Olympic Birthday Medalists

Many people celebrate their birthday. What better way to celebrate it than to win an Olympic medal on one’s birthday? Has this actually happened at the Olympics? Yes, in fact, 86 athletes have done it 90 times.

Only one athlete has won 3 Olympic medals on his/her birthday and that was French archer Eugène Richez, who won 2 silvers and a bronze in team target archery events at the 1900 Olympics. Those Olympics were so unusual, and the archery events were especially so, let’s look at the 2 athletes who have won 2 medals on their birthday.

The first was Sidney Merlin, a British shooter who won a gold and bronze medal in 2 trap shooting events at the 1906 Olympics and, again, the 1906 Olympics are somewhat controversial.

So that leaves only German equestrian Michael Jung who won 2 gold medals on 31 July 2012 in eventing, the day he turned 30-years-old. Jung is the only Olympian to have won 2 gold medals on his/her birthday at IOC-recognized Olympics – a fact that seemed to escape most of the world’s media in London, including our OlympStats group, to be fair.

How many athletes have won gold medals on their birthday, the ultimate celebration? That has been done 32 times, by 31 Olympians, with Jung winning 2 in 2012. That has been done 6 times at the Winter Olympics, and 26 times at the Summer Games. Seven women have won an Olympic gold medal on their birthday, two at the Winter Olympics – Madeleine Chamot-Berthod (SUI) in downhill skiing at the 1956 Cortina Olympics, and Cathrine Lindahl (SWE) in 2010 curling.

So Lindahl won her gold medal in a team event. How often have Olympians won medals or gold medals in individual events, probably the uber-ultimate birthday present? That has been done 29 times, by 28 athletes, with Merlin winning two in 1906 on his 26 April birthday.

Winning an individual gold medal on your birthday is fairly rare, done only 13 times by 13 Olympians. The only woman to have done it is Chamot-Berthod at the 1956 Winter Olympics – no woman has done it at the Summer Olympics. Only 4 Winter Olympians have pulled this off while it has been done 9 times at the Summer Olympics.

The youngest birthday medalist was Mariya Filatova, actually a gold medalist in the 1976 gymnastics team all-around, on her 15th birthday. The oldest was Richez, who was 56-years-old when he won his 3 medals in 1900 archery on 5 August. Again, discounting him, the next oldest was Merlin in 1906, who was 50-years-old, so we’ll look further, and find that William Dod was 41-years-old in 1908 when he won a gold medal on his birthday (18 July) in Double York Round archery. The oldest female to pull this off was Lindahl in curling, who was 40-years-old on 26 February 2010. The youngest man was Jamaican Greg Meghoo, a silver medalist in the 4×100 relay, when he turned 19 on 11 August 1984.

Not easy to do and if you want to do this, in addition to being a great athlete, you better hope to have been born in February, July, or August anymore.

Here is the complete list of the 90 birthday medals:

