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THE GAMES OF THE VIth OLYMPIAD – THE 1916 OLYMPIC GAMES

There were Olympic Games scheduled for 1916, although they would never take place because of World War I.  The 1916 Olympic Games – the Games of the VIth Olympiad – were scheduled for Berlin, Germany.

Berlin had made a bid to host the 1908 Olympic Games but withdrew the bid at the 1904 IOC Session so that the vote for London could be unanimous.  It then moved forward its bid to the 1912 Olympics, and at the 1908 IOC Session in London the two candidate cities for 1912 were considered to be Berlin and Stockholm.  But at the 1909 IOC Session (in Berlin), Berlin announced that it could not host the 1912 Olympic Games and they were awarded to Stockholm.  The 1916 host city was discussed at the 1911 IOC Session but the decision was made at the 1912 Session in Stockholm.  Official bids had been returned from Berlin, Alexandria (EGY), and Budapest (HUN), but Alexandria and Budapest withdrew during the Session and Berlin was elected unanimously as the host city for the Games of the VIth Olympiad.

Germany had long since formed a National Olympic Committee, termed the Deutschen Reichsausschuß für Olympische Spiele (DRAfOS) (Germany Imperial Committee for the Olympic Games).  When the 1916 Olympic Games were awarded to Berlin, it began to develop an Organizing Committee as well.  The final form of the Executive Board of DRAfOS in 1913 was as follows:

Position Holder
Patron: Crownprince Wilhelm von Preußen
President: General Victor von Podbielski
Vice-President: Ulrich von Örtzen
Treasurer: Baron Julius von Hünefeld
1st Secretary: Dr. Paul Martin
2nd Secretary: P. Johannes Müller
Sec-Gen. for the Olympic Games: Kurt Roesler
Sec-Gen. for the 1916 Olympics: Dr. Carl Diem
IOC Members to Germany: Count Adalbert von Francken-Sierstorpff
Baron Karl von Venningen-Ullner von Diepburg

Germany also proceeded with the building of a great stadium to host the Olympic Games.  The design and construction had actually begun in 1911, prior to the bid for the 1916 Olympics being awarded to Berlin.  The stadium contained a 400-metre running track, surrounded by a 600-metre cycle track, with a 100-metre swimming pool at the north end of the stadium.  The stadium seated around 30,000 spectators.  Kaiser Wilhelm II dedicated the stadium on 8 June 1913, in celebration of his 25th anniversary as head of the German Reich.  A number of IOC Members were present at the dedication.  After various demonstrations and exhibitions of athletic events, General von Podbielski gave the closing speech, and urged the 3 million members of German athletic groups to put all their efforts into victory at the 1916 Olympics.

Plans proceded apace for the 1916 Olympic Games and a tentative program and schedule of events was announced.  This is documented in the only modern book fully devoted to the 1916 Olympic Games, Die VI. Olympischen Spiele Berlin 1916, by Prof. Dr. Karl Lennartz of the Carl-Diem-Institute in Köln, Germany.  The tentatively scheduled sports were as follows, and it is notable that the Germans planned to conduct both Summer and Winter Sports:

Summer Sports

Athletics (Track & Field), Cycling, Diving, Fencing, Football (Soccer), Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey (Field), Modern Pentathlon, Rowing, Shooting, Swimming, Tennis, Water Polo, Weightlifting, and Wrestling – Greco-Roman

Winter Sports

Figure Skating, Ice Hockey, Nordic Skiing, and Speed Skating

It is also possible that the Germans tried to organize a cricket tournament, although it did not make it to the final schedule.  In A History of Australian Cricket it was noted, “Another matter which occupied the minds of the delegates was an invitation from the German authorities to send a cricket team to compete in the 1916 Olympic Games which were scheduled to be held in Berlin.”

But the 1916 Olympic Games never came to pass, for fairly obvious reasons.  On 28 June 1914, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The incident precipitated the war, and in July 1914, Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia.  Germany soon joined with the Hapsburg Empire and declared war on Russia and France a few days later.  In August, Germany invaded Belgium and Great Britain then entered the war against Germany.

Incredibly, the Germans continued to make plans to host the 1916 Olympic Games, though they were met with opposition within the IOC as well.  British IOC Member Theodore Andrea Cook demanded the expulsion of the German members from the IOC.  When this was refused, Cook resigned from the IOC in protest.

Coubertin discussed these entreaties in Memoires Olympiques, “… barely two weeks had passed since the invasion of Belgium when I received proposals for ‘transferring’ the Games – at first somewhat vague plans but soon made more precise by a favourable move on the part of [James Edward] Sullivan, who had been one of the pillars of the recent Congress and whose loyalty now proved unshakeable.  He asked for instructions.  We could not hesitate.  An Olympiad may fail to be celebrated; its number remains.  This is the ancient tradition.  The Germans, who at that time believed in a rapid war and a sure victory, did not ask to be relieved of the Olympic mandate.  To make a move in favour of the United States or Scandinavia would have been to take a step whose outcome would have been difficult to foresee and to risk subsequent cracks in Olympic unity, without any advantage for anyone.  I therefore rejected any kind of action of this sort.”

