Silver Medal Mysteries

For the last two weeks Oldest Olympians has been blogging about athletes for whom we have no information on whether or not they are alive. For some, the fact that Olympians have disappeared from the historical record may not be particularly shocking, particularly if one considers that many of these athletes placed well down the list of finishers and participated decades ago, in a time where international sport was not as prestigious or well-covered by the media as it is today. It may be more surprising, however, to learn that there are numerous Olympic medalists who fall into this category, whether due to language barriers or the athletes simply having left the sport and the public eye after their triumphs.

We have already covered one champion, Micheline Lannoy, but today we are going to look at the 11 runners-up for whom we have been unable to confirm if they are alive. One we have already covered in this blog: Egyptian weightlifter Salah Soliman, born June 24, 1916, who took silver in weightlifting’s featherweight division at the 1936 Summer Olympics. We are therefore going to focus on the other 10 who nearly captured gold, and then seem to have faded away.

Jaroslav Volak – Silver medalist for Austria in handball at the 1936 Summer Olympics

It is unfortunate that Olympians who win their medals as part of a team sometimes slip between the cracks when it comes to their life stories. Volak, born July 7, 1915, was a handball player for the Wiener Athletiksport Club when he was selected to represent Austria in the sport at the 1936 Summer Games. He won a silver medal with the national squad but, aside from that, there appears to be very little information available on him as an individual.

Rolf Spring – Silver medalist for Switzerland in coxed fours rowing at the 1936 Summer Olympics

Rolf Spring of Switzerland’s Ruderclub Zürich, born March 19, 1917, competed in three coxed rowing events at the 1936 Summer Olympics – the pairs, fours, and eights – and was most successful in the fours, where he won a silver medal alongside his teammates. Unlike the rest of his squad, he earned no other major international medals and thus, despite his relatively young age, he seems to have disappeared from the sporting scene after his accomplishment in Berlin, likely because his career was interrupted by World War II.

Paul Eberhard – Silver medalist for Switzerland in two-man bobsleigh at the 1948 Winter Olympics (pictured in the Zürcher Bob Club 50 Year Retrospective)

Like several others on this list, Paul Eberhard, born October 30, 1917, had his only major international success at the Olympics, in this case winning a silver medal in the two-man bobsleigh event at the 1948 Winter Games. Eberhard continued to be prominent in sport, however, as he had been the founder of the Zürcher Bob Club and served as its first president until 1950. After that, however, we were unable to find much trace of him.

Luciano Negrini – Silver medalist for Italy in coxed pairs rowing at the 1936 Summer Olympics

Much like Rolf Spring, Luciano Negrini, born June 22, 1920, was several years younger than the teammates who helped him win a silver medal in the coxed pairs event at the 1936 Summer Olympics and therefore did not earn any other international medals prior to World War II. Although potentially young enough to have still been competing after the conflict, there is no evidence that he did so.

Robert Chef d’Hôtel – Silver medalist for France in the 4×400 metres athletics relay at the 1948 Summer Olympics

French track and field athlete Robert Chef d’Hôtel, born February 2, 1922, is the first person on this list to have won a major international medal outside of the Olympics: gold in the 4×400 metres relay at the 1946 European Championships. He followed this up with silver in that event at the 1948 Summer Games, but seems to have retired from active competition shortly thereafter, as we have been unable to find any record of his successes after the Olympics.

Marianne Werner – Silver and bronze medalist for Germany in the shot put at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics

The only individual on this list with two Olympic medals, Marianne Werner of Germany, born January 4, 1924, won silver in the shot put at the 1952 Summer Olympics and bronze in 1956. In 1958, she won the European Championships in that event and did not retire until the 1960s. Heavily involved in the academic side of sport in her later life, she earned several distinctions and we suspect, therefore, that she is still alive, as her death would very likely be a newsworthy event. Unfortunately, due to language barriers, we have been unable to confirm that this is the case.