  • Sidney Merlin (M / GBR / Summer) (1906 Shooting; Trap, Double Shot, 14 metres) (Gold / Individual) (*26 April 1856; 50-years-old)
  • William Dod (M / GBR / Summer) (1908 Archery; Double York Round) (Gold / Individual) (*18 July 1867; 41-years-old)
  • Henri Anspach (M / BEL / Summer) (1912 Fencing; Épée, Team) (Gold / Team) (*10 July 1882; 30-years-old)
  • Erik Herseth (M / NOR / Summer) (1920 Sailing; 10 metres, 1907 Rating) (Gold / Team) (*9 July 1892; 28-years-old)
  • Charles Bugbee (M / GBR / Summer) (1920 Water Polo) (Gold / Team) (*29 August 1887; 33-years-old)
  • István Barta (M / HUN / Summer) (1932 Water Polo) (Gold / Team) (*13 August 1895; 37-years-old)
  • Dieter Arend (M / GER / Summer) (1936 Rowing; Coxed Pairs) (Gold / Team) (*14 August 1914; 22-years-old)
  • Miklós Sárkány (M / HUN / Summer) (1936 Water Polo) (Gold / Team) (*15 August 1908; 28-years-old)
  • Sammy Lee (M / USA / Summer) (1952 Diving; Platform) (Gold / Individual) (*1 August 1920; 32-years-old)
  • Madeleine Chamot-Berthod (F / SUI / Winter) (1956 Alpine Skiing; Downhill) (Gold / Individual) (*1 February 1931; 25-years-old)
  • Viktor Kosichkin (M / URS / Winter) (1960 Speedskating; 5,000 metres) (Gold / Individual) (*25 February 1938; 22-years-old)
  • Vladimir Shmelyov (M / URS / Summer) (1972 Modern Pentathlon; Team) (Gold / Team) (*31 August 1946; 26-years-old)
  • Jan Egil Storholt (M / NOR / Winter) (1976 Speedskating; 1,500 metres) (Gold / Individual) (*13 February 1949; 27-years-old)
  • Mariya Filatova (F / URS / Summer) (1976 Gymnastics; Team All-Around) (Gold / Team) (*19 July 1961; 15-years-old)
  • Yelena Novikova-Belova (F / URS / Summer) (1976 Fencing; Foil, Team) (Gold / Team) (*28 July 1947; 29-years-old)
  • Vakht’ang Blagidze (M / URS / Summer) (1980 Wrestling; Flyweight, Greco-Roman (≤52 kg)) (Gold / Individual) (*23 July 1954; 26-years-old)
  • Pascal Jolyot (M / FRA / Summer) (1980 Fencing; Foil, Team) (Gold / Team) (*26 July 1958; 22-years-old)
  • Angel Herrera (M / CUB / Summer) (1980 Boxing; Lightweight (≤60 kg)) (Gold / Individual) (*2 August 1957; 23-years-old)
  • Chris Jacobs (M / USA / Summer) (1988 Swimming; 4 x 100 metres Medley Relay) (Gold / Team) (*25 September 1964; 24-years-old)
  • Nazim Hüseynov (M / EUN / Summer) (1992 Judo; Extra-Lightweight (≤60 kg)) (Gold / Individual) (*2 August 1969; 23-years-old)
  • Ana Ivis Fernández (F / CUB / Summer) (1996 Volleyball) (Gold / Team) (*3 August 1973; 23-years-old)
  • Jon Rauch (M / USA / Summer) (2000 Baseball) (Gold / Team) (*27 September 1978; 22-years-old)
  • Guillermo Rigondeaux (M / CUB / Summer) (2000 Boxing; Bantamweight (≤54 kg)) (Gold / Individual) (*30 September 1980; 20-years-old)
  • Ruth Riley (F / USA / Summer) (2004 Basketball) (Gold / Team) (*28 August 1979; 25-years-old)
  • Per-Johan Axelsson (M / SWE / Winter) (2006 Ice Hockey) (Gold / Team) (*26 February 1975; 31-years-old)
  • \N Mari (F / BRA / Summer) (2008 Volleyball) (Gold / Team) (*23 August 1983; 25-years-old)
  • Michael Redd (M / USA / Summer) (2008 Basketball) (Gold / Team) (*24 August 1979; 29-years-old)
  • Mo Tae-Beom (M / KOR / Winter) (2010 Speedskating; 500 metres) (Gold / Individual) (*15 February 1989; 21-years-old)
  • Cathrine Lindahl (F / SWE / Winter) (2010 Curling) (Gold / Team) (*26 February 1970; 40-years-old)
  • Michael Jung (M / GER / Summer) (2012 Equestrian Events; 3-Day Event, Individual) (Gold / Individual) (*31 July 1982; 30-years-old)
  • Michael Jung (M / GER / Summer) (2012 Equestrian Events; 3-Day Event, Team) (Gold / Team) (*31 July 1982; 30-years-old)
  • Daniele Molmenti (M / ITA / Summer) (2012 Canoeing; Kayak Singles, Slalom) (Gold / Individual) (*1 August 1984; 28-years-old)
  • John Svanberg (M / SWE / Summer) (1906 Athletics; Marathon) (Silver / Individual) (*1 May 1881; 25-years-old)
  • Nils Thomas (M / NOR / Summer) (1920 Sailing; 8 metres, 1919 Rating) (Silver / Team) (*9 July 1889; 31-years-old)
  • Eugène Richez (M / FRA / Summer) (1920 Archery; Target Archery, 33 metres, Team) (Silver / Team) (*5 August 1864; 56-years-old)
  • Eugène Richez (M / FRA / Summer) (1920 Archery; Target Archery, 50 metres, Team) (Silver / Team) (*5 August 1864; 56-years-old)
  • John Garrison (M / USA / Winter) (1932 Ice Hockey) (Silver / Team) (*13 February 1909; 23-years-old)
  • Dante Secchi (M / ITA / Summer) (1936 Rowing; Coxed Eights) (Silver / Team) (*14 August 1910; 26-years-old)
  • Eugenio Monti (M / ITA / Winter) (1956 Bobsledding; Two) (Silver / Team) (*28 January 1928; 28-years-old)
  • Teresa Ciepły-Wieczorek (F / POL / Summer) (1964 Athletics; 80 metres Hurdles) (Silver / Individual) (*19 October 1937; 27-years-old)
  • Manfred Schumann (M / FRG / Winter) (1976 Bobsledding; Two) (Silver / Team) (*7 February 1951; 25-years-old)
  • Daniel Morelon (M / FRA / Summer) (1976 Cycling; Sprint) (Silver / Individual) (*24 July 1944; 32-years-old)
  • Dave Ottley (M / GBR / Summer) (1984 Athletics; Javelin Throw) (Silver / Individual) (*5 August 1955; 29-years-old)
  • Jeong Sun-Bok (F / KOR / Summer) (1984 Handball) (Silver / Team) (*9 August 1960; 24-years-old)
  • Greg Meghoo (M / JAM / Summer) (1984 Athletics; 4 x 100 metres Relay) (Silver / Team) (*11 August 1965; 19-years-old)
  • Mark Phillips (M / GBR / Summer) (1988 Equestrian Events; 3-Day Event, Team) (Silver / Team) (*22 September 1948; 40-years-old)
  • Andreas Keller (M / FRG / Summer) (1988 Hockey) (Silver / Team) (*1 October 1965; 23-years-old)
  • Nataliya Shikolenko (F / EUN / Summer) (1992 Athletics; Javelin Throw) (Silver / Individual) (*1 August 1964; 28-years-old)
  • Sergey Tarasov (M / RUS / Winter) (1994 Biathlon; 4 x 7.5 kilometres Relay) (Silver / Team) (*15 February 1965; 29-years-old)
  • Tommy Moe (M / USA / Winter) (1994 Alpine Skiing; Super G) (Silver / Individual) (*17 February 1970; 24-years-old)
  • Peter Leone (M / USA / Summer) (1996 Equestrian Events; Jumping, Team) (Silver / Team) (*1 August 1960; 36-years-old)
  • Paolo Tofoli (M / ITA / Summer) (1996 Volleyball) (Silver / Team) (*4 August 1966; 30-years-old)
  • George Karrys (M / CAN / Winter) (1998 Curling) (Silver / Team) (*15 February 1967; 31-years-old)
  • Yelena Zamolodchikova (F / RUS / Summer) (2000 Gymnastics; Team All-Around) (Silver / Team) (*19 September 1982; 18-years-old)
  • Gillian Lindsay (F / GBR / Summer) (2000 Rowing; Quadruple Sculls) (Silver / Team) (*24 September 1973; 27-years-old)
  • Miguel Caldés (M / CUB / Summer) (2000 Baseball) (Silver / Team) (*27 September 1970; 30-years-old)
  • Kateřina Neumannová (F / CZE / Winter) (2002 Cross-Country Skiing; 5/5 kilometres Pursuit) (Silver / Individual) (*15 February 1973; 29-years-old)
  • Irina Lobacheva (F / RUS / Winter) (2002 Figure Skating; Ice Dancing) (Silver / Team) (*18 February 1973; 29-years-old)
  • Brendan Hansen (M / USA / Summer) (2004 Swimming; 100 metres Breaststroke) (Silver / Individual) (*15 August 1981; 23-years-old)
  • Jens Arne Svartedal (M / NOR / Winter) (2006 Cross-Country Skiing; Team Sprint) (Silver / Team) (*14 February 1976; 30-years-old)
  • Park Gyeong-Mo (M / KOR / Summer) (2008 Archery; Individual) (Silver / Individual) (*15 August 1975; 33-years-old)
  • Rohanee Cox (F / AUS / Summer) (2008 Basketball) (Silver / Team) (*23 August 1980; 28-years-old)
  • Marianne St-Gelais (F / CAN / Winter) (2010 Short-Track Speedskating; 500 metres) (Silver / Individual) (*17 February 1990; 20-years-old)
  • Paola Espinosa (F / MEX / Summer) (2012 Diving; Synchronized Platform) (Silver / Team) (*31 July 1986; 26-years-old)
  • Lucha Aymar (F / ARG / Summer) (2012 Hockey) (Silver / Team) (*10 August 1977; 35-years-old)
  • Sidney Merlin (M / GBR / Summer) (1906 Shooting; Trap, Single Shot, 16 metres) (Bronze / Individual) (*26 April 1856; 50-years-old)
  • Charles Vigurs (M / GBR / Summer) (1912 Gymnastics; Team All-Around, European System) (Bronze / Team) (*11 July 1888; 24-years-old)
  • Eugène Richez (M / FRA / Summer) (1920 Archery; Target Archery, 28 metres, Team) (Bronze / Team) (*5 August 1864; 56-years-old)
  • Freddie McEvoy (M / GBR / Winter) (1936 Bobsledding; Four) (Bronze / Team) (*12 February 1907; 29-years-old)
  • Göpf Kottmann (M / SUI / Summer) (1964 Rowing; Single Sculls) (Bronze / Individual) (*15 October 1932; 32-years-old)
  • Viktor Borshch (M / URS / Summer) (1972 Volleyball) (Bronze / Team) (*9 September 1948; 24-years-old)
  • Silvia Chivás (F / CUB / Summer) (1972 Athletics; 4 x 100 metres Relay) (Bronze / Team) (*10 September 1954; 18-years-old)
  • Henry Glaß (M / GDR / Winter) (1976 Ski Jumping; Large Hill, Individual) (Bronze / Individual) (*15 February 1953; 23-years-old)
  • Valery Dolinin (M / URS / Summer) (1976 Rowing; Coxless Fours) (Bronze / Team) (*25 July 1953; 23-years-old)
  • Pertti Teurajärvi (M / FIN / Winter) (1980 Cross-Country Skiing; 4 x 10 kilometres Relay) (Bronze / Team) (*20 February 1951; 29-years-old)
  • László Kuncz (M / HUN / Summer) (1980 Water Polo) (Bronze / Team) (*29 July 1957; 23-years-old)
  • Tsutomu Sakamoto (M / JPN / Summer) (1984 Cycling; Sprint) (Bronze / Individual) (*3 August 1962; 22-years-old)
  • Mark Kerry (M / AUS / Summer) (1984 Swimming; 4 x 100 metres Medley Relay) (Bronze / Team) (*4 August 1959; 25-years-old)
  • Tomislav Ivković (M / YUG / Summer) (1984 Football) (Bronze / Team) (*11 August 1960; 24-years-old)
  • Seth Bauer (M / USA / Summer) (1988 Rowing; Coxed Eights) (Bronze / Team) (*25 September 1959; 29-years-old)
  • Yevgeny Grishin (M / URS / Summer) (1988 Water Polo) (Bronze / Team) (*1 October 1959; 29-years-old)
  • Chris Johnson (M / CAN / Summer) (1992 Boxing; Middleweight (≤75 kg)) (Bronze / Individual) (*8 August 1971; 21-years-old)
  • Park Hae-Jeong (F / KOR / Summer) (1996 Table Tennis; Doubles) (Bronze / Team) (*29 July 1972; 24-years-old)
  • Matteo Bisiani (M / ITA / Summer) (1996 Archery; Team) (Bronze / Team) (*2 August 1976; 20-years-old)
  • \N Leila (F / BRA / Summer) (2000 Volleyball) (Bronze / Team) (*30 September 1971; 29-years-old)
  • Aleksey Kovalyov (M / RUS / Winter) (2002 Ice Hockey) (Bronze / Team) (*24 February 1973; 29-years-old)
  • Helen Tanger (F / NED / Summer) (2004 Rowing; Coxed Eights) (Bronze / Team) (*22 August 1978; 26-years-old)
  • Norman Bröckl (M / GER / Summer) (2008 Canoeing; Kayak Fours, 1,000 metres) (Bronze / Team) (*22 August 1986; 22-years-old)
  • Luke Doerner (M / AUS / Summer) (2008 Hockey) (Bronze / Team) (*23 August 1979; 29-years-old)
  • Felipe Kitadai (M / BRA / Summer) (2012 Judo; Extra-Lightweight (≤60 kg)) (Bronze / Individual) (*28 July 1989; 23-years-old)

