home crowd, which heretofore had been rather disappointed by the results of the Greek athletes.  Loues won the race and became a hero, offered gifts and riches by many different Greek merchants.  But he asked only for a cart to help him carry his water and he returned to being a shepherd in his small town of Marousi.

At the end of the 1896 Olympic Games, all the competitors and spectators, including the foreign arrivals, were unanimous in their praise of Athens as an Olympic host.  In particular, the American athletes thought that Athens should be the permanent site.  The team wrote a letter to Crown Prince Konstantine on 14 April 1896, which was published in The New York Times on 3 May, suggesting that all future Olympic Games be held in Athens.  But it was not to be.  Coubertin desired that the Olympic Games should be international in scope and rotate to various cities.  He would always support that idea but perhaps the next two Olympics in 1900 and 1904 made him reconsider the idea a bit.

Medals Won by Countries

Gold Silver Bronze Total
Greece 10 16 19 45
United States 11 7 2 20
Germany 6 5 2 13
France 5 4 2 11
Great Britain 2 3 2 7
Hungary 2 1 3 6
Denmark 1 2 3 6
Austria 2 1 2 5
Switzerland 1 2 - 3
Mixed Team Medals 1 1 1 3
Australia 2 - - 2
Egypt - 1 - 1
Totals (43 events) 43 43 36 122

*No second/no third in men’s gymnastics horizontal bar, teams; no third in men’s athletics 110 metre hurdles; no third in men’s cycling 100 kilometres; no third in men’s cycling 12-hour race; no third in men’s fencing foil, masters; no third in men’s gymnastics horizontal bar; no third in men’s gymnastics parallel bars; no third in men’s gymnastics pommelled horse; no third in men’s swimming 1,200 metre freestyle; no third in men’s swimming 100 metre freestyle; two thirds in men’s athletics 100 metres; two thirds in men’s athletics pole vault; two thirds in men’s tennis singles.

†In 1896 men’s doubles tennis, Germany / Great Britain shared first place, Greece / Egypt shared second place, and Australia / Great Britain shared third place. The British player who won gold in singles and doubles tennis was John Pius Boland, who was technically Irish, but Ireland was at that time a part of the United Kingdom (Great Britain for Olympic purposes).

Olympics-1896-007
Top Individual Performances (3+ medals [top 3] or 2+ gold medals [titles])

G S B Total
Herman Weingärtner (GER-GYM) 3 2 1 6
Carl Schuhmann (GER-GYM/WRE) 4 - 1 5
Alfred Flatow (GER-GYM) 3 1 - 4
Bob Garrett (USA-ATH) 2 1 1 4
Paul Masson (FRA-CYC) 3 - - 3
Teddy Flack (AUS-ATH) 2 - 1 3
Louis Zutter (SUI-GYM) 1 2 - 3
Léon Flameng (FRA-CYC) 1 1 1 3
Viggo Jensen (DEN-WLT) 1 1 1 3
Ioannis Frangoudis (GRE-SHO) 1 1 1 3
James B. Connolly (USA-ATH) 1 1 1 3
Adolf Schmal (AUT-CYC) 1 - 2 3
Holger Nielsen (DEN-FEN) - 1 2 3
John Pius Boland (GBR-TEN) 2 - - 2
Conrad Böcker (GER-GYM) 2 - - 2
Georg Hilmar (GER-GYM) 2 - - 2
Fritz Manteuffel (GER-GYM) 2 - - 2
Karl Neukirch (GER-GYM) 2 - - 2
Richard Röstel (GER-GYM) 2 - - 2
Gustav Schuft (GER-GYM) 2 - - 2
Alfréd Hajós (HUN-SWI) 2 - - 2
Gustav Flatow (GER-GYM) 2 - - 2
Tom Burke (USA-ATH) 2 - - 2
Ellery Clark (USA-ATH) 2 - - 2

Technically, in 1896, gold, silver, and bronze medals were not awarded as they are at later Olympic Games. In 1896, the winner received a silver medal, the runner-up a bronze medal, and there was no medal for third place, which is often not even mentioned in various results and descriptions of the events. However, as do many modern chroniclers of the Olympic Games, we term places 1-2-3 as winning gold, silver, bronze medals for consistency with more modern custom.