Eduardo Risso – Silver medalist for Uruguay in the single sculls at the 1948 Summer Olympics

Unlike the other rowing medalists on this list, Uruguayan Eduardo Risso, born February 25, 1925, had an individual triumph when he was runner-up in the single sculls event at the 1948 Summer Olympics. His career lasted until at least 1952, as he participated in that year’s edition of the Games, and even had a postage stamp released in his honor, yet we remain unable to confirm whether or not he is still alive, although several sites seem to suggest that he is.

Vladimir Kryukov – Silver medalist for the Soviet Union in the coxed eights at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Russian Vladimir Kryukov, born October 2, 1925, helped the Soviet Union’s coxed eights team take silver at the 1952 Summer Olympics and was part of the squad again in 1956, when they did not medal. He also took home gold medals from the European Championships in 1953, 1954, and 1955. Beyond that, however, we have not been able to uncover much more about his life, including whether or not he is still alive.

Leo Wery – Silver medalist for the Netherlands in field hockey at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Leo Wery, born March 27, 1926, focused much of his attention on building his career as a lawyer, but he did have time to help the Dutch team win a silver medal in the field hockey tournament at the 1952 Summer Olympics. Wery was later a lawyer in the oil industry, so we find it unlikely that he would have died without any notice, and thus believe that he is still alive and that we have simply been unable to confirm it.

Leonid Shcherbakov – Silver medalist for the Soviet Union in the triple jump at the 1952 Summer Olympics

The youngest entry on our list, Russian Leonid Shcherbakov, born April 7, 1927, was not only a distinguished athlete, but a prominent coach and trainer as well. He won a silver medal for the Soviet Union at the 1952 Summer Olympics, but only managed sixth at the 1956 edition. Additionally, he was a two-time European Champion, in 1950 and 1954 and held the world record in the event for nearly two years. Once again, therefore, we suspect that Shcherbakov is still alive, but language barriers prevent us from confirming this.

Finally, we would be remiss not to mention that we are unable to confirm that three of the four Swiss runners-up in the coxed fours event at the 1928 Summer Olympics – Otto Bucher, Ernst Haas, and Joseph Meyer – are deceased, although given the ages that would have had to have been to compete in 1928 (the fourth teammate, for example, was born in 1902), it is incredibly unlikely that they are still alive. Since we have no dates of birth for these three individuals, however, we cannot say for certain.

We hope that this list has given you an introduction to vicissitudes of international sport, and how even very prominent athletes can sometimes slip through historical cracks. At the very least, we hope that we have shown how difficult it can be to find sufficient information to celebrate their achievements and legacies properly. We will continue to try our best next week, when we look into some perhaps-forgotten bronze medalists. As you can imagine, there are more entries next week than there were this week, but we hope that you will join us nonetheless!

Caveats, Part 2

A few days ago we compiled a list of Olympians who had yet to be confirmed as deceased and would be older than the oldest Olympian, John Lysak, were they still alive. We now want to add to that list by noting the 16 non-starters and demonstration event competitors that fall into the same category. We do this not only for the sake of completing our previous post but because, as the example of Dutch 1932 athletics alternate Mien Schopman-Klaver, who died recently at the age of 107, showed, these competitors provide us with important links to Games that are disappearing from living memory and their achievements and sporting legacies are worth celebrating even if they did not actually get to compete at the Olympics.

As with our previous post, we suspect that all of these individuals are in fact deceased, we simply cannot confirm it to be the case.

American boxer Johnny Brown,

pictured in the March 7, 1936 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Name Birthday Notes
Hassan Mohamed Abdin January 20 1910 Alternate on the 1936 Egyptian football squad
Shiro Miura 1910 Alternate on the 1932 Japanese field hockey team
Tatsuo Saimura 1910 Participant in the Kendo demonstration events at the 1964 Summer Olympics
João da Costa May 31 1911 Alternate on the 1932 Brazilian athletics team
Leonardo Valdés 1912 Alternate on the 1932 Cuban athletics team
Gheorghe Antoniade May 10 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Romanian fencing team
René Lafforgue 1913 Did not start for France in alpine skiing’s combined event at the 1936 Winter Olympics
Renard Perez December 8 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Uruguayan water polo squad
José Pescador December 6 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Uruguayan water polo squad
Shigeo Takagi July 28 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Japanese water polo squad
Nobel Valentini November 10 1913 Alternate on the 1936 Uruguayan water polo squad
Johnny Brown August 11 1914 Did not start for the United States in the boxing’s bantamweight division at the 1936 Summer Olympics
Masuzo Maeda June 29 1914 Alternate on the 1936 Japanese water polo squad
Eulogio Quiroz March 11 1914 Did not start for the Peru in the boxing’s light-heavyweight division at the 1936 Summer Olympics
Leopold Quittan April 11 1914 Alternate on the 1936 Austrian athletics team
Saburo Takahashi August 7 1914 Alternate on the 1936 Japanese water polo squad