Married Couples Winning Olympic Gold Medals

With the Rio Olympics coming up, the media is looking at what may happen and what sorts of new Olympic bests and records may occur. One thing that is being discussed is the possibility that Ashton Eaton (USA) and his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton (CAN), may win gold medals in the decathlon and heptathlon, respectively. The interesting thing about that would be that they compete for different nations – although they both went to school at the University of Oregon.

It is a definite possibility that they both could win. Eaton will be favored, and should win the decathlon, barring injury. Theisen-Eaton may, or may not, be favored. She won the Götzis meeting in 2015, the top heptathlon invitational, but finished second at the 2015 World Championships to Jessica Ennis-Hill of Great Britain, the 2012 Olympic Champion. Theisen-Eaton had also been second at the 2013 Worlds, while Ashton Eaton was World Champion in 2013 and 2015, and Olympic Champion in 2012.

There is another possibility of a similar happenstance. Matt Emmons and Kateřina Kůrková-Emmons compete in shooting for the United States and the Czech Republic, respectively. Kůrková won a gold medal in air rifle in 2008, and has won medals in 2004 and 2008, while Emmons won small-bore rifle medals in 2004, 2008, and 2012, and a gold in 2004 They are a much longer “shot” to both win golds than Eaton / Theisen-Eaton.

Has this ever happened before? It depends on how you look at it and how you define it. Further, there are some difficulties in knowing the precise marital status of couples at certain times. In this era, we usually know when famous athletes marry, but in older Olympics, it was not so easy to determine.

If you are asking – has a married couple from different nations ever won gold medals at the same Olympics – the answer is NO. There are two different cases of couples that were married, at some time, competing for different nations at an Olympics, and winning gold medals at the same Olympics. That would be Hal Connolly and Olga Fikotová in 1956, with Connolly winning the hammer throw for the USA, and Fikotová winning the discus throw for Czechoslovakia; and Jan Frodeno and Emma Snowsill in 2008, both winning the triathlon gold medal, Frodeno for Germany, and Snowsill for Australia. However, neither Connolly/Fikotová, nor Frodeno/Snowsill were married at the time they won their concurrent gold medals.

In all our database contains 66 married couples who have both won gold medals at the Olympics. In 35 cases, they both won gold medals at the same Olympics. We cannot tell you, however, with confidence, how many of them were married at the time they won their concurrent gold medals.

There are 11 Olympic married couples who have won gold medals for different nations, but only Connolly/Fikotová and Frodeno/Snowsill won them at the same Olympics. And again we don’t always know the date of the marriages. Interestingly, all 11 couples won their medals in the same sport. Here are those 11 couples:

Husband Sport NOC Golds Wife NOC Gold1
Hal Connolly ATH USA 1956 Olga Fikotová TCH 1956
Jan Frodeno TRI GER 2008 Emma Snowsill AUS 2008
Bill Toomey ATH USA 1968 Mary Rand GBR 1964
Peter Mueller SSK USA 1976 Marianne Timmer NED 1998/2006
Yuriy Siedykh ATH URS 1976/80 Nataliya Lisovskaya URS 1988
Bart Conner GYM USA 1984 Nadia Comăneci ROU 1976/80
Valery Medvedtsev BIA URS 1988 Nataliya Snytina RUS 1994
Valery Medvedtsev BIA URS 1988 Olga Pylyova RUS 2002/10
Andre Agassi TEN USA 1996 Steffi Graf GER 1988
Ids Postma SSK NED 1998 Anni Friesinger GER 2002/06/10
Matt Emmons SHO USA 2004 Kateřina Kůrková CZE 2008

There are six cases of Olympic married couples winning gold medals together at 2 different Olympic Games, or Olympic Winter Games. Adding Winter is important because 4 of these were married couples in pairs figure skating, well known to most Olympic or figure skating aficionados. These would be, in order of when they did it – Pierre Brunet and Andrée Brunet-Joly (1928/32 – only married in 1932); Oleg Protopopov and Lyudmila Belusova (1964/68); Aleksandr Zaytsev and Irina Rodnina (1976/80); and Sergey Grinkov and Ekaterina Gordeeva (1988/94).

