All posts by Paul Tchir

Olympic Missing Links, Part 3

Today, we are continuing our look into Olympians for whom we believe to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we are unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. In particular, we are going to examine three Olympians who would be over the age of 105, thus making it very unlikely that they would still be alive regardless of whether or not they are connected to these death records.

 

Nelson Ribeiro – Member of Brazil’s coxed fours rowing squad at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

A member of the famous Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, Nelson Ribeiro, born January 14, 1910, was a member of the Brazilian coxed fours squad that was eliminated in the semi-finals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His son later became prominent in rowing administration (among other things) and his granddaughter competed in gymnastics at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, but information on the 1936 competitor is scarce, perhaps clouded by the results for his son. The only suggestion we have for his death came from an entry, now removed, at a genealogical website showing someone with his name having a year of death of 1973. We were unable, however, to find any additional confirmation.

 

Bill Guillver – Rhodesia’s sole sport shooter at the 1960 Rome Olympics

All we know about England-born sport shooter Bill Guillver, born December 28, 1912, is that he took part in the trap event, as a representative of Rhodesia, at the 1960 Rome Olympics and was eliminated in the qualifying round. An anonymous editor to Wikipedia changed his page to reflect that he died in 1998 in Mazowe, Zimbabwe, but, perhaps due to his common name, we have been unable to confirm this.

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(Headstone picture from Find-a-Grave)

Rudolf Vilim – Member of Switzerland’s kayak doubles, 1000 meters duo at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

On the other hand, Switzerland’s Rudolf Vilim, born June 15, 1913, has a fairly uncommon name, yet we still know little about him. He did compete in the K-1 1000 at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he finished fifth in the event with his partner Werner Klingelfuss, but this is our only record of his international competition. Find-a-Grave lists a Rudolf Vilim, buried in Zurich, as having died in 1959, but the gravestone is missing the final digit of his birth year, thus leaving us unable to verify if this is the Olympian.

A busy week means a quick blog update on the weekend, but we hope to bring you even more mysteries next week, when we hope you will join us once again! We also want to send a special thank you to the contributor who pointed us to the obituary of Indian field hockey player Reginald Rodrigues in The Montreal Gazette, which confirms that he died August 15, 1995, at the age of 73. Those who are interested may view it here: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/24999004/reginald_rodrigues_obituary/

Another sincere thanks goes to Tomas Magnusson, who provided us a link to a newsletter that confirms Swiss gymnast Robert Lucy’s date of death as December 23, 2009:

https://btvbern.ch/images/content/BTVinfo/BTVInfo_2010_01.pdf

Olympic Missing Links, Part 2

Recently we added Olympic bronze medal-wining wrestler Francisc Horvath of Romania to our list of medalists who, if alive, would be over the age of 90, but for whom no confirmation of their living status has been located. Our blog entry for today begins by suggesting another name for that list: kayaker Gertrude Liebhart of Austria, who took silver in the K-1 500 at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Several sources, however, list her as dying some time in October or November 2008, but we have been unable to confirm this; someone with this name was buried in Vienna on November 27 of that year, having died on October 31, but this person had a slightly different birthdate than the Olympian. Whatever the truth, Liebhart is not the only Olympic medalist for whom an unconfirmed date of death exists.

 

Jorge Alberto del Río – Silver medalist for Argentina in Dragon class sailing at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Related by marriage to the prominent Sieburger family of Olympic sailors, Jorge Alberto del Río of Argentina, born October 30, 1918, appeared in four editions of the Olympic Games: 1948, 1952, 1960, and 1964. He won his only medal, silver, in the Dragon class in 1960, although he came fourth in that same event in 1952. He also won the Pan American title in 1959. The Spanish Wikipedia lists him as having died in 2008, but we have seen no independent confirmation of this elsewhere.

(Image of the 1948 Indian field hockey team from Sheetu Deep)

Reginald Rodrigues – Olympic champion for India in field hockey at the 1948 London Olympics

As one of the lesser-known players on India’s gold medal-winning field hockey squad at the 1948 London Olympics, we do not have much concrete information on Reginald Rodrigues, born May 29, 1922. An anonymous editor on Wikipedia, however, claimed that he later moved to Canada, under the name of Reg Rodricks, and died in Montreal. We were able to find a notice that suggested that someone by that name died prior to 2004 in Quebec, but without any evidence to verify the original positing, the trail leads to a dead end.