We are going to shift our focus somewhat next week and look into Olympic medalists over the age of 90 for whom we cannot confirm if they are alive or deceased. We have already discussed the one gold medalist who falls into this category – Belgian figure skater Micheline Lannoy – so tune in next week as we look into silver and bronze. You may be surprised at just how many medalists we are missing information for!

Caveats to the World’s Oldest Olympian

Last month we noted the 104th birthday of American kayaker John Lysak, born August 16, 1914, who is, to the best of our knowledge, the oldest living Olympian. As we have mentioned in the past, however, there are approximately 2500 Olympians born between 1908 and 1928 for whom we have no confirmation on whether they are alive or deceased, not counting the 564 Olympians who participated in the Games in 1928, 1932, and 1936 for whom we have no information on their date, or even year, of birth. Today we want to focus on a small subset of those 2500, the 231 Olympians who would be older than John Lysak if they were still alive. We have already covered the two medalists who fall into this category, Ibrahim Orabi and Adolf Müller, and 16 more are either non-starters or demonstration event competitors, so to shorten the list just a little, we are going to look at the remaining 213 by year of birth.

It should be noted that discussing these individuals in no way represents any belief on the part of Oldest Olympians that these athletes are still alive; we simply cannot confirm that they are deceased. In fact, we find it highly unlikely that any Olympian who is between the age of 104 and 109 would have somehow escaped our attention completely. It remains, however, an important caveat and is always a possibility: language barriers, poor media coverage of older athletes, and desire for privacy from a generation when the Games were not as big as they are now all contribute to the chance that someone may have eluded our radar. In the past, several Olympic centenarians have reached that milestone with little public fanfare, sometimes not being revealed until their death. We therefore feel that it is important to share this list to make our research methods a little more public and subject to scrutiny, and perhaps solve a case or two along the way.

On the left, Abdel Sattar Tarabulsi, who represented Lebanon in sport shooting at the 1952 Summer Olympics. Photograph from: https://www.abdogedeon.com/volleyball/NOUJOUM/abdelsattar%20traboulsi.html

1908

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Sayed Mohammad Ayub Afghanistan Field hockey November 20 1908
Cecil Bissett Zimbabwe Boxing 1908
Abdel Sattar Tarabulsi Lebanon Sport shooting 1908
Elfriede Zimmermann Germany Swimming 1908

Syed Muhammad Salim, who represented Pakistan in field hockey at the 1948 Summer Olympics

1909

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Abdullah Jaroudi Sr. Lebanon Sport shooting 1909
Ahmed Ibrahim Kamel Egypt Diving 1909
Khalil Ibrahim Egypt Diving 1909
Yuki Mawatari Japan Swimming 1909
Tetsutaro Namae Japan Diving 1909
Syed Muhammad Salim Pakistan Hockey September 5 1909
Rokuro Takahashi Japan Rowing 1909