What about married couples from different nations both winning medals of any color at the same Olympic Games? That has happened 13 times by 12 couples, as Emmons and Kůrková-Emmons won medals in both 2004 and 2008, although they were only married in 2008. We can only confirm two married couples that won their medals while married – in addition to Emmons / Kůrková-Emmons in 2008, in 2002 there was Raphaël Poirée (FRA) and Liv Grete Skjelbreid-Poirée (NOR) in biathlon. There are two couples whose marital status at the time of their concurrent medals is uncertain, although of the others, 8 were not married while winning their medals.

In all 230 couples that were either married, eventually married, or once married, have both won Olympic medals. It has happened 31 times that they have been from different nations, but 19 of those did not occur at the same Olympic Games.

Of these 230, 150 couples won medals at the same Olympics, with the same caveat that we can’t always speak for marital status. It has happened 29 times that these couples won medals together at two Olympics, and 3 couples won medals together at 3 Olympics, once again in pairs or dance figure skating – Brunet/Brunet-Joly (1924/28/32), Sergey Ponomarenko/Marina Klimova (1984/88/92) (URS/EUN) (ice dance), and Zhao Hongbo/Shen Xue (2002/06/10) (CHN).

Husbands and wife usually competed in the same sports while winning their medals at the Olympics. Of the 66 gold medalist couples, only 10 of them competed in different sports. Of the 230 medalist couples, 186 of them competed in the same sport.

So, yes Virginia, if Ashton Eaton wins the decathlon at the Rio Olympics, and Briane Theisen-Eaton wins the heptathlon, they will become the first married couple from different nations to win gold medals at the same Olympics, while married.

Christmas Olympic Day and Kaarlo Maaninka

Of all the 128,000 odd Olympians since 1896, 325 were born on Christmas Day. 68 Olympians died on this day, and as you would expect, there have been no Olympic events held on Christmas.

Among the Olympians born on Christmas, you might remember: Noël Vandernotte, 1936 French rowing coxswain who won 2 medals at only 12-years-old, was born in 1923; Ossi Reichert, 1952-56 German alpine skiier who won a gold and silver medal, was born in 1925; Basil Heatley, 1964 British marathon silver medalist, was born in 1933; and Mary Ellen Clark, US platform diver who won bronzes at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, was born in 1962.

Probably the Olympian with the most connection to Christmas must be Finnish distance runner Kaarlo Maaninka, who was born on Christmas Day in Lapland, about as close as any Olympian birthplace gets to the North Pole. Maaninka won a bronze medal in the 5,000 metres and a silver medal in the 10,000 metres at the 1980 Olympics. Maaninka was born 25 December 1953 in Posio, Lapland in Finland. Lapland, as you surely know, is at 67° north latitude, and only about 5,230 km (3,230 miles) from Santa’s Workshop.

Kaarlo Maaninka leads the 5000m in Moscow 1980
Kaarlo Maaninka leads the 5000m in Moscow 1980

Maaninka was a forestry technician and foreman in the Great White North. It is not known if some of the trees he harvested ended up in toys for all the good little girls and boys around the world. He was Finnish Champion in the 10K in 1979, and on the roads, won the Finnish 15 km title in 1978-80. He competed at two European Cups and earned 13 caps in all. His personal bests were as follows: 1,500 – 3:46.80 (1980); 3,000 – 7:58.0 (1980); 5,000 – 13:22.0 (1980); 10,000 – 27:44.28 (1980); Marathon – 2-18:27.4 (1978).

So Happy Birthday to Kaarlo Maaninka and to all the 324 other Olympians born on this day. Merry Christmas to all, and from the OlympStats team, to all a good night for 2015.

Teams suspended from Olympic competition

In November, it was announced that no Bulgarian weightlifters will compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics, as a punishment for an excessive amount of doping positives among Bulgarian lifters. Such a suspension is not unique, but – fortunately – still relatively rare. We’ll take a look at other exclusions in Olympic history.

Just look at Bulgaria’s Olympic weightlifting history already reveals a few similar cases. In 1988, the team withdrew after two gold medallists (Mitko Grabnev and Angel Genchev) had tested positive for doping. Twelve years later, three Bulgarian medallists, including gold medallist Izabela Dragneva, were caught with performance enhancing drugs, which was followed by a suspension of the rest of the weightlifting team. In 2008, Bulgaria chose not to compete in the Olympics, with no less than 11 national team members facing doping suspensions in the run-up to the Games. Those low points are now followed by a suspension ahead of the Games.

One of the players in Bulgaria’s tainted Olympic weightlifting past: Izabela Dragneva.

Another group of athletes possibly facing suspension are the Russian track and field athletes. Following a recent report by WADA, the International Assocation of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has supended Russian athletes from competing internationally. Depending on how quick they can reform, they may also miss the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

A similar exclusion came in 1988, when Mexico was banned by the international football federation (FIFA), after they were found to have knowingly used at least four players over the age limit in an U20 tournament. All Mexican representative teams were banned for a period of two years, including the Olympic team that had already qualified for Seoul. They were replaced by Guatemala.

Another age-related suspension was handed out in 2010 by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). In gymnastics, there is a minimum age for competitors, and North Korea was found to have submitted false birth dates for at least two competitors. They were suspended from international competition for two years, which included the 2012 London Games.

In the past, it has happened several times that nations were not allowed to compete at the Olympics. The first such occasion came in 1920. Despite the fact that Olympic renovator Pierre de Coubertin was not in favor, the (perceived) aggressors of World War I – Austria, Germany, Hungary and Turkey – were not invited. The Germans were not invited in 1924 either, leaving them to return on the Olympic podium only in St. Moritz 1928. Twenty years later, Germany could also not enter the Olympics. Following World War II, the country had been divided by the four allied nations, and the German National Olympic Committee therefore did not formally represent any recognized nation. However, Japan was not allowed to compete in the 1948 Games either, suggestion this formal reason might merely have been an excuse to not invite the war aggressors.