(Image from Pic De)

Robert Lucy – Silver medalist for Switzerland in gymnastics at the 1948 London Olympics

Despite being able to locate a picture, the only information we have on Robert Lucy, born February 20, 1923, is that he won a silver medal with the Swiss squad in gymnastics’ team all-around event at the 1948 London Olympics. An anonymous Wikipedia editor added a date of death of December 23, 2009 to his English-language page but, perhaps because of his common name, we have been unable to confirm this information.

(Image of the 1952 Italian water polo team from H2Opolo.be)

Renato Traiola – Bronze medalist for Italy in water polo at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

As with our other Olympians today, we have very little information on Italian water polo player Renato Traiola, born December 19, 1924. A member of the Circolo Canottieri club of his native Napoli, he helped Italy win a bronze medal in the water polo tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Several sources mention that he died January 18, 1988, but we have not seen any reliable sources to confirm this.

 

There are still plenty more Olympic mysteries to be had, and we are going to keep bringing them to you week by week. We thank you for stopping by today and hope that you’ll join us again! We also want to send a special thank you to Ian Taylor, who uncovered an obituary for Josl Gstrein, whom we covered in a previous entry. Thanks to him, we were able to confirm that Gstrein died September 11, 1980. Another Olympic mystery solved!

Olympic Missing Links, Part 1

A little bit delayed, but today the Oldest Olympians blog is beginning the new series of entries that we promised a few weeks ago. We are going to begin looking into Olympians for whom we believe to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we are unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As the objective here is to not only share the “behind-the-scenes” of our research, but also help solve a few of these mysteries, we will be limiting the number of individuals that we cover in one post to something manageable in the hopes of not overwhelming our readers. In that vein, we are going to start with three cases to introduce the topic.

 

Robert Christmas – Member of Canada’s coxed eights rowing team at the 1948 London Olympics

The Canadian lineup for the men’s coxed eights includes a man named Robert H. B. Christmas, born c. 1924, as a member of the team. His presence on the squad, which was eliminated in the semi-finals, is the only information we have about him, and researching his life has proven difficult due to the large number of irrelevant results that come up due to his surname being “Christmas”. The Rootsweb obituary index, however, lists an obituary for a “Robert Harry Bernard Christmas”, who died at the age of 76, in the Hamilton Spectator on January 21, 2000. While all the details line up, and thus this seems very likely to be the Olympian, we have not been able to procure a copy of the obituary for review to confirm this fact.

 

Raimundo Rey – Member of Cuba’s gymnastics team at the 1948 London Olympics

Unlike Christmas, we have plenty of information on Cuban gymnast Raimundo Rey, born July 29, 1925. In addition to his appearance at the 1948 London Olympics, where he was 14th with the Cuban team and had a best individual result of 77th in the pommelled horse, he won seven medals – three of which were gold – at the 1951 Pan American Games. He was instrumental in establishing the sport of gymnastics in Cuba, but eventually moved to the United States and settled in Florida. According to some public records, he died in 2013, but we have been unable to locate an obituary or any definite confirmation that he is deceased.

(picture from Bildarchivaustria.at)

Josl Gstrein – Member of Austria’s Nordic combined and cross-country skiing teams at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics

One of the most contentious potential sources for previously unknown information is Wikipedia. Information added there could be pure vandalism, but in other cases it could come from privileged sources, such as family members, and thus understandably be unavailable in other mediums. Thus it becomes very important to take a critical eye to any information from the world’s most prominent online encyclopedia. Austrian Nordic combined and cross-country skier Josl Gstrein is one of many cases where we have been unable to verify information on Wikipedia that we have no particular reason not to believe. Gstrein had a distinguished skiing career that culminated in an appearance at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics, where he just missed a medal with the Austrian team in the 4×10 kilometres Nordic combined relay, finishing in fourth. He later had a career running a ski school. The German-language Wikipedia has a year of death of 1980 but, as we have been unable to locate any confirmation elsewhere, the accuracy of this information remains a mystery.