Rashad Shafshak, who was a member of Egypt’s 1936 Olympic basketball team

1910

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Henrique Camargo Brazil Rowing October 28 1910
Paul Cerutti Monaco Sport shooting November 30 1910
Alberto Conrad Bolivia Swimming March 26 1910
Hoo Kam Chiu Hong Kong Sport shooting May 7 1910
Rafael Lang Argentina Boxing September 5 1910
Eduardo Lehman Brazil Rowing April 28 1910
José López Argentina Cycling 1910
Heitor Medina Brazil Athletics July 10 1910
Floyd Morgenstern United States Art competitions June 25 1910
Hércules Morini Argentina Sailing May 17 1910
Cid Nascimento Brazil Sailing November 23 1910
Tabaré Quintans Uruguay Basketball May 9 1910
Ricardo Rey Argentina Wrestling 1910
José Rodríguez Argentina Fencing March 19 1910
Eduardo Sastre Argentina Fencing September 22 1910
Rashad Shafshak Egypt Basketball November 26 1910
Zahir Shah Al-Zadah Afghanistan Hockey November 18 1910
Irina Timcic Romania Figure skating September 4 1910
Eduardo Vargas Argentina Boxing February 26 1910

Dora Schönemann competed in two swimming events for Germany at the 1928 Summer Olympics

1911

Name Nation Sport Birthday
August Banščak Yugoslavia Athletics October 10 1911
Tomás Beswick Argentina Athletics October 17 1911
Juan Bregaliano Uruguay Boxing November 22 1911
José Castillo Cuba Diving March 6 1911
João Francisco de Castro Brazil Rowing December 12 1911
Rui Duarte Brazil Modern pentathlon July 30 1911
Mohamed Ebeid Egypt Athletics April 11 1911
Maximo Fava Brazil Rowing August 12 1911
Margarethe Held Austria Athletics March 19 1911
Julio Herrera Mexico Equestrian March 16 1911
Flora Hofman Yugoslavia Athletics November 17 1911
Hassan Ali Imam Egypt Wrestling August 12 1911
Shigetaka Katsuhisa Japan Water polo September 4 1911
Carlos Kennedy Argentina Swimming February 16 1911
Mohammad Khan Afghanistan Athletics and field hockey May 1 1911
Makoto Kikuchi Japan Field hockey 1911
Seibei Kimura Japan Water polo October 11 1911
Hector de Lima Polanco Venezuela Sport shooting March 25 1911
Vasile Moldovan Romania Gymnastics August 28 1911
Horacio Monti Argentina Sailing August 12 1911
Grete Nissl Austria Alpine skiing November 30 1911
Ibrahim Okasha Egypt Athletics 1911
Ennio de Oliveira Brazil Fencing November 5 1911
Mario Ortíz Argentina Sailing November 21 1911
Jorge Patiño Peru Sport shooting December 18 1911
Juan Paz Peru Swimming September 16 1911
Olivério Popovitch Brazil Rowing October 1911
Domingos Puglisi Brazil Athletics November 4 1911
Ruben Ribeiro Brazil Equestrian May 25 1911
Lukman Saketi Indonesia Sport shooting 1911
José Domingo Sánchez Colombia Athletics May 20 1911
Álvaro dos Santos Filho Brazil Sport shooting October 22 1911
Luis Sardella Argentina Boxing July 11 1911
Irmintraut Schneider Germany Swimming 1911
Dora Schönemann Germany Swimming 1911
Fumio Takashina Japan Diving 1911
Humberto Terzano Argentina Equestrian 1911
Pedro Theberge Brazil Water polo January 1911

Roma Wagner represented Austria as a 100 metre swimmer at the 1936 Summer Olympics

