Matthew Best

It is a busy week here at Oldest Olympians, but we did not want to miss out on a quick blog post, so we decided to go a little outside of our usual field to bring you a rather unusual case. We always try to keep an eye on upcoming oldest Olympians, and in this instance something odd caught our attention. Our database indicated that Matthew Robert Best, a non-starter with the New Zealand field hockey team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics had recently turned 80… on February 29, 2019. As February 29, 2019 does not exist, and therefore neither does February 29, 1939, we figured that this must be a simple error and followed up with the Official Report… which also listed his date of birth as February 29, 1939.

(The 1964 New Zealand field hockey team in a match against Kenya, as pictured in the Official Report).

So too do the official entry lists for the Games list him with that date of birth, which leaves us with the question of what his actual birthday is. We did some searching, but unfortunately his name is so common that we were unable to find any information on him at all. Thus, while this is somewhat outside of our normal purview, we felt it to be a quirky little Olympic mystery, as well as reminder that no source, no matter how official, is infallible.

Bob Lymburne

Today on Olympic Mysteries, we are looking at an Olympian whose circumstances are truly deserving of the word “mystery”. Our subject for the day is Robert Samuel “Bob” Lymburne, who represented Canada in the ski jumping tournament at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics. There, he placed 19th out of 34 starters in the normal hill.

Lymburne had begun competing at the national level in 1927, but he did not attract widespread attention until after his Olympic appearance. On March 13, 1932, a month after competing at the Games, he set a world ski jumping record of 82 metres (269 feet) with a jump in Revelstoke, British Columbia. Lymburne lost his record in less than a year, but regained it in March 1933 with a jump of 87.5 metres (287 feet), and this one lasted until March 25, 1934, when it was bested by Norwegian Olympic champion Birger Ruud.

Lymburne thus appeared to be a strong prospect for the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics, but it was not to be. Although some sources claimed that he qualified for these Games, in actuality he suffered a severe head injury while skiing in 1935 and never competed again. Although he returned to his career as a fireman, he never truly recovered and, according to the book Powder Pioneers:

“He is reported to have wandered off into the woods many years later and his body was never found.”

Thus, unlike all of our other Olympic Mysteries, precise information about Lymburne’s death is not just unknown to us, but it appears to be unknown to anyone. We do not know the origins of this story – the earliest version we could locate was in Powder Pioneers, written in 2005, and thus we do not even know when his disappearance is alleged to have occurred (some sources state 1936, although he seems to have been still alive after that) or which woods he vanished in (as he worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, it cannot even be assumed that it was in British Columbia). We have been waiting to regain our access to Newspapers.com, but it has not been forthcoming, and we wanted to get this blog post out today. We may, therefore, have an update on this story later this week if we are able to uncover more through a search of their news archives. For the time being, however, it remains a true Olympic Mystery.

Yevgeny Saltsyn

Today on Oldest Olympians we have another mystery concerning an Olympic medalist: Yevgeny Saltsyn. Saltsyn, born February 26, 1929, was a member of the Soviet water polo team that won a silver medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Saltsyn, however, played in only one of the team’s seven matches, their 8-2 victory over Brazil in the preliminary round. Although born in Crimea, Ukraine, he played for Caspian Flotilla’s Sports Club Baku, in what is today Azerbaijan, and, with them, won a bronze medal at the 1957 Soviet Championships. Beyond that, we do not know much about him, including whether or not he is still alive. This is likely a result of the limited time in which he actually played at the Games, as well as our own language barriers. Thus, we are reaching out to our readers with the intent of discovering more about this athlete.

(the 1960 Soviet water polo team, pictured at Water Polo Legends)

Hopefully this brief profile will be as fruitful as last week’s blog entry as, thanks to a comment we received on that post, we have learned that 1952 Olympic gymnastics medalist for Czechoslovakia Hana Bobková, born February 19, 1929, died in 2017.

https://www.olympic.cz/text/44–seznam-clenu-s-z

We want to extend our appreciation to Jack, who forwarded this link to us!