 

As we mentioned above, our aim is to not overwhelm with the number of athletes we engage in each blog, so we are going to stop here for today. For the next several weeks, however, we will be raising several cases per entry in the hopes of solving a few mysteries and sharing our research. If, however, all we accomplish is sharing and celebrating the legacies of some of these athletes, then we will consider these posts successful. We hope, therefore, that you will join us next week!

Bronze Medal Mysteries, Part 2

Today Oldest Olympians brings you the second and final part of our list of bronze medalists who would be over the age of 90, but for whom we had no information on whether or not they are alive. We are now taking a quick look at the 13 individuals who earned their laurels after the 1948 Games.

Antonio Cosentino – Bronze medalist for Italy in Dragon-class sailing at the 1960 Summer Olympics

It took Antonio Cosentino, born March 10, 1919, three editions of the Games and three different sailing classes before he finally won an Olympic medal. After coming in eighth in the 6 metre class in 1952, and seventh in the 5.5 metre class in 1956, he took bronze in the Dragon class in 1960. Three years later, he won a gold medal in the Star class at the 1963 Mediterranean Games, so we are not certain why we have been unable to find any definitive information on his fate. It is possible, as has been the case with several other of Italy’s oldest Olympians, that he is still alive and simply keeping a low profile, but we are unable to confirm his status one way or another.

 

Ronald Backus – Bronze medalist for Great Britain in Dragon-class sailing at the 1956 Summer Olympics

We know very little about Ronald Backus, born March 28, 1922, other than the fact that he was on the bronze medal-winning team in Dragon-class sailing at the 1956 Summer Olympics. We could not even find a picture of him to help illustrate this entry. Other than the evidence suggesting that this was his only major international podium finish, we are not certain why we cannot uncover more.

 

Roger Midgley – Bronze medalist for Great Britain in field hockey at the 1952 Summer Olympics

We hate to be too repetitive, but Roger Midgley, born November 23, 1924, is another medalist for whom we have very limited information, not even a picture. We do know that he served in the Royal Navy during World War II, and then won a field hockey medal for Great Britain at the 1952 Summer Olympics, but after that the trail goes cold. While it might be tempting to attribute this case to the obscurity of individual members in a team sport, we have information on all of his teammates, so we are not sure why and how Midgley slipped through the cracks. Earlier this year, an anonymous source claimed on Wikipedia that he was still alive, but were unable to verify this.

Willy Fitting – Bronze medalist for Switzerland in team épée fencing at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Willy Fitting, born January 25, 1925, is the only member of the épée team that won bronze for Switzerland at the 1952 Summer Olympics for whom we do not have information on their life after the Games. The reality that Switzerland tends to be a difficult country from which to get information, combined with the fact that he is the nephew of three other Olympic fencers, leads us to believe that he is still alive, and that we simply cannot confirm it. The same anonymous source that listed Midgley as alive also made that claim for Fitting but, again, we are unable to verify this.

Heinz Radzikowski – Bronze medalist for Germany in field hockey at the 1956 Summer Olympics (pictured in the front row, third from the left, in this picture from OHV Hockey)

While our information from Germany is usually very good, Heinz Radzikowski, born September 7, 1925, is one of the exceptions. He had nine international field hockey caps, including his appearance at the 1956 Summer Olympics, where he helped his country win a bronze medal. Domestically, he played for SC Brandenburg, the 1956 West German national champions. After his international career ended in 1958, however, we have been unable to confirm what happened to him.

Daniel Dagallier – Bronze medalist for France in team épée fencing at the 1956 Summer Olympics

Daniel Dagallier, born June 11, 1926, was a distinguished épée fencer for France. In addition to his team bronze medal from the 1956 Summer Olympics, he won a total of five team medals – one gold and two each of silver and bronze – in the event at the World Championships between 1951 and 1958 and also took gold at the 1955 Mediterranean Games. We suspect, therefore, that he is still alive, as his death would have likely attracted widespread attention, but we are unable to confirm this.