Activist Dennis Brutus campaigned for Apartheid-era South Africa to be banned from the Olympics – with eventual success.

The 1964 Olympics were marked by the suspension of the South African NOC, a year earlier. The South African NOC did not allow mixed-race competition, which was in conflict with the IOC’s non-discrimination policies. In 1970, South Africa was expelled from the International Olympic Committee and only reinstated in 1992. A similar fate befell Rhodesia – present-day Zimbabwe – when its invitation for the 1972 Olympics was revoked shortly before the opening ceremony, and the NOC was suspended. Most African nations did not recognize the (white) Ian Smith regime, and threatened to boycott the Munich Games if the nation were allowed to compete. Rhodesian athletes had already missed the 1968 Olympics when strict interpretation of passport rules meant they could not enter Mexico. Competitors from Taiwan suffered from the same issue in 1976, when they were unable to enter Canada.

Following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, a United Nations resolution prohibited teams representing that country at sports events. Individual athletes were allowed to compete, and so the IOC created Individual Olympic Participants, allowing such athletes to take part in Barcelona 1992.

In 1999, the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was suspended from competition, among others for not allowing women to compete in sports. As of 2012, four Afghan women have competed in the Olympics.

In more recent years, several National Olympic Committees have been suspended by the IOC for not abiding by the rules of the Olympic Charter. Frequently, this concerns government intervention in the NOC, but there may be other reasons. Such suspensions include:

  • Venezuela in 1993
  • Iraq in 2003-2004
  • Panama in 2007-2008
  • Kuwait in 2010-2012 and again in 2015-present
  • Ghana in 2011

Two such suspensions had effects on a nation’s participation in the Olympics. Afghanistan was banned in 1999, causing them to miss the 2000 Olympics – although the Taliban probably couldn’t care less. In 2013, India was also suspended, forcing one of its athletes to compete as an Individual Olympic Athlete during the first week of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The suspension was lifted during the second week, allowing the remaining two competitors to contest their events under the Indian flag.

Luger Shiva Keshavan was forced to compete as an independent athlete in Sochi 2014, as his nation’s NOC (India) had been suspended.

Back in 1962, the Indonesian NOC had also been suspended by the IOC, as they had refused to allow athletes from Taiwan and Israel compete in the Asian Games. Angered by the fact that France and the US (which had refused to allow competitors from East Germany) were not suspended, Indonesian President Sukarno created the Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO). Held in 1963, the IOC banned all athletes that had competed at these Games, which caused Indonesia and North Korea to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics, even if they were allowed to enter athletes who hadn’t contested the GANEFO. North Korea competed again in the second (and last) edition of the GANEFO (1966), which meant they were suspended by the IOC, causing the nation to miss the 1968 Olympics as well.

Year Country Reason
1920 Germany Not invited as WWI aggressor nation
1920 Austria Not invited as WWI aggressor nation
1920 Hungary Not invited as WWI aggressor nation
1920 Turkey Not invited as WWI aggressor nation
1924 Germany Not invited as WWI aggressor nation
1948 Germany Not invited as WWII aggressor nation (no formal NOC)
1948 Japan  Not invited as WWII aggressor nation
1964 South Africa Suspended by IOC
1968 North Korea Suspended by IOC
1968 South Africa Suspended by IOC
1968 Rhodesia Could not enter host nation
1972 Rhodesia Invitation revoked
1976 Rhodesia Suspended by IOC
1976 Taiwan Could not enter host nation
1988 Mexico (football) Suspended by IF
2000 Afghanistan Suspended by IOC
2012 North Korea (gymnastics) Suspended by IF
2014 India Suspended by IOC
2016 Bulgaria (weightlifting) Suspended by IF

On This Day in Olympic History, 19 November

On This Day, 19 November

  • 320 Olympians were born, …
  • 57 Olympians died, …
  • 1 Olympic event was held
  • The Olympic event that was “held” on this day was actually the 1904 Olympic football tournament, which was contested from 16-23 November, although no actual match took place on this day. Our database works like that! Matches were held on 16, 17, and 18 November, and then on 23 November.
  • Luigi Beccali, Italian middle-distance running great, who ran the 1,500 metres at 3 Olympics (1928-36), and won the gold medal in 1932 and bronze medal in 1936, was born on this day in 1907.
  • Peter Gabbett, Britain’s greatest decathlete prior to Daley Thompson, who competed at the 1972 Olympics, but did not finish, was born on this day in 1941.
  • Dianne de Leeuw, an American who was among the first Olympians to participate in the athletic diaspora by choosing to compete for another nation, was born on this day in 1955. De Leeuw had dual citizenship and chose to compete for the Netherlands in figure skating at the 1976 Winter Olympics, winning a silver medal behind Dorothy Hamill.
  • Gail Devers, the greatest American female high hurdler, was born on this day in 1966. Devers competed in five Olympics, but never managed a gold medal in the 100 hurdles, which was considered her best event. She did, however, win back-to-back gold medals in the 100 metres in 1992-96.
  • Kerri Strug, famous in the US for taking her final vault in the 1996 team gymnastics competition, was born on this day in 1977. Strug took that vault on a severely injured ankle, feeling she needed to post a high score to help the US women win the gold medal. It later turned out that she did not have to take the vault for the US to win gold.
  • Mahé Drysdale, New Zealand single sculls rowing champion, was born on this day in 1978. Drysdale was gold medalist in the single sculls in 2012 after winning a bronze at Beijing in 2008. Drysdale was a five-time World Champion in single sculls, winning in 2005-07, 2009, and 2011.
  • Dayron Robles, Cuban high hurdler who won the 110 hurdle gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, was born on this day in 1986.
  • Simpson Foulis, a Scottish emigré who competed in golf at the 1904 Olympics, died on this day in 1951. Foulis’s brother, Jim Foulis, won the second US Open championship in 1896 at Shinnecock Hills.
  • Taisiya Chenchik, Soviet high jumper who won a bronze medal in the event at Tokyo in 1964, died on this day in 2013.
Mal Whitfield
Mal Whitfield
  • And sadly, we must mention the death late last night (on the 18th) of American Mal Whitfield, who won three gold medals at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, including golds in the 800 both years, and added a bronze medal in the 400 in 1948. Whitfield later had a long career in the US foreign service. His daughter, Fredricka Whitfield, has been a long-time news anchor for CNN.

“Only the dead have seen the end of War”

Some of you may recognize the quote that headlines this posting as being from the Greek philosopher Plato. Plato believed that one of the reasons that the Olympic Games existed in ancient times was for the training of both body and soul that would be required in times of military conflict. Whether he is right or wrong is a matter for personal conscience but one thing that cannot be denied is that, since the advent of the modern Games, many Olympians have fought and died as soldiers or have been killed as part of a myriad of conflicts across the globe.

