Olympic Bio of the Day – Philip Noel-Baker

Philip Noel-Baker, Baron Noel-Baker.jpg

Year-Sport Event Finish Medal
1912 Athletics 800 metres AC h5 r1/3
1912 Athletics 1500 metres 6
1920 Athletics 800 metres 1 h3 r1/3
1920 Athletics 1500 metres 2 Silver

Philip John Baker was born in London on 1 November 1889, one of seven children of Canadian-born parents. He was raised in a Quaker home. His parents moved to England when his father, Joseph Allen Baker, was asked to establish a British branch of his father’s engineering business. In London, Joseph Baker became a member of the London County Council and later served in the House of Commons on the Liberal ticket, beginning in 1905. Thus, his upbringing gave him exposure to both politics and peaceful ways.

Philip Baker attended the Bootham School in York, after which he spent several years at a Quaker school in Philadelphia, Haverford College. He returned to England to earn his degrees from King’s College, Cambridge, earning honors in history (1910) and economics (1912). He received an M.A. with honors from Cambridge in 1913.

Baker ran for Cambridge and joined the Cambridge Athletic Club. He represented Haverford in the IC4A championships in 1907, finishing fifth in the 880 yards. For Cambridge he won the 880 yards against Oxford in 1910, 1911, and 1912, and the mile in 1909 and 1911. At the Cambridge University AC sports days, he won the mile in 1910 and both the half-mile and mile in 1911 and 1912. He ran three times at the AAA Championships, finishing fifth in the 1910 mile, fourth in the 1911 mile, and participating on the winning medley relay team in 1920.

Baker eventually ran for Great Britain at the 1912 and 1920 Olympic Games. At Stockholm, he failed to survive the first round of the 800 metres. In the 1,500 metres, he qualified for the final, but sacrificed his own chances to pace his teammate, Arnold Jackson. Jackson won the gold medal, and Baker finished sixth. At Antwerp in 1920, Baker again ran in the 800 metres. He qualified for the semi-finals, but did not start in that round. In the 1,500 metres, he ran well, but was narrowly beaten by his teammate, Albert Hill, and earned a silver medal.

P Baker

Baker’s fame came from his career after sports. As a Quaker pacifist, he rejected combat service in World War I, but commanded the Friends’ Ambulance Corps, serving at the front in France, and earning decorations for valor. He was later an adjutant in a British ambulance unit in Italy, and earned the British Silver Medal for Military Valor, and the Italian War Cross. In 1915, Philip Baker married Irene Noel, and would eventually take her name, being known as Philip Noel-Baker from the late thirties onward. They eventually had one child, Francis, a son born in 1920.

After the war, Noel-Baker was an assistant to Robert Cecil at the Paris Peace Conference and he helped draft the Covenant of the League of Nations. He was later named chief assistant to the secretary-general of the League, Eric Drummond, until 1922. During this time, he became associated with Fridtjof Nansen, the Norwegian explorer and humanitarian, who became known for his work on behalf of war refugees.

In 1924, Noel-Baker became Sir Ernest Cassell Professor of international relations at the University of London. He was elected to Parliament from Coventry in 1929, serving two years. In 1926 he wrote two books, The League of Nations at Work, and Disarmament, which earned him a reputation as an expert on disarmament. He was later (1932) appointed the parliamentary private secretary to Arthur Henderson, chairman of the World Disarmament Conference convened in Geneva in 1932. He was re-elected to Parliament in 1936 and held a seat representing Derby until 1970.

During World War II, Noel-Baker served as official spokesman for the War Ministry in the House of Commons. In 1945, when the Labour Party returned to power, he was made minister of state, a non-cabinet position under the foreign secretary. In that capacity, he headed the British delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission, and later served on the subcommittee that drew up the preliminary agenda for the United Nations General Assembly. He served as Secretary of State for Air from 1946-1947, and Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations from 1947-1950.

Noel-Baker was a forceful advocate of arms control, and later served on the U.N. Economic and Social Council. His final book was published in 1958, The Arms Race: A Programme for World Disarmament. It was a comprehensive analysis of the history of disarmament with practical suggestions for the future course of the policy, and in 1960 was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Book Prize.