 

Pierre Girard – Bronze medalist for Switzerland in 5.5 metre class racing at the 1960 Summer Olympics

A combination of the difficulty in obtaining information about Swiss Olympians, as well as his common name, is the most likely explanation for why were unable to find much information on Pierre Girard, born August 2, 1926. As is the case with many sailors, all we know are his Olympic results, as he won bronze in the 5.5 metre event at the 1960 Summer Olympics. Other than that, we could find neither additional information nor a picture of him for this blog entry.

 

Enzo Polito – Bronze medalist for Italy in water polo at the 1952 Summer Olympics

In the case of Enzo Polito, born October 29, 1926, we believe that the combination of his common name and the fact that he was a lesser-known member in a team sport has led to a gap in our records. Polito won a bronze medal for Italy in water polo at the 1952 Summer Olympics, and later helped his country win another bronze medal at the 1954 European Championships. Aside from this, we have no additional information about – or a picture for – this athlete.

Sergey Kalinin – Bronze medalist for the Soviet Union in trap shooting at the 1960 Summer Olympics (pictured on the left)

We are fairly certain that the only thing preventing us from confirming that Sergey Kalinin, born December 23, 1926, is still alive is the language barrier. Kalinin was a well-known figure in Russia, having taken not only bronze in trap shooting at the 1960 Summer Olympics, but gold in the trap team events at the 1958 and 1962 World Championships as well. He was still doing interviews in the early 2000s and no sources suggest that he has died, so we hope to confirm that he is still alive in the near future.

Günther Brennecke – Bronze medalist for Germany in field hockey at the 1956 Summer Olympics (pictured in the back row, fifth from the right, in this picture from OHV Hockey)

A teammate of Heinz Radzikowski, Günther Brennecke, born January 13, 1927, helped a unified German team win bronze in field hockey at the 1956 Summer Olympics. Among his 46 international appearances, which included play at the 1952 Games, he also won an unofficial European Championship in 1954. As with Sergey Kalinin, there seems to be suggestions that Brennecke is still alive, and the only thing preventing us from confirming this is the language barrier.

 

Dries Nieman – Bronze medalist for South Africa in heavyweight boxing at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Dries Nieman (whose surname is sometimes seen as Niemann), born September 11, 1927, is an interesting case. After winning a bronze medal for South Africa at the 1952 Summer Olympics, he turned professional and had a fairly successful, if uneventful, career over the next four years, winning eight bouts and losing two, including one for the South African heavyweight title. Several websites list him as having died on August 13, 2009, but that date of death belongs to a man who was born on August 12, 1927, so we cannot confirm that this information is correct and thus continue to list him as being possibly alive.

 

Herbert Wiedermann – Bronze medalist for Austria in the K-2 1000 metres at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics

Herbert Wiedermann, born November 1, 1927, had a distinguished canoeing career for Austria alongside one of our oldest Olympians, Max Raub. Together they took bronze in the K-2 1000 at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics, came fourth in the K-2 10000 in 1952, and won four medals, including one gold, at the 1950 and 1954 World Championships. Widermann also competed without Raub in two other events at the 1960 Summer Olympics. Despite these accomplishments, we were unable to locate a picture of him, let alone any further information on his fate after the Games. We do know, however, that his Olympian wife Helga Hellebrand died in 2013, although the obituary did not mention whether she was survived by her husband.

Roland Bezamat – Bronze medalist for France in the team road race at the 1952 Summer Olympics

The final entry on our list, Roland Bezamat, born May 26, 1928, did not complete the road race at the 1952 Summer Olympics but, because each nation was allowed one non-scoring member, he was still able to share in France’s bronze medal victory when the team scores were tallied. It is perhaps for this reason, combined with his relatively short cycling career that lasted from 1951 through 1955, that we have been unable to ascertain his current status. It should also be noted that several websites list his year of birth as 1924.

 

And there it is: 41 gold, silver, and bronze medalists born between 1912 and 1928 for whom we cannot determine something as simple as whether they are alive or deceased. They represent only a tiny fraction of all those Olympians who have slipped through the historical cracks and who highlight why it is important to do what we can to preserve the sporting legacies of our oldest – and indeed all – Olympians, lest they become forever lost to the sands of time.