Youngest Top Three, Men

10-218                   Dimitrios Loundras (GRE-GYM)

Youngest Champion, Men

16-101          Ioannis Malokinis (GRE-SWI)

18-070          Alfréd Hajós (HUN-SWI)

Oldest Top Three, Men

36-103          August Goedrich (GER-CYC)

36-102          Georgios Orfanidis (GRE-SHO)

31-225          Hermann Weingärtner (GER-GYM)

Oldest Champion, Men

36-102          Georgios Orfanidis (GRE-SHO)

31-225                   Hermann Weingärtner (GER-GYM)

the_athletes_at_athens

Champions by Events – 1896 Athens

Athletics (Track & Field) (Men)

Event Champion (Nation)
100 metres Tom Burke (USA)
400 metres Tom Burke (USA)
800 metres Edwin “Teddy” Flack (AUS)
1500 metres Edwin “Teddy” Flack (AUS)
Marathon Spyridon “Spyros” Louis (GRE)
110 metre hurdles Tom Curtis (USA)
High jump Ellery Clark (USA)
Pole vault Bill Hoyt (USA)
Long jump Ellery Clark (USA)
Triple jump James Connolly (USA)
Shot put Bob Garrett (USA)
Discus throw Bob Garrett (USA)

Cycling (Men)

Event Champion (Nation)
12 hour race Adolf Schmal (AUT)
100 kilometres Léon Flameng (FRA)
1000 metre time trial Paul Masson (FRA)
10 kilometres Paul Masson (FRA)
Road race (individual) Aristidis Konstantinidis (GRE)
Sprint Paul Masson (FRA)

Fencing (Men)

Event Champion (Nation)
Foil (individual) Eugène-Henri Gravelotte (FRA)
Foil for masters Leonidas “Leon” Pyrgos (GRE)
Sabre (individual) Ioannis Georgiadis (GRE)

Gymnastics (Men)

Event Champion (Nation)
Horizontal bar Hermann Weingärtner (GER)
Horizontal bar (team) Germany
Horse vault Carl Schuhmann (GER)
Parallel bars Alfred Flatow (GER)
Parallel bars (team) Germany
Pommelled horse Louis Zutter (SUI)
Rings Ioannis Mitropoulos (GRE)
Rope climbing Nikolaos Andriakopoulos (GRE)

Shooting (Men)

Event Champion (Nation)
Free pistol Sumner Paine (USA)
Free rifle (200 metres) Pantelis Karasevdas (GRE)
Free rifle (300 metres) Georgios Orfanidis (GRE)
Military pistol John Paine (USA)
Rapid-fire pistol Ioannis Frangoudis (GRE)

Swimming (Men)

Event Champion (Nation)
100 metres (for sailors) Ioannis Malokinis (GRE)
100 metre freestyle Alfred Hajos (HUN)
500 metre freestyle Paul Neumann (AUT)
1200 metres Alfred Hajos (HUN)

Tennis (Men)

Event Champion (Nation)
Singles John Pius Boland (GBR/IRL)
Doubles Great Britain/Ireland & Germany

Weightlifting (Men)

Event Champion (Nation)
One-handed lift Launceston Elliot (GBR)
Two-handed lift Viggo Jensen (DEN)

Wrestling

Event Champion (Nation)
Unlimited class (Greco-roman) Carl Schuhmann (GER)

Olympic Bio of the Day – Tommy Green

Tommy Green and wife

Tommy Green and wife

Born 30 March 1894 in Fareham, Hampshire (GBR)
Died 29 March 1975 in Eastleigh, Hampshire (GBR)

Year Sport Event Place Medal
1932 Athletics 50 km walk 1 gold

See also http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/gr/tommy-green-1.html

Olympic history contains many stories of handicaps that champions have overcome but few can match the adversities Tommy Green faced before being crowned champion in one of the most gruelling events of the Olympic program. Because of rickets, he was unable to walk at all until he was five years old; in 1906 he falsified his age in order to join the Army but was invalided out of the Royal Hussars four years later as a result of injuries received when a horse fell on him. Then after being recalled with the Reserve in 1914, he was wounded three times and badly gassed while serving with the King’s Own Hussars in France.