On the day which Americans call Veterans Day and which other countries call Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, we can indeed remember them.
http://www.sports-reference.com currently lists 752 casualties of war on our website.

The full list is, sadly, too long to list here but is available at http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/friv/lists.cgi?id=65

However we can list a dozen representative examples.

Ron Zinn (USA)
Athletics
Although assumed deceased, technically still listed as MIA (missing in action) in Vietnam.

Janusz Zalewski (Poland)
Sailing
Member of the Polish resistance. Injured during the 1944 Warsaw Rising, he was murdered along with fellow hospital patients and medical staff during Nazi reprisals.

Teófilo Yldefonso (Phillipines)
Swimming
Killed in concentration camp Capas, following the Bataan Death March.

Tony Wilding (New Zealand)
Tennis
Joined the British army and was leading an armoured car unit when he was killed at Aubers Ridge during the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle.

Silvano Abbà (Italy)
Modern Pentathlon
Abbà was a military man, who led the Italian Savoy Cavalry squadron in August 1942 at the Battle of Izbushensky near Volgograd. Abbà was killed, along with 700 other riders who were slaughtered by the Soviets. It is considered the last cavalry charge in military history.

Werner Seelenbinder (Germany)
Wrestling
Killed by beheading in Brandenburg Prison after years in concentration camps for leading resistance movements against the Nazis.

Birger Wasenius (Finland)
Speed Skating
Killed during the Winter War early in 1940 while fighting for the Finnish army on the islands of Lake Ladoga.

Freddie Tomlins (Great Britain)
Figure Skating
Killed as a RAF crew-member in fight against a German submarine in/over the British Channel.

Henryk Szlązak (Poland)
Wrestling
Killed by an artillery shell during the Warsaw Uprising.

Percival Molson (Canada)
Athletics
Killed in action when hit by mortar fire while attempting to rescue a fallen friend on the outskirts of Avignon, France.

Stella Agsteribbe (Netherlands)
Gymnastics
Killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Five of the members of this team perished in the Holocaust
Five of the members of this team perished in the Holocaust

André Corvington (Haiti)
Fencing
Killed in action in World War I near Reims whilst serving as a medic in the French army.

SPORT DOPING – NOTHING NEW

The history of drug use, or doping, or PED use (performance-enhancing drugs), in sports is almost as old as the history of sport itself. Doping is the European term for drug use but the term is less often used in the United States. Even the name itself has a history, as it comes from the 19th century, when the term “dop” was used to describe a South African drink which was an extract of cola nuts to which was added xanthines (found in caffeine) and alcohol. The drink was intended to improve endurance and the term “doping” was derived from it.

In the Ancient Olympics, trainers gave athletes various concoctions that they felt would improve their performance. The first physician to be considered a specialist in sports medicine was Galen, who prescribed as follows, “The rear hooves of an Abyssinian ass, ground up, boiled in oil, and flavored with rose hips and rose petals, was the prescription favored to improve performance.”

In the late 1800s, trainers often gave European cyclists strychnine mixed with caffeine and alcohol. Most of the cyclists simply considered them a necessity. A similar potion, strychnine with brandy and egg white, was given to American marathoner, Thomas Hicks, when he was near collapse at the end of the 1904 Olympic marathon in St. Louis, which he went on to win.

Early documentation of sport doping focuses on cycling. The first punishment for doping in cycling goes back to the 19th century, when trainer Choppy Warburton was banned from the sport for suspicions of drugging his riders. Warburton coached Arthur Linton, who won Bordeaux-Paris in 1896, but was suspected of being doped by Warburton during that race.

All of these techniques were used to improve performance and little concern was given to them. It is safe to assume that over the next few decades drug use only increased, but it rarely made the news and there were few problems with its use. But eyebrows were raised at the 1952 Olympic Winter Games when syringes and empty drug vials were found in the speed skater’s locker rooms (speed skaters often train by cycling in the warmer months). Similar detritus was found in the cyclist’s locker rooms at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

It was known that the professional cyclists used drugs freely, mainly stimulants such as amphetamines. In 1924 Henri Pélissier and his brother, Charles, admitted to various doping methods, describing in an interview their use of strychnine, cocaine, chloroform, aspirin, and horse ointments, although they later stated that the writer had exaggerated their claims. By the 1940s Italian campionissimo Fausto Coppi freely admitted to doping, calling it “la bomba,” and said there was no alternative if one hoped to stay competitive.

In 1955 French rider Jean Malléjac collapsed in the Tour de France near the top of Mont Ventoux, and it was attributed to doping. He had been riding wildly and sporadically and fell off his bike with one foot still in his toe clip. He later stated he had been drugged against his will and proclaimed his innocence to his death in 2000.

Roger Rivière, a star of the late 1950s, who was paralyzed after a crash in the 1960 Tour, later admitted to doping during his career, and even said his career-ending accident was possibly due to the use of painkilling drugs which had affected his reflexes and judgment. Ironically, Rivière once commented about the marathon legend of Pheidippides, “Had the soldier from Marathon had access to some kind of restorative product, he would most likely not have died.”

At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Danish cyclist Knut Enemark Jensen collapsed and died during the cycling road race. He was later found to have been given amphetamines (Ronital) and nicotinyl tartrate (a nicotine-type of stimulant). Jensen’s death, however, caused no great call to enforce rules against drug use in sports.

In 1965 Tour superstar Jacques Anquetil admitted during a television interview that he used drugs, stating that it was common at the time, and that a man could not ride Bordeaux-Paris or the grand tours while riding only on water. On 1 June 1965, performance-enhancing drugs were made illegal in France and in July 1966 the Tour authorities began testing the riders for drugs, with Raymond Poulidor the first rider to be tested on 29 July.

The most famous drug-related sports death then occurred at the 1967 Tour de France, when the great British cyclist, Tommy Simpson, collapsed and died while ascending Mont Ventoux. An autopsy revealed he had been heavily dosed with stimulants.

Sports administrators could not continue to avoid the problem. The deaths of Jensen and Simpson alerted the sporting authorities, among them the IOC and the IAAF, to the dangers inherent in drug use in sports. At the 1968 Olympic Winter Games, the IOC tested for drugs for the first time. The first athlete to be disqualified in the Olympics for drug use was Sweden’s Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall. Liljenwall was a modern pentathlete who had helped his team win a bronze medal. Prior to the shooting event he drank a few beers to help steady his nerves. This was commonplace among modern pentathletes in those days, but it cost him and his teammates a bronze medal.

The IOC did not start testing for anabolic steroids until 1972 at the Olympics. Seven athletes were disqualified for doping offenses at the 1972 München Games, with three athletes losing medals – Rick DeMont (USA) in the controversial 400 metre freestyle, after he was found to have a stimulant (ephedrine) in his Marex inhaler that he used for his asthma; Aad van den Hoek (NED), who was found to have taken coramine, a stimulant, which eliminated the Dutch team from the team time trial, after they had placed third; and Bakhaavaa Buidaa, a Mongolian judoka who lost his silver medal when he became the first Olympian to test positive for an anabolic steroid, Dianabol.