As new entries to this list come up, we will be certain to feature them on Oldest Olympians. Until then, even breaking this topic up into three sections made for some lengthy posts, so next week and beyond we are going to try and focus on smaller groups of athletes. Continuing with our theme of Olympic Mysteries, we are going to begin looking into Olympians for whom we believe to have identified their date of death, but for whatever reason we are unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. In other words, we will be sharing a little bit of our research publicly, partially in the hopes that some reader may have the missing evidence to connect the dots, but primarily, as usual, for the sake of transparency and sharing our methodology so that readers can understand what goes into consideration when we make declarations about the oldest living Olympians. As always, we hope you will join us!

Bronze Medal Mysteries, Part 1

In last week’s Oldest Olympians blog, we looked at ten Olympic silver medalists who would be over the age of 90, but for whom we had no information on whether or not they are alive. Today we are going to begin our look at bronze medalists who fall in this category. As there are 26 individuals who qualify, however, we are going to have to split the list in two. We have already looked at two of these individuals: Egyptian wrestlers Ibrahim Orabi and Abdel Aal Rashid, who won bronze medals in 1948 and 1952 Games respectively. We are going to divide the remaining 24 into those who competed at the 1936 and 1948 Olympics, and those took part afterwards.

Francisco Risiglione – Bronze medalist for Argentina in light-heavyweight boxing at the 1936 Summer Olympics

Francisco Risiglione, born January 18, 1917, whose surname is also seen spelled incorrectly as Resiglione, won a bronze medal for Argentina at the 1936 Summer Olympics in the light-heavyweight category and also took gold in that category at the 1937 Pan American Boxing Championships. He embarked upon a professional career in 1940 and was moderately successful in his fights through 1945, although he lost his bout for the Argentine heavyweight title in 1943 to Alberto Lovell, a 1932 Olympic champion. We strongly suspect that Risiglione is deceased, but we have yet to come across any confirmation of that fact.

Willy Hufschmid – Bronze medalist for Switzerland in handball at the 1936 Summer Olympics (pictured in Turnen und Handball: 100 Jahre RTV Basel 1879)

As we mentioned when discussing our silver medal mysteries, young Olympians in team sports prior to World War II tended to be particularly susceptible to disappearing from the athletic scene after their victories, as their prime playing years were lost to the conflict. Such is likely the case for Willy Hufschmid, born October 9, 1918, who was an upcoming national player at the time he helped Switzerland win a bronze medal in handball at the 1936 Summer Games. We have been unable, however, to trace his life and career after World War II.

Mauro Cía – Bronze medalist for Argentina in light-heavyweight boxing at the 1948 Summer Olympics

A spiritual defender of Risiglione’s medal from the 1936 Games, Mauro Cía captured bronze from Argentina in light-heavyweight boxing at the 1948 Summer Olympics. Cía had no ambitions to become a professional boxer, although he did appear in a few boxing films, and this is the most likely explanation for his disappearance from historical sporting records after the Games. His date of birth is sometimes seen as June 12, 1919 or 1925, but we believe that July 3, 1919 is correct.

Ine Schäffer – Bronze medalist for Austria in the shot put at the 1948 Summer Olympics

The athletics career of Ine Schäffer, born March 28, 1923, culminated in a bronze medal in the shot put for Austria at the 1948 Summer Olympics. She continued to compete for several years thereafter, but eventually moved to Canada, after which her whereabouts and life story are apparently unknown.

Enrico Perucconi – Bronze medalist for Italy in the 4×100 metres relay at the 1948 Summer Olympics (picture from the Italian Olympic Committee)

Enrico Perucconi, born January 4, 1925, had an athletics career that was somewhat less distinguished than the teammates with whom he won a bronze medal for Italy in the 4×100 metres relay at the 1948 Summer Olympics, which perhaps accounts for the limited information we were available to find on him. We have no major results for him after the Games nor any information on his subsequent life.

Ivano Fontana – Bronze medalist for Italy in middleweight boxing at the 1948 Summer Olympics (picture from BoxRec)

Italian boxer Ivano Fontana, born November 25, 1926, had well-documented amateur and professional careers. He won bronze medals in the middleweight division at both the 1948 Summer Olympics and the 1949 European Championships, before turning professional for nearly a decade He won Italy’s middleweight title in 1952 on his second attempt, but eventually switched to light-heavyweight and won that national title in 1955. He continued to fight after losing, and failing to regain, the title in 1956, but his career was thereafter sporadic until his 1958 retirement. We were unable to find any information about his life after that.