In 1959, for his work with the League of Nations, the United Nations, his lifetime commitment to peace, his work on behalf of war refugees, and his vast knowledge of disarmament, Philip John Noel-Baker was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. During his Nobel Prize lecture, he spoke of the threat posed by nuclear weapons and the arms race. He declared that the solution lay, not in partial measures, but in a comprehensive and complete program of disarmament under the United Nations. “Disarmament is … for every nation,” he stated, “the safest and most practicable system of defense.”

Noel-Baker retired from the House of Commons at age 80, declaring, “While I have the health and strength, I shall give all my time to the work of breaking the dogmatic sleep of those who allow the nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional arms race to go on.” In 1977, Philip John Noel-Baker was made a life peer as Baron Noel-Baker of Derby. He died in London on 9 October 1982.

Personal Bests: 800 – 1:55.9y (1912); 1500 – 4:01.0 (1912).

Olympic Bio of the Day – Fons, Marquis de Portago

Event Date Place
Born 11 October 1928 London-Greater London (GBR)
Died 12 May 1957 near Guidizzolo-Mantova (ITA)
Year-Sport Event Team Place
1956 Bobsleigh Two with Vicente Sartorius 4
Four Spain 9

de portago
Fon de Portago was born in London, on 11 October 1928, to a wealthy aristocratic father and an Irish nurse. While his father engaged in the Spanish Civil War, Alfonso grew up in the French city of Biarritz. Playboy Alfonso de Portago excelled in many sports. Besides being a good swimmer, polo player and fencer, he was a very good steeplechaser (on horse), winning the French title and participating in the Grand National at Aintree. He achieved his biggest successes, however, in auto racing.

He got interested in the sport through his American friend Edmond Nelson, who he had met as an elevator operator in the New York Plaza Hotel. His first race was the Carrera Panamericana of 1953, which he entered together with Luigi Chinetti (ITA) in a Ferrari 375. They did not complete the race, but it was the start of de Portago’s racing career. The following year, he took part in several sports car races, including the 12 hours of Sebring, and the 24 hours of Le Mans. His success in sports car races, driving Ferraris, earned him the attention of the Ferrari team, and he was signed for the team for the 1956 Formula 1 season.

Before his first race in 1956 (the 12 hours of Sebring), De Portago engaged in a different sport, although it also involved steering. Together with three of his cousins – Vicente Sartorius, Gonzalo Taboada and Luis Muñoz – he formed the very first Spanish Olympic bobsleigh team to take part in the Winter Olympics held in Cortina d’Ampezzo. With the Sartorius, the Marquis de Mariño as his brakeman, De Portago steered the two-man bob to a fourth place finish, just 0.16 seconds from the bronze, and clocked the second-best time in the third run. The four-man bobsleigh ended up in ninth position.
portago
De Portago drove his first Formula 1 World Championship race at the French GP, and scored his first points in the next race at Silverstone, although it was Peter Collins (GBR) who took over de Portago’s car halfway through the race and drove it to a second place-finish. He failed to finish his other Grand Prix races that season, but scored a few victories in minor races.

He again scored points in the first race of the 1957 season, although he had to share them again, this time with Froilán González (ARG). A week before the Monaco GP, Alfonso de Portago entered the Mille Miglia, with his friend Nelson, in a Ferrari 335S. At a straightaway near the town of Giudizzolo, one of their tires blew, and their car swerved into the audience, killing at least 10 spectators, injuring many more, and killing de Portago and Nelson. This accident also meant the end of the Mille Miglia race.

Portago was also known for his winning ways with women, first marrying model Carroll McDaniel. They separated and he began an affair with another model, Dorian Leigh, sister of the first super-model Suzy Parker. At the time of his death, however, he was having another affair with Linda Christian, the ex-wife of actor Tyrone Power. On the day of his final race, at Mille Miglia, she ran out to kiss him prior to the race, which was captured by many of the paparazzi present, and which became known as “The Kiss of Death.”

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As each of us has done the bio of our favorite Olympians, this bio is the special favorite of Jeroen Heijmans, our webmaster and Dutch Olympic expert.

They Too Had Their Olympic Moments

Not everybody with connections to the Olympic Games was an athlete who competed in the Olympics. Here are a number of famous people, in various fields, who had Olympic connections often not well known.