1912

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Antonio Adipe Uruguay Boxing April 24 1912
Luis Albornoz Peru Sport shooting November 18 1912
Baiano Brazil Basketball September 27 1912
Alberto Batignani Uruguay Waterpolo September 30 1912
Humberto Bernasconi Uruguay Basketball November 17 1912
Carlos Choque Argentina Sport shooting August 22 1912
Francisco Costanzo Uruguay Boxing November 4 1912
Marcel Couttet France Ice hockey April 27 1912
Iosif Covaci Romania Alpine and cross-country skiing December 2 1912
Constantin David Romania Boxing December 25 1912
José Feans Uruguay Boxing April 24 1912
João de Faria Brazil Sport shooting August 31 1912
Kenichi Furuya Japan Ice hockey November 8 1912
Sergio Iesi Uruguay Fencing April 8 1912
Luis Jacob Peru Basketball August 13 1912
Julio Juaneda Argnetina Weightlifting 1912
Kozue Kinoshita Japan Ice hockey April 15 1912
Osamu Kitamura Japan Rowing June 29 1912
Theo Kitt Germany Bobsledding October 14 1912
Ovidio Lagos Argentina Sailing July 21 1912
Robert Landesmann France Wrestling March 26 1912
Miguel Lopes Brazil Basketball July 6 1912
Mario de Lorenzo Brazil Water polo July 1912
Shoichi Masutomi Japan Wrestling January 12 1912
René Morel France Athletics February 21 1912
Tadashi Murakami Japan Athletics October 7 1912
Marcel Noual France Swimming 1912
Toshio Ohtsu Japan Field hockey January 23 1912
Celestino João de Palma Brazil Rowing December 21 1912
Rigoberto Pérez Mexico Athletics November 26 1912
Hilda von Puttkammer Brazil Fencing August 13 1912
Constantin Radu Romania Athletics February 13 1912
Roy Ramsay Bahamas Sailing September 28 1912
Jean-Albin Régis France Sport shooting February 19 1912
Kamal Riad Noseir Egypt Basketball January 8 1912
Anísio da Rocha Brazil Modern pentathlon and equestrian October 13 1912
José Manuel Sagasta Argentina Equestrian 1912
Tadashi Shimijima Japan Rowing October 8 1912
Guillermo Suárez Peru Athletics September 8 1912
Shoichiro Takenaka Japan Athletics September 30 1912
Kojiro Tamba Japan Wrestling May 10 1912
Noboru Tanaka Japan Field hockey 1912
Rogério Tavares Portugual Sport shooting December 3 1912
Taro Teshima Japan Rowing July 14 1912
Kenshi Togami Japan Athletics August 1 1912
Pedro del Vecchio Colombia Athletics October 16 1912
Sigfrido Vogel Argentina Sport shooting September 1912
Roma Wagner Austria Swimming July 21 1912

Pedro Landero, who represented Philippines in bantamweight weightlifting at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics. Photograph from: http://www.chidlovski.net/liftup/l_athleteStatsResult.asp?a_id=1902

1913

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Osamu Abe Japan Rowing August 11 1913
Mohamed Amin Egypt Boxing November 15 1913
Willy Angst Switzerland Wrestling November 20 1913
Sayed Ali Atta Afghanistan Field hockey August 25 1913
Frédéric Boeni Switzerland Diving November 15 1913
Louis Chauvot France Sailing February 14 1913
Georges Conan France Cycling 1913
Pierre Cousin France Athletics June 14 1913
Frederic Drăghici Romania Gymnastics June 1 1913
Juan Andrés Dutra Uruguay Rowing October 10 1913
Mahmoud Ezzat Egypt Boxing September 11 1913
Georges Firmenich Switzerland Sailing December 3 1913
Ernst Fuhrimann Switzerland Cycling June 28 1913
Werner George Germany Ice hockey September 12 1913
Juan de Giacomi Argentina Sport shooting 1913
Oscar Goulú Argentina Equestrian 1913
Mario Guerci Argentina Rowing January 14 1913
Tsugio Hasegawa Japan Figure skating June 18 1913
Mohamed Hassanein Egypt Swimming 1913
Ludovic Heraud France Sport shooting January 1 1913
Masao Ichihara Japan Athletics November 7 1913
Albino de Jesus Portugal Sport shooting August 13 1913
Koichi Kawaguchi Japan Equestrian March 12 1913
Ludovico Kempter Argentina Sailing November 11 1913
Werner Klingelfuss Switzerland Canoeing June 11 1913
Alfred König Austria Athletics October 2 1913
Hiroyoshi Kubota Japan Athletics April 29 1913
Daiji Kurauchi Japan Field hockey 1913
Pedro Landero Philippines Weightlifting October 19 1913
Melchor López Argentina Sport shooting January 7 1913
Florio Martel France Field hockey March 2 1913
Jaime Mendes Portugal Athletics August 20 1913
Fernand Mermoud France Cross-country skiing August 20 1913
Isamu Mita Japan Rowing March 25 1913
Yoshio Miyake Japan Gymnastics December 7 1913
Severino Moreira Brazil Sport shooting September 29 1913
Zafar Ahmed Muhammad Pakistan Sport shooting July 10 1913
Mie Muraoka Japan Athletics March 23 1913
Takao Nakae Japan Basketball April 30 1913
Chiyoto Nakano Japan Boxing February 7 1913
Yoshio Nanbu Japan Weightlifting March 22 1913
Karl Neumeister Austria Equestrian August 15 1913
Jwani Riad Noseir Egypt Basketball February 6 1913
Wanda Nowak Austria Athletics January 16 1913
Benvenuto Nuñes Brazil Swimming June 27 1913
Edmund Pader Austria Swimming 1913
Dumitru Panaitescu Romania Boxing May 1 1913
Prudencio de Pena Uruguay Basketball January 21 1913
Dumitru Peteu Romania Bobsledding October 19 1913
Abdul Rahim Afghanistan Athletics February 11 1913
Olga Rajkovič Yugoslavia Athletics April 13 1913
Hertha Rosmini Austria Alpine skiing November 9 1913
Shusui Sekigawa Japan Rowing May 13 1913
Chikara Shirasaka Japan Rowing August 18 1913
Jelica Stanojević Yugoslavia Athletics July 1 1913
José de la Torre Mexico Sport shooting April 3 1913
Pierre Vandame France Field hockey June 17 1913
Anton Vogel Austria Wrestling July 21 1913

