All posts by Paul Tchir

Olympic Missing Links, Part 6

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. As we were deciding on a theme for this week, we noticed that there were three remaining Winter Olympians yet to be discussed who fall under these criteria, and decided that they would be good subjects to focus on for today’s blog entry, particularly as the holidays are approaching.

 

Walter Heinzl – Member of Czechoslovakia’s bobsleigh delegation to the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics

Like many bobsledders of his era, there is very little that we can say for certain about Walter Heinzl, not even his year of birth, as many of these individuals did not have lengthy and dedicated careers in the sport. The only information that we know is that he represented Czechoslovakia as a member of one of its four-man bobsleigh teams at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics and came in 12th. An anonymous user on Wikipedia suggested that he was shot down over Japan during World War II, but we cannot even confirm that this was not vandalism, let alone whether or not it was accurate and refers to the Olympian.

 

Emil and Herta Ratzenhofer – Representatives of Austria in pairs figure skating at the 1948 St. Moritz Winter Olympics

Emil and Herta Ratzenhofer had successful pair figure skating careers in their native Austria, winning the Austrian Championships every year from 1946 through 1949, as well as 1943, coming in third in 1950, and winning the German Championships in 1944. They also won bronze medals at the European Championships in 1948 and 1949 and came in 11th and 5th respectively in those years at the World Championships. In their sole Olympic appearance in 1948, they were ninth. Emil also won bronze in the singles championships in 1938 and 1939. Despite all of this, information on their later lives is scarce, with Emil, born August 2, 1914, listed as having died on December 17, 2005 by the German-language Wikipedia. As for Herta, born June 27, 1921, the Vienna grave index at http://www.friedhoefewien.at/ lists an Anna Ratzenhofer, born June 25, 1921, as dying on April 10, 2007, although it is unclear if Herta and Anna are the same individual. For both, we have been unable to locate additional sources to confirm this information.

 

We are a bit busier this time of year than we usually are, so that is all we have for today, but we hope that you will join us next week, as we continue to look into these Olympic missing links!

Olympic Missing Links, Part 5

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. Last week we began examining those who only turned 90 this year and thus today we intend to conclude our look into that group.

 

Robert Gausterer – Austria’s flyweight boxer at the 1948 London Olympics

Earning the title of Austrian flyweight boxing champion in 1948 led Robert Gausterer, born May 11, 1928, to be selected to represent his country in that event at the London Olympics, where he was defeated in the first round by upcoming bronze medalist Han Su-An of South Korea. We do not have any additional information about him, although we did find an Austrian grave memorial that listed a Robert Gausterer as having died in 1983. While the rarity of his name means that it is a distinct possibility that this is the Olympian, the memorial lacks even a year of birth, and thus we can only speculate.

 

Laurent Bernier – Member of Canada’s ski jumping delegation at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics

Laurent Bernier, born December 22, 1928, represented Canada in the ski jump at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics, finishing 46th and last among the jumpers who actually recorded a mark. His career nationally lasted through the 1940s and into 1950, when he competed at that year’s World Championships. As ski jumping, like cross-country skiing, is a lesser-followed sport in Canada, however, he faded from attention when he retired from active competition. Due to his common name, information on his later years is difficult to come by, and while we did locate a genealogical record for a Laurent Bernier born in 1928 who died April 27, 1998 in Quebec, without an exact date of birth, we cannot confirm that this is the Olympian.

 

As we managed to solve the remainder of the 1928 cases that we planned for today, here is one possibility from late December 1927 that recently came to our attention:

(Original Caption) Jesse Renick, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, captain of the U.S. Olympic basketball team (left) is congratulated by Maurice Chollet, captain of the Swiss team, after the Americans had whipped their opponents 86-21 at Harringay Stadium on July 30th. The American boys have since bettered a Czech five, 53-28.

(Pictured on the right at Getty Images)

Maurice Chollet – Member of Switzerland’s basketball squad at the 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Maurice Chollet, born December 23, 1927, represented Switzerland in the basketball tournaments at the 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where the nation finished 21st and joint-20th respectively. A user on Wikipedia pointed us to an obituary for a Maurice Chollet who died February 22, 2017 at the age of 89, which would be the correct age for the Olympian. As the obituary made no mention of a basketball career, and since his name is not so unusual as to be unique, we cannot verify that this obituary belongs to the athlete.

 

That is it for today but, as usual, we will continue to delve into this topic next week and hope that you will join us! We also want to thank the anonymous Wikipedia editor who uncovered an obituary for Austrian track and field athlete Ine Schäffer, born March 28, 1923, who won a bronze medal for her country in the shot put at the 1948 London Olympics and was covered as part of our “Bronze Medal Mysteries” series. Schäffer moved to Canada in 1952, married Karl Spreitz in 1953, and died in British Columbia in April 1999. More information can be found here:

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timescolonist/obituary.aspx?n=ina-spreitz&pid=126023280

Olympic Missing Links, Part 4

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. Unlike last time, where we looked into athletes over the age of 105, who were unlikely to be alive, today we are examining those who only turned 90 this year. As the latter is, as one might expect, a longer list than the former, we are going to be splitting our post across two days.

(Pictured on page 12 of the March 10, 1958 edition of The Ottawa Citizen)

Jacques Carbonneau– Member of Canada’s cross-country skiing delegation to the 1952 Oslo Olympics

Jacques Carbonneau, born May 11, 1928, represented Canada as one of the nation’s two cross-country skiers at the 1952 Oslo Olympics, where he finished 70th in the 18 km event. He was a relatively prominent skier on the national scene in the 1950s, but, as cross-country skiing has been a less-followed sport in the country, he faded from attention after that. We did find an obituary in the March 15, 2007 edition of La Presse, stating that a Jacques Carbonneau, born in 1928, had died two days earlier, but the information provided in the article was not sufficient to positively identify the athlete.

(Image from the Alamy Stock Photo Library)

Peter Esiri – Member of Nigeria’s track and field athletics delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Peter Esiri, born September 11, 1928, won a silver medal in the triple jump at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, which earned him a spot on Nigeria’s ten-man delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. There he reached the final, but was unable to record a valid attempt. Information on his later years is scant, but we did find a (now removed) personal page of photos that suggested that he died on October 3, 1998, but we were unable to confirm this information.

 

Mohammad Ja’far Kalani – Member of Iran’s shooting delegation to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

The sport shooting career of Mohammad Ja’far Kalani, born May 1, 1928, did not begin until he was in his 30s, but he nonetheless had a substantial international career that took him to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics (where he was 64th in the rifle, prone, 50 metres event) and the 1970 Asian Games. He also had an extensive career in sports administration. In 2008, a user created his Wikipedia article and included the information that he died in 1987 at the age of 59. We have been unable to verify this information, however, in any other sources.

 

We will (hopefully) be completing this list in the very near future, so we hope you will come back soon, as we continue looking into 1928’s mysteries. We also want to reiterate our thanks to Ralf Regnitter, who was able to confirm that two-time Olympic medalist Marianne Werner of Germany, born January 4, 1924, whom we profiled in an earlier blog entry, is still alive at the age of 94! We also want to thank the relative of Robert Christmas, born c. 1924, who confirmed that the obituary we located in Hamilton Spectator was indeed for the Olympian, and thus that he died in January 2000 at the age of 76, helping us solve another mystery.

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!