Since the advent of drug testing, the major scandals have involved the use of anabolic steroids, blood doping, and erythropoietin (EPO). None of these just came about in the 1980s or 1990s.

Anabolic steroids had been invented in the early 1950s by the American physician, John Ziegler, who developed them to help patients with serious illnesses, including soldiers, although concurrent development by Soviet and German doctors was later revealed. Many of these patients were unable to maintain their body weight, and they essentially wasted away. The anabolic steroids were capable of keeping the patients in what is known as “positive nitrogen balance.” In that state, protein is being added, rather than taken away, from the body’s muscles. It was not long before athletes discovered their usefulness, with weightlifters and weight throwers in track & field known to have started using them in the early 1960s.

Blood doping, also termed blood boosting, blood packing, and induced erythrocythemia, involves the infusion of red blood cells to increase a person’s aerobic capacity. Rumors of blood doping first became rampant when the great Finnish distance runner, Lasse Virén, won both the 5,000 and 10,000 at the 1972 München and 1976 Montréal Olympics. Between Olympics, Virén’s performances were relatively poor – he never won any other major event. While Virén claimed he was simply a master at peaking, his rivals whispered that he was being helped by blood doping. The rumors were never substantiated.

It goes much farther back than that, however, as blood doping was first investigated in 1947 by the American physiologist Pace. He infused 2,000 cc. of whole blood into subjects and noted increases in endurance capacity of as great as 35%. Multiple other studies have also shown increases in aerobic and endurance capacity, although no study used such a massive quantity as Pace’s study. (The normal adult male has a volume of blood of about 6 liters, so Pace was injecting 1/3rd of the patient’s blood volume.)

Most studies now confirm that blood doping increases both aerobic and endurance capacity, if properly administered, but blood doping was originally not considered terribly helpful to athletes, because it was thought adding extra red blood cells to the body increased the viscosity of the blood to a point that the heart could not generate enough output to increase aerobic capacity. This has been shown not to be true in the quantities of normal blood doping.

The first known documented blood doping scandal concerned the 1984 United States Olympic cycling team that admitted to blood doping prior to the Los Angeles Olympics, which was a systematic scheme also involving their coaches. Coincidentally the American cyclists did very well, winning multiple medals and titles, albeit in the absence of the Eastern European riders. Later, at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, after the athletes had left Salt Lake City, discarded blood bags were found at the residence of the Austrian skiers and two Austrian cross-country skiers were disqualified, as well as the team doctor.

Blood doping was somewhat supplanted by the use of erythropoietin (EPO) and its analogues. Erythropoietin is a natural hormone synthesized by the kidneys and which stimulates red blood cell formation. Erythropoietin was first synthesized as a drug in the late 1980s, after the development of recombinant bacterial production, primarily as a method of treating patients with anemia. It has been especially helpful in treating patients with renal failure and on dialysis as a result. Since the kidney produces erythropoietin, kidney failure invariably causes a deficiency of the hormone, and virtually all of these patients are anemic. It is also used in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, which often causes the body to stop producing red blood cells naturally.

Because it will naturally boost an athlete’s red blood cell mass without the risks of either autologous or heterologous blood doping, which can transmit viral diseases, or cause transfusion reactions, athletes have often used EPO to increase their aerobic capacity. This may also create long-term problems for the athlete as use of the drug may interfere with the body’s natural production of erythropoietin. Early studies also showed that supplements of erythropoietin may increase the risks of blood clots, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the European cycling press investigated a series of startling deaths. At least 10 and perhaps as many as 20 professional cyclists died very suddenly. Most of these athletes were from the Netherlands or Belgium, and most were young, and in extremely good condition as a result of the demands of their sport. While never proven, the rumor was that many of these athletes died as a result of using EPO. EPO increases the amount of red blood cells in the body, but extremely fit aerobic athletes, such as professional cyclists, already have a very high percentage of red blood cells, which is measured by checking a lab value termed the hematocrit. Normal hematocrit values for adult males are in the 38-43 range, while women have a slightly lower value.

Aerobic athletes usually have very high hematocrits naturally, as they have developed their aerobic capacity by training. Their hematocrits are often in the 45-50 range. But by taking EPO, these athletes can artificially raise their hematocrit even higher, often above 50. At hematocrit levels much above 50, the blood becomes very viscous, and may sludge. It is unable to circulate easily and can lead to strokes or heart attacks. This was considered to be the etiology of many of the deaths of the professional cyclists.

And it did not stop with anabolic steroids, blood doping or EPO. After them came designer steroids, the use of pure testosterone, and testosterone/epi-testosterone combinations to avoid detection, human growth hormone or somatotropin (hGH), and on virtually ad nauseum.

And this led to …

  • the state-supported GDR doping system of the 1970s-80s, later revealed by released Stasi documents;
  • the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela when tight drug testing protocols caught 15 weightlifters;
  • the Chinese system of the late 1980s in which their female distance runners set world records still never approached;
  • Ben Johnson at Seoul in 1988;
  • Marion Jones at Sydney in 2000, though not formally admitted for several years;
  • the Festina Scandal of 1998;
  • Lance Armstrong from 1999-2005 at the Tour de France;
  • the BALCO Scandal in American professional sports around 2000-02;
  • Operación Puerto in professional cycling circa 2006;
  • the Floyd Landis fiasco at the 2006 Tour de France and thereafter;
  • the admissions by Tyler Hamilton, and later Armstrong, about their drug use in cycling,
  • the Russian scandal most fully revealed on Monday, 9 November, by the release of the Pound Report, … and so it goes

The athletes continue to use performance-enhancing drugs, and the scientists, and now governments and legal agencies, continue to pursue them. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