Alessandro D’Ottavio – Bronze medalist for Italy in welterweight boxing at the 1948 Summer Olympics (picture from BoxRec)

The career of Alessandro D’Ottavio, born August 27, 1927, was similar to that of his boxing compatriot Ivano Fontana. He turned professional soon after winning a bronze medal in the welterweight class at the 1948 Summer Olympics and, after two unsuccessful attempts at the Italian middleweight title and one in the light-heavyweight, he finally captured the latter in July 1957. He lost it less than five months later and, after a failed attempt to regain it in 1958, retired. Just as with Fontana, we were unable to find any more information on him beyond that.

Viola Myers – Bronze medalist for Canada in the 4×100 metre relay at the 1948 Summer Olympics

We have mentioned in the past that the sporting legacies of the Canadian women who won the bronze medal in the 4×100 metre relay at the 1948 Summer Olympics have not fared well over time. Pat Jones died in August 2000 with almost no fanfare, Diane Foster is deceased on an unknown date according to the Canadian Olympic Committee, and Nancy Mackay died in 2016 in a nursing home without any notice whatsoever. That leaves Viola Myers, born c. 1927, who is not known to be either living or deceased, despite a lengthy and distinguished national and international career that earned her induction into the Athletics Ontario Hall of Fame in 2011.

Jacques Lefèvre – Bronze medalist for France in team sabre fencing at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Although French fencer Jacques Lefèvre, born February 1, 1928, did not reach the podium until the 1952 Summer Olympics, we are including him in today’s blog because he participated in his first of five consecutive editions of the Games in 1948. Competing in both the individual and team sabre events each time, only once, in 1960, did he fail to achieve at least fourth place in at least one event. His crowning Olympic moment, however, came when he captured bronze in the team sabre event in 1952. Considering that he also won gold and bronze medals in individual and team sabre respectively at the 1951 Mediterranean Games, we suspect that our difficulty in ascertaining his living status has more to do with language barriers and the commonality of his name than an actual dearth of information.

We have discussed fewer than half of the bronze medalists for whom we are missing information on in this post, but we feel that this is an appropriate place to stop. We will continue our research and, next week, hope to bring you more on the bronze medalists who seem to have disappeared from sport’s historical record. We hope you will join and help us as we at least attempt to preserve more of their sporting legacies!

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!

Adolf Müller

Our next series of planned blog entries are going to examine two topics: Olympians who could, at least in theory, be alive and older than our oldest Olympian John Lysak, and medalists for whom we have no information on whether they are alive or deceased. Both of these lists are lengthy, with numerous entries, and since we are in the midst of travelling, we wanted to do something much quicker for this week’s blog post. As it turns out, however, these lists happen to intersect only twice, both on bronze medal-winning wrestlers from the 1948 Games. One is Egyptian light-heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler Ibrahim Orabi, who we covered already in a previous post. Today, therefore, we are going to focus on just one Olympian: Swiss featherweight freestyle wrestler Adolf Müller.

Müller is not the man in the foreground of the photograph; he is the individual with the moustache in the background.

Adolf Müller competed as a featherweight in both the Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling tournaments at the 1948 Games. In the former, he was disqualified for being overweight after losing by decision against Norwegian Egil Solsvik in the first round. He was much more successful in the latter competition, however, surviving until the final, where he was defeated by the upcoming silver medalist from Sweden, Ivar Sjölin, which left him with bronze.

Müller never again reached the podium in a major international tournament and, given that his name is fairly common, we could not find any additional information about him and sources in the Swiss sporting world have been unable to help. Müller was born on April 11, 1914, and would be 104 years old if still alive and over four months older than John Lysak. It seems very unlikely that he would still be living, yet have flown almost completely under the radar of the media but, since it is not impossible, we still leave open the idea that he could be alive until it is proven definitively otherwise.