 

Sissel – the Norwegian classical cross-over soprano with the Angelic pipes was well-known in Norway since she was a young teenager. But it was her appearance singing the Olympic Hymn at the Opening and Closing Ceremony of the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics that helped her become known to an international audience.

Sissel at Lillehammer Closing Ceremony

Gordon Lightfoot – Canada’s best known folk singer was past his popular prime in 1988 but was still chosen to sing at the Opening Ceremony of the Calgary Winter Olympics, performing one of his old standards, “Alberta Bound,” as the world’s athletes came to Alberta.

Placido Domingo – Placido Domingo, the well-known Spanish tenor, performed at the Closing Ceremony of two Olympic Games. In 1992 at Barcelona, Domingo sang the Olympic Hymn. In 2008 at Beijing, Domingo performed a duet with Song Zuying, singing The Flame of Love.

Oddjob – In the very popular James Bond movie, “Goldfinger,” the villain was Auric Goldfinger, who was trying to take over the world’s gold supply. Goldfinger’s lead henchman and enforcer was a stocky Oriental-appearing muscleman named Oddjob. Oddjob was played by Harold Sakata, a Hawaiian-American of Japanese ethnicity, who won a silver medal in weightlifting at the 1948 Olympics for the United States.

José Carreras – At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Closing Ceremony, José Carreras, the famed Spanish tenor, sang _Amigos Para Siempre_ with Britain’s classical cross-over lyric soprano Sarah Brightman. Brightman would also sing at another Olympics, performing You and Me with Chinese tenor Liu Huan at the Beijing Opening Ceremony in 2008.

Gore Vidal – Eugene “Gene” Vidal competed in the decathlon for the United States at the 1920 Olympic in Antwerp. Vidal was a West Point graduate who also starred in football at the US Military Academy. His son was Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, who became much better known as Gore Vidal. Gore Vidal was a writer, screenwriter, and political analyst in the United States, once described as “the best all-around American man of letters since Edmund Wilson.”

Dr. Seuss – American shooter Theodore Geisel competed in two shooting events, both variants of free rifle at 200 metres, at the 1900 Paris Exhibition. The events are not considered Olympic events at this time, but would be considered demonstration events. Geisel’s grandson, Theodor Seuss Geisel, later became much better known under his nom-de-plume of Dr. Seuss, popular author of children’s books.

Charlotte Rampling – Charlotte Rampling is a well-known actress, appearing on over 100 films in the United States, Great Britain, Italy, and France. She was the daughter of Godfrey Rampling, who won two medals with British 4×400 metre relay teams – a silver in 1932 and a gold in 1936.

Swoosie Kurtz – An American actress, Swoosie Kurtz has won one Emmy Award (American television) and two Tony Awards (Broadway). Her father was Frank Kurtz, bronze medalist in platform diving at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Frank Kurtz later became a highly decorated military pilot, having received the Croix de Guerre, 3 Silver Stars, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 3 Air Medals, and 5 Presidential Citations for his aviation heroics. During World War II he piloted the Boeing B17-D Flying Fortress bomber, which was nicknamed “The Swoose” because it resembled a half-swan, half-goose. The Swoose is the source of the unusual name for his daughter, as Swoosie is her real given name.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Conan Doyle was on-hand to watch the 1908 Olympic Marathon, having been asked to write a story about it for The Daily Mail. His story on the Dorando Pietri tragic ending appeared in that newspaper on the next day. He also started a financial fund which was given to Pietri, violating all contemporary amateur rules. Conan Doyle is often considered to have been one of the officials assisting Pietri across the line in the famous photo seen below, but that is incorrect, as those two officials were Jack Andrew, the Clerk of Course, and Dr. Michael Bulger, the Chief Medical Officer.

James Foulis – Jim Foulis was a Scottish golf professional who won the 2nd US Open ever played, in 1896. His Olympic connection came because, after moving to the United States, and settling in the midwest, he became a well-known golf course architect, and designed the Glen Echo Country Club course, the site of the 1904 Olympic golf tournament, the last time golf was contested at the Olympics.

Walt Disney – known for Disney World, Disneyland, multiple movie and television productions, Walt Disney was also the man responsible for choreographing the Opening Ceremony of the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics.

Miloš Forman; Kon Ichikawa; John Schlesinger; Mai Zetterling – These four international directors, responsible for multiple popular movies, were four of the eight directors chosen to co-direct the Official Movie of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Because there were eight directors, the movie was entitled “Visions of Eight.”