On This Day in Olympic History – 9 November

On this day in Olympic history, …

  • 319 Olympians were born, and …
  • 81 Olympians died
  • The 400-metre running twins, Noel and Christopher Chavasse (GBR), who competed at the 1908 Olympics, were born in 1884. Noel was killed in World War I at Ieper, Belgium.
  • Heywood Edwards (USA), a wrestler at the 1928 Olympics, was born in 1905. Edwards attended the US Naval Academy. He died aboard the USS Reuben James, the first US navy ship to be sunk in the Atlantic during World War II. The USS Heywood L. Edwards would be named in his honour.
  • Viktor Chukarin (URS), the first great male Soviet gymnast, individual all-around champion at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, was born in 1921. Very old for a gymnast, Chukarin had been a prisoner-of-war during World War II.
  • Alice Coachman (USA) was born in 1923. Coachman won the high jump at the 1948 Olympics, becoming the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
  • Sven Hannawald, German ski jumper, was born in 1974. Hannawald won three Olympic ski jumping medals in 1998-2002 including a gold in the 2002 team event, but he is best known as the only ski jumper to win all four events in the Four Hills Tournament (Vierschanzentournee) in the same season, which he did in 2001-02.
  • Pietro Speciale, Italian fencer at the 1908/12/20 Olympics, died on this day in 1945 in Palermo. Speciale won a team foil gold medal in 1920 and an individual foil silver in 1912.
  • Eero Lehtonen (FIN), who won the pentathlon in track & field at the 1920 and 1924 Olympics, and remains the defending champion in the event, as it was never held again, died in 1959. Lehtonen also competed in the long jump and decathlon in 1920 and the 4×400 relay in 1924.
  • Dick Howard (USA), bronze medalist in the 1960 400 metre hurdles, died of a heroin overdose in 1967, shortly after he left prison after serving a 7-year term for drug charges. The silver medalist in that event also died tragically, though Cliff Cushman met his end fighting in Vietnam.
  • Cliff Gray, American bobsledder who won gold medals in the 4-man event in both 1928 and 1932, died on this day in 1969, at least we think he did. The confusion relating to the true identity of Clifford Gray has persisted almost since the day he left the Olympic scene. See the recent book Speed Kings by Andy Bull for a full discussion of Gray/Grey’s identity (even the spelling is confusing), which Bull unearthed with the assistance of Hilary Evans, one of our OlyMADMen.
  • Lewis Luxton (AUS), the son of an IOC Member of the same name, who rowed at the 1932 Olympics for Great Britain, and later also became an IOC Member, that for Australia, died on this day in 1985.

Bill Northam

Parameter Value
Full Name William Herbert "Bill" Northam
Born 28 September 1905 in Torquay; Torbay (GBR)
Died 6 September 1988 in Woollahra; New South Wales (AUS)
Measurements 183 cm / 81 kg

Bill Northam started as a youngster in athletics and then turned to dirt-track car and motorcycling racing. But he excelled in business and became the chairman of the Australian sections of both Johnson & Johnson and Slazenger. He did not take up sailing until he was 46, but he quickly became serious about it. Northam bought some property at The Basin, Pittwater in Sydney, and was taken out for a sail by a neighbor, and became interested. His house looked out over the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, and Northam would eventually name his 5.5 metre boat, which he raced at the Olympics, “Barrenjoey.”

Northam started out in larger 8-metre yachts, racing “Saskia” in England and winning the prestigious Sayonara Cup in 1955 and 1956. He had success racing “Caprice of Huon” in the Sydney-to-Hobart race, and raced “Jazzer” in the Sabre class. In 1962 he served as a member of Frank Packer’s syndicate for “Gretel,” which was the challenger for the America’s Cup.

In 1962 Northam decided to aim for the Olympics and went to the United States, asking naval architect Bill Luders to build him a 5.5 metre craft, the “Barrenjoey.” He made the Australian team for the Tokyo Olympics and marched at the Opening Ceremony alongside his son, Rod, who was a reserve on the rowing team. In the competition, Northam skippered “Barrenjoey” to the gold medal. He was named Australia Yachtsman of the Year, and in 1966 was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 1976 Northam was knighted for services to the community.

Games/Sport Event Boat Position Medal
1964 Sailing 5.5 metres Barrenjoey 1 Gold

On This Day in Olympic History – 2 November

Today in Olympic History, …

  • 291 Olympians were born and …
  • 65 Olympians died
  • Marion Jones (USA) was born in 1879, but not the one you think, but rather Marion Jones the tennis player who won two bronze medals at the 1900 Olympics, in singles and mixed doubles, making her the first American woman to win Olympic medals.
  • Victor Galíndez (ARG) was born in 1948. Galíndez was a boxer at the 1968 Olympics, without much success, although he had won a silver medal at the 1967 Pan American Games. He had much more success as a professional, winning and holding the WBA light-heavyweight title from 1974-1978 and again briefly in 1979.
  • Bruce Baumgartner (USA) was born in 1960. Baumgartner is the most successful super-heavyweight wrestler in US history, winning four Olympic medals, including golds in 1984 and 1992. Baumgartner won three World Championships, three Pan American Games gold medals, had eight World Cup wins, and was a 17-time US Champion.
  • Noah Ngeny (KEN) was born in 1978. Ngeny was a middle-distance runner who won the gold medal in the 1,500 metres at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He was a silver medalist in the 1,500 at the 1999 World Championships and set one world record, running 2:11.96 in September 1999 for the 1,000 metres.
  • Gillian Apps (CAN), descended from hockey royalty, was born in 1983. Apps won three gold medals in ice hockey for Canada at the 2006, 2010, and 2014 Winter Olympics. Her grandfather, Syl Apps, is considered one of Canada’s greatest ever hockey players, is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and also competed at the Olympics. He placed sixth in the pole vault at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Gillian Apps’ father, Syl Apps, Jr., also played in the National Hockey League, for 10 seasons with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Los Angeles Kings.
  • Hélène, Countess de Portales (SUI) died on this day in 1945. A crew member on her husband’s yacht, Lerina, at the 1900 Olympics, she was the first female Olympic competitor, and the first female Olympic medalist, winning a gold and silver medal.
  • Two renowned American track & field champions died on this day. Ted Meredith died in 1957. He won gold medals in the 800 metres and the 4×400 metre relay at the 1912 Olympics. Milt Campbell died in 2012. Campbell won a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1956 Olympics, after winning a decathlon silver in 1952.
  • Vasily Rudenkov (URS) died in 1982. Rudenkov was the gold medalist in the hammer throw at the 1960 Olympics.
  • No Olympic events were held on this day, however, Olympic competition has been held in November. At the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, some football (soccer) matches were contested in November, the Games ending on 23 November. At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, the Games opened on 22 November, to match the Southern Hemisphere summer. There is no truth to the rumor that discus and hammer throwers had to spin in a reverse direction during those Games.
  • And the 1st and 2nd Zappas Olympic Games were held in November in Athinai in 1859 and 1870. The Zappas Olympic Games were early forerunners of the Modern Olympic Games, and among many attempts of revival of the Ancient Olympics.
  • And in November 1892, Pierre de Coubertin held the conference at the Sorbonne at which the delegates re-instituted the Olympic Idea, and formed the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
  • And on 25 November 1979, the two-China problem was finally resolved by the IOC when it formally recognized the Republic of China, and on 26 November, the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee was formally recognized under that name.
  • And on 24 November 1998, Salt Lake City television station KTVX reveals that the Salt Lake Bid Committee had been paying tuition and expenses for the daughter of an IOC Member. Paraphrasing Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan, “the excrement was about to hit the cooling device.”