As mentioned above, Müller and Orabi are unique in that they are medalists older than Lysak whose deaths have not been confirmed. This is not surprising, as medalists tend to get far more attention in the media than other Olympians and thus there is more information available about them in general. Yet they are only two of nearly 250 Olympians overall who would be older than Lysak yet whose deaths have not been confirmed. Next week, when we have a little more time, we are going to take a closer look at these Olympians and hopefully share a little insight into the process of how we determine the world’s oldest living Olympian, and what sorts of caveats we have to provide with such a statement. We hope that you’ll join us once again!

Canada’s 99 year-olds

Along with Egypt, Canada is one of two countries that we at Oldest Olympians know best. While Egypt has a lengthy Olympic history of a thousand competitors, Canada has had nearly four times that many, which makes keeping track of them all, particularly those from the earliest Games, a nearly impossible task. Among Canada’s 3500+ Olympians, we have been unable to identify a single one who lived to the age of 100. For today’s blog, therefore, we decided to highlight the three Olympians who almost made it that far and celebrate their lives and sporting legacies.

Robert Zimmerman – Diver and Swimmer at the 1908 and 1912 Summer Olympics: Despite having represented the country twice at the Games, our first entry on this list was not even a Canadian: he was born and died in the United States and never acquired Canadian citizenship. In the era of fluid boundaries, however, being a member of the Montreal Swimming Club was sufficient for the Olympics to consider him Canadian and thus he marched in the Opening Ceremony for that nation both times. He took part in three events in 1908, one diving and two swimming, but was eliminated in the opening round of all of them. He was more successful in 1912, however, coming in fifth in the springboard competition.

During his athletic career, Zimmerman was active in no fewer than nine different sports, but it was in the water that he was most at home. Of his many careers following his return to the United States, he was most well-known as a deep-sea diver. As he aged, he set himself the goal of completing a 35-mile canoe race for his 100th birthday. Unfortunately, he died just one day after his 99th birthday, which, for many years, made him the longest-lived Canadian Olympian of all time.

Sandy MacDonald – Sailor at the 1960 and 1964 Summer Olympics: Like Zimmerman, Sandy MacDonald was prolific in several different athletic pursuits. He played football and ice hockey in his youth and was even selected to represent Great Britain in the latter at the 1928 Winter Games. His Canadian citizenship eventually disqualified him, and thus his Olympic debut would have to wait 32 years, when he competed in Dragon Class sailing at the 1960 Summer Games. He finished fifth in this edition, and seventh four years later in the 5.5 Metres class. His most notable accomplishment in sailing was his gold medal from the Dragon Class tournament at the 1963 Pan American Games.

MacDonald was a surgeon by profession, but continued to complete in sailing for many years. He celebrated his 99th birthday on September 7, 2003 but, unfortunately, died 44 days later. He remains, as of this posting, the longest-lived Canadian Olympian.

Thelma Boughner – Diving at the 1936 Summer Olympics: Unlike Zimmerman and MacDonald, Thelma Boughner had a quieter profile. She competed in both women’s diving events at the 1936 Summer Games, placing 15th and 22nd in the springboard and platform respectively. She blamed her results on being poisoned by a German dentist shortly before her participation. World War II ended her career, and she later moved to the United States after marrying a Navy pilot, where she ran a successful chain of ice cream franchises. For many years, we had limited evidence that she was still alive, and even removed her from our lists at one point. Unfortunately, we learned from her obituary that she died on October 29, 2017, just over a month after her 99th birthday, and had been the oldest living Canadian Olympian for many years.

It should be noted, however, that Canada does hold one interesting longevity record, courtesy of Cecil Smith, pictured above. Smith represented her country at the 1924 and 1928 Winter Olympics as a figure skater, in the former at the age of only 15. Yet although she was “only” 89 years old when she died on November 9, 1997, she was nonetheless the last known surviving competitor from the 1924 Winter Games.

As of this writing, the title of the oldest living Canadian Olympian is shared by the Wurtele sisters, Rhona and Rhoda, born January 21, 1922, who competed in alpine skiing at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Games respectively. We hope very much to be writing about them and their sporting accomplishments four years from now in celebration of their longevity! For next week, however, we will be taking a look at the world’s oldest Olympian, John Lysak, who turned 104 just yesterday, and some of the competitors who could (at least in theory) be even older! We hope you’ll join us!