Green was first encouraged to take up walking by a war-blinded friend whom he had been helping to train for the St. Dunstan’s London-to-Brighton walk and in 1926, at the age of 32, Green won the first race he entered, a 12 mile race from Worthing-to-Brighton. Following this surprise victory he joined Belgrave Harriers and built up an impressive record in all the major road races. Green won the London-to-Brighton four times and was a six-time winner of both the Manchester to Blackpool and the Nottingham to Birmingham races. Other major successes included a win in the classic Milan 100 km. in 1930, a year which also saw him win the inaugural British 50 km. title. The only significant event that Green never managed to win was the National 20 miles championship, although he finished second on five occasions.

Undoubtedly, the greatest of Tommy Green’s many triumphs was his victory in the 50 km. walk at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932. After being troubled by the strong Californian sun he was at one stage one minute behind the leaders, but walking magnificently in the closing stages, he came through to win by more than seven minutes. At the age of 38 years and 126 days, Green is the oldest-ever winner of the event. In 1936 he made a great bid to make the Olympic team for a second time, but his fourth place in the RWA 50 km. was not quite good enough to earn him selection for the Berlin Games.

After his checkered early life, Tommy Green held a variety of jobs before being employed at the Eastleigh Railway Works, where he demonstrated that accident-proneness is a continuing condition by losing a thumb in an industrial accident. On retiring from the railways, Green became a publican in Eastleigh and was a prominent figure in the local sporting world.

Personal Bests: 20kmW – 1-38:45.3 (1933); 50kmW – 4-35:36.0 (1930).

—–

Each of us who write on this blog have our own favourite Olympian. You may have already read about Bill Mallon’s personal choice last week at http://olympstats.com/2014/03/27/olympic-bio-of-the-day-martin-sheridan-2/. Tommy Green is mine – Hilary Evans

Olympic Bio of the Day – Freddie McEvoy

B. 12 February 1907; St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia

D. 7 November 1951; Off the coast of Morocco

 

See also http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/ri/freddie-mcevoy-1.html.

Year Sport Event Place Medal
1936 Bobsled Two-man 4
Four-man 3 Bronze

 

Some Olympians find heroics in their sporting careers, some find it in their lives after the Olympics, some find it in the bedroom, and some find heroics in selfless attempt to save lives. Here’s one who did the last two.

We have talked how we all have certain favorite Olympians. Freddie McEvoy was the favorite of Ian Buchanan, esteemed British Olympic historian, and the first President of the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH). This is one is in Ian’s memory.

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Freddie McEvoy was a swashbuckling legend in aristocratic British sporting circles. He was educated at the Jesuit School of Stonyhurst, and early turned his attention to sports, becoming an expert in shooting, race-car driving, deep-sea diving, and boxing. He competed at the Olympics in 1936 as a bobsled driver, after having won the 1935 World Championship in the 4-man. Among his professions are listed jewelry designer, public relations consultant, professional gambler, smuggler, black marketer, and gigolo. He was well-known in European gambling casinos and was known to have won and lost fortunes during his lifetime. He admitted to being a rogue, swindler, and con man who used his intelligence and charm to move among the highest of the monied classes. In appearance, he was almost a twin of his very close friend, Errol Flynn.

McEvoy was that rare individual whose life was more exciting than the legend. Among the stories that surround him are that he once killed a man in a barroom brawl in Marseilles, that he once won a $10,000 bet by driving from Paris to Cannes in under 10 hours, and that he once won $25,000 playing backgammon in Monte Carlo and then spent that money the next day to buy a Maserati. In the Maserati he placed 3rd at the 1936 Vanderbilt Trophy races at Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island. When McEvoy won car races, he usually used his earnings to bet on the horses, and when he picked a winner he celebrated by drinking pink champagne.

He used his connections and his sociability to marry well several times. The first was in 1940 to a woman twice his age, Beatrice Cartwright, an heiress to the Standard Oil fortune. He and Cartwright had lived together at the Badrutt Palace in St. Moritz for several winters, prior to their marriage. One year, McEvoy brought a much younger model to “care for him,” explaining to Cartwright that he must have a younger bedfellow than her. The marriage lasted two years, and in the same year they were divorced, he married Irene Wrightsman, the 18-year-old daughter of the president of Standard Oil of Kansas. That marriage also lasted but two years, and he spent most of 1944 going back and forth from Mexico City to Beverly Hills, smuggling arms, jewelry, liquor and other valuables into the United States. In Mexico City he stayed with Dorothy di Frasso, one of Freddie’s most generous patrons. Di Frasso spread his fame among her friends for his bedroom performances, which she said was worth all the money she gave him. American bobsledder Billy Fiske, once commented on how much he admired McEvoy, and when someone protested that he could not, he noted, “Yes, I do, I admire anyone who can get away with something that I could not do myself.”