Yushoku Cho, who represented Japan in two speed skating events at the 1936 Winter Olympics.

1914

Name Nation Sport Birthday
Toyoyi Aihara Japan Athletics January 7 1914
Ion Baboe Romania Athletics April 12 1914
Charles Campbell Canada Rowing July 2 1914
José Cazorla Venezuela Sport shooting February 26 1914
Yushoku Cho Japan Speed skating January 18 1914
Werner Christen Switzerland Athletics April 29 1914
Asa Dogura Japan Athletics June 11 1914
Jean Fournier France Sport shooting May 4 1914
Hugo García Uruguay Water polo March 20 1914
Mitsue Ishizu Japan Athletics April 16 1914
Josef Jelen Czechoslovakia Boxing August 10 1914
Thea Kellner Romania Fencing March 6 1914
Grete Lainer Austria Figure skating June 20 1914
František Leikert Czechoslovakia Canoeing May 6 1914
Masayasu Maeda Japan Basketball March 10 1914
Khalil Amira El-Maghrabi Egypt Boxing January 1 1914
Gheorghe Man Romania Fencing March 20 1914
Georges Meyer Switzerland Athletics April 17 1914
Hans Mohr Yugoslavia Athletics August 6 1914
Karl Molnar Austria Canoeing May 18 1914
Isaac Moraes Brazil Swimming July 26 1914
František Mráček Czechoslovakia Wrestling April 13 1914
Fausto Preysler Philippines Sailing February 14 1914
Rosalvo Ramos Brazil Athletics June 6 1914
Roger Rouge Switzerland Sailing June 1 1914
Julio César Sagasta Argentina Equestrian July 13 1914
Antônio Luiz dos Santos Brazil Swimming July 16 1914
František Šír Czechoslovakia Rowing January 22 1914
Noboru Sugimoto Japan Swimming April 6 1914
Kosei Tano Japan Water polo January 22 1914
Paulo Tarrto Brazil Swimming April 12 1914
Anwar Tawfik Egypt Fencing July 31 1914
Annie Villiger Switzerland Diving and swimming April 4 1914
Takimi Wakayama Japan Water polo March 30 1914
Zenjiro Watanabe Japan Figure skating February 11 1914
Georg Weidner Austria Wrestling January 14 1914
Otto Weiß Germany Figure skating April 20 1914
Dragana Đorđević Yugoslavia Gymnastics June 2 1914

Having produced this table, we may in the future decide to create a more detailed and sortable table, including Olympic participations, on our website (which is here by the way) so that we can update it as time goes on. Next week, however, we will take a look at those 16 non-starters and demonstration event competitors in order to complete our look into the realm of research on the Oldest Olympians. We hope you will join us!