Davis Cup – The Davis Cup was donated by Dwight Filley Davis as an international team tennis trophy in 1900, while Davis was still a student at Harvard. Dwight Davis later played in the 1904 Olympic tennis tournament, reaching the round of 16 in singles, and the quarter-finals in doubles. Davis would enter politics and serve as the United States’ 49th Secretary of War (later called Secretary of Defense) from 1925-29.

Wightman Cup – The Wightman Cup was an international team tennis trophy for women, which was contested between the United States and Great Britain from 1923-89. The trophy was donated by US tennis star Hazel Wightman, who won the US singles title four times from 1909-19, including three times in a row (1909-11). Wightman played in the Olympic tennis tournament in 1924, winning gold medals in both ladies’ doubles and mixed doubles.

Bobby Orr, Sophia Loren, John Glenn, Stephen Spielberg, Lech Wałeşa, Desmond Tutu – all of the above, famous in multiple fields, helped carry in the Olympic Flag at the Opening Ceremony of various Olympic Winter Games. Orr, considered by many the greatest ever ice hockey player, carried the Olympic Flag at Vancouver in 2010. Legendary actress Sophia Loren was an Olympic Flagbearer at Torino in 2006. John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, and was later a US Senator for many years. Stephen Spielberg is a movie director who has directed some of the most popular movies ever made, including Jaws, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and ET – the Extra-Terrestrial. Wałeşa and Tutu were were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and 1994 respectively, Wałeşa for his role in Solidarność, and his role in helping Poland break free from Soviet control; while Tutu was a South African bishop responsible for helping the break-up of apartheid in that nation. The last 4 all carried the Olympic Flag at Salt Lake City in 2002.

Olympian Bio of the Day – Evelyn Furtsch

Happy 100th Birthday

Evelyn Furtsch Ojeda (USA-ATH-1932)

EvelynFurtsch

http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/fu/evelyn-furtsch-1.html

B. 17 April 1914; San Diego, California, USA

Year-Sport Event Place Medal
1932 Athletics 4×100 m relay 1 Gold

Evelyn Furtsch won a gold medal in the 1932 4×100 relay, running the second leg. She had not qualified for the 100 metres because both Elizabeth Wilde and Louise Stokes finished ahead of her at the Final Trials, but were not selected for the Olympics, so Furtsch, representing the Los Angeles Athletic Club, was perhaps fortunate to have won a place on the relay team for the Los Angeles Games. The only time she placed in an AAU championship was in 1931, when she finished second in the 100 yards. After the Olympics she attended Santa Ana College for two years, but there was no track team and her opportunities for training in that era were limited, so she ended her track career, competing in field hockey and basketball and then got married after her second year of college. She was elected to the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame in California in 1985 and in 1984, received the Ralph Clark Distinguished Citizen Award in Santa Ana.

As of this date, 17 April 2014, Evelyn Furtsch is the 8th oldest living Olympian (see the page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Canadian_Paul/Olympics, by one of our compatriots, Paul Tchir). She is the 3rd oldest living American Olympian, after Walter Walsh (1948 SHO – *4 May 1907) and Simone Schaller (1932 ATH – *22 Aug 1912) (Walsh is the oldest living Olympian). She is the 2nd oldest living gold medalist, after Hungarian Sándor “Alex” Tarics (1936 WAP – *23 Sep 1913). She is the 3rd oldest living track & field Olympian – after China’s Guo Jie (1936 – *16 Jan 1912) and Schaller, and the oldest living track & field gold medalist and medalist.

Evelyn Furtsch becomes one of only two US Olympic gold medalists to have survived to 100, the other being James “Babe” Rockefeller, who won gold in 1924 rowing coxed eights (alongside Benjamin Spock). She becomes one of only two US Olympic track & field medalists, and one of only four Olympic track & field medalists (all nations) to have survived to 100, joining the following: Herman Brix (USA – 1928 shot put), Godfrey Rampling (GBR – 1932 and 1936 4×400), and Edvin Wide (SWE – 5 medals from 1920-28). She joins Godfrey Rampling as the only Olympic track & field gold medalists to survive to 100, Rampling winning gold in the 1936 4×400 relay.

Personal Best: 100 – 12.2 (1932)

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).