In 1945, McEvoy began a long-running affair with the wealthy heiress, Barbara Hutton. Hutton agreed with di Frasso concerning Freddie’s skills, considering him a superb lover, and felt that he understood women better than any man she had ever met. They later lived together at a fashionable ski chalet in Franconia, New Hampshire, which Hutton bought for McEvoy. They never married but remained friends throughout his life. McEvoy eventually married French fashion model Claude Stephanie Filatre. In November 1951 they were sailing on his 104-ton schooner, Kangaroo, near Cap Cantin off the coast of Morocco when a storm hit. The ship went down, but Freddie lashed his wife and maid to the mast, and then swam to shore seeking help. But he was unable to find any assistance and swam back out to the mast. He and Claude Stephanie then began swimming to shore, but she was unable to make it. He attempted to tow her to shore, but the waves pulled them to sea, they crashed against the rocks, and were not seen alive again. Their bodies were recovered the next day.

 

Olympic Bio of the Day – Murray Riley

B. 5 October 1925

Year Sport Event Finish Medal
1952 ROW Double Sculls 3 h1 r4/5 (w John Rogers)
1956 ROW Double Sculls 3 (w Merv Wood) Bronze

Many of our Olympian bios tell stories of great heroics and often great careers after the Olympics. Here’s one that didn’t turn out so well.

See also http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/ri/murray-riley-1.html.

 

Murray Riley partnered Merv Wood to a bronze medal in the 1956 double sculls, after the pair had won gold medals in the doubles at the 1950 and 1954 Commonwealth Games. At the time the two were both police officers, but their careers would take decidedly different courses. Wood eventually became New South Wales (NSW) Police Commissioner in 1976, but stepped down in 1979, partly because of his association with Riley who had by then turned to a life of crime.

Riley joined the NSW police force in 1943, when only 17 years old, and he eventually rose to detective-sergeant, 3rd class. Major drug investigations in the 1960s found that Riley was associated with managers of several illegal gambling casinos in Sydney and Wollongong and it led to his involvement in drugs. In 1966 he was jailed for a year in New Zealand on charges of attempting to bribe a police inspector, after he was found to be involved in drug importation and cashing stolen American Express checks. After his release he linked up with well-known Australian crime figure Wally Dean and the two became supervisors for the Sydney League Clubs, and began scamming the clubs, extorting their services at very high fees in return for protection.

Riley disappeared for a few years but emerged in September 1974, helping Dean in an unsuccessful attempt to get elected to the South Sydney City Council. In October 1984, Riley came into the employ of Lennie McPherson, noted drug dealer, looking after collections from various gambling clubs and bookmakers, and providing protection for them.

Riley was also involved in the Nugan Hand Bank Scandal, which was a complex arrangement fronted by the United States CIA, and former US Green Beret Michael Hand, as a front to help catch drug dealers and exporters. It was found that in April 1976, Nugan Hand made cash transfers to Riley in Hong Kong, totaling about $1.2 million. Riley used the cash to take delivery of heroin shipments. The Australian Joint Task Force on Drugs, concluded, “Throughout 1976 Hand was knowingly involved in drug activity with the ‘Riley’ group in that he permitted and even encouraged the use of Nugan Hand facilities for the movement of drug money.”

Riley was finally caught in June 1978, when he was arrested after 4.3 tons of cannabis was found onboard the yacht Anoa at Polkington Reef, east of Papua New Guinea. Riley pleaded guilty and was sentenced by Judge Kenneth Torrington to 5-10 years in jail.

In January 2008, historian Dr. John Jiggens of the Queensland University of Technology, deepened the crime connection of Riley with the publication of his book ___The Sydney Connection: Nugan Hand, Murray Riley, and the Murder of Donald Mackay___. Mackay was a furniture store owner in the NSW town of Griffith, who in 1975, tipped off police about a large marijuana plantation at Coleambally, south of Griffith. Mackay was murdered outside the Hotel Griffith on 15 July 1977, as his bloodstained car and spent .22 cartridges were found in the hotel carpark the next day, although his body was never recovered. Jiggens notes in the book that Nugan and Riley were key figures in an international drug-smuggling group supplying the United States market in the 1970s.