The exact date when it was decided not to hold the 1916 Olympic Games has not been published in any available source.  But as late as mid-1915 the Germans were still making plans for the Olympics.  In March 1915, the DRAfOS reported to the IOC on its preparations, noting that “only nations allied with Germany and neutral countries would be invited.”

It was fortunate, given that ultimatum, that the Olympic Movement would wait until 1920 and Antwerp.

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The above was modified from Appendix 4 from my book on the 1920 Olympic Games (with Tony Bijkerk) – The 1920 Olympic Games:  Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001.

1896-1912 OLYMPIANS AND WORLD WAR I

The following was Appendix 2 from my book on the 1920 Olympics (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press, 1999). Seems very appropriate to reprint here on this weekend.

Slightly more than 6,000 athletes competed in the Olympic Games from 1896 to 1912.  They represented the “Youth of the World,” our best and brightest, most of them in the primes of their lives.  But when war broke out in 1914, the Olympians often represented those best able to serve their nations as soldiers.  Many of them did fight in World War I, but not all of them returned.  On the morning of the Opening Ceremony, 14 August 1920, Cardinal Mercier, gave a Te Deum mass in honor of the Olympian War dead.  Following are some of those poignant tales.

Canadian physician, soldier, and poet John McCrae published this famous poem in 1915 about the Allied dead buried in Belgium.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae (1872-1918)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead.  Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe;

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

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In 1904, Arthur Wear played tennis at the St. Louis Olympics, winning a bronze medal in the men’s doubles.

In the September 2000 issue of the Journal of Olympic History, June Wuest Becht wrote the following letter to the editor:

When I was growing up in St. Louis, my Father took me to Jefferson Memorial once a year to see the names of his fallen friends from WWI chiseled on the wall.  The Memorial was built with money left after St. Louis’ World’s Fair and Games of the Third Olympiad expenses were paid.

Listed with the dead for the 89th Division, 356th Infantry, is the name “Arthur Wear.”

My father had been a sergeant in the 89th Division, 354th Infantry and knew Captain Wear, an Olympian, who won a bronze medal in the tennis doubles competition with Clarence Gamble here in 1904.

Before my Father’s death in 1980, he gave me his history of the 89th Division, 1917, 1918, and 1919 (a part of the AEF and Army of Occupation).  He was with the Division for the entire time it was on duty on the USA, France, Belgium and Germany.

There I discovered an account of Captain Wear’s death which has never been published (p. 205).

“Trying to cross the Meuse near Pouilly on November 5, 1918.  The crossing could not be made at that time.

“Captain Wear had recently been discharged from the hospital and was weak and nervous.  His command had been through severe fighting and had had an exhausting march beginning in the early morning.  Evidently his mind gave way under the strain of the events and of his depleted physical condition.  He ordered his battalion to withdraw from its position along the railroad tracks and bank of the canal to a position in the woods above the town; he sent word to “Take command of the battalion” then going a little aside from his headquarters in the dismal woods, at about 3 o’clock in the morning (November 6) he ended his life by shooting himself in the head.  This was one of those tragedies of the war indicative of the frightful strain of the times.  Captain Wear’s abilities and courage had been tested in previous fighting and had given promise of a glorious career as a soldier.  As a result of his over-zeal in coming back to hard field service before he was physically fit, the Division lost one of its promising officers.”

The Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, just days after Captain Wear’s death.

His name appears in memory as a soldier not far from the tennis venue where he competed in the Olympic Games of 1904.

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In 1908, Wyndham Halswelle won the 400 metre race in one of the most controversial finishes in Olympic history.  In the original race, he was obstructed by John Carpenter of the United States and the race was ordered re-run, with Carpenter disqualified.  But the American team protested and did not feel Carpenter was at fault.  In protest, the other two finalists, both Americans, refused to run in the re-start and Halswelle walked over to win the gold medal.  Ian Buchanan wrote of him in British Olympians, “Wyndham Halswelle was a career Army officer, who tragically died from a sniper’s bullet in France while fighting World War I.”

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Octave Lapize competed in the 1908 Olympic Games as a cyclist, and won a bronze medal in the 100 kilometre track race.  He likely then became the greatest professional cyclist among former Olympians in the pre-War years.  Lapize won the Tour de France in 1910, Paris-Brussels 1911-1913, and Paris-Tours 1911, and is still the only person to have won Paris-Roubaix in three consecutive years – 1909-11.  A pilot in the French military, he was killed in a dogfight during World War I.

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Though Percival Molson failed to place in the 1904 400 metres, he would achieve his fame later, but it would cost him his life.  Molson, the great-grandson of John Molson, founder of Molson Breweries of Canada, attended McGill, from which he graduated in 1900, after serving as president of his senior class and gaining every athletic honor the university could offer.  When World War I broke out, he joined the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and fought for them at the Battle of Mount Sorrel in 1916.  He was wounded during the battle and returned home, receiving the Military Cross for his efforts.  He insisted he be allowed to rejoin the company and on 5 July 1917, while fighting on the outskirts of Avion, France, he was hit by mortar fire while attempting to rescue a fallen friend.  Both were killed.  In his honor, the main athletic stadium at McGill University is known as the Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.

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With Rue My Heart is Laden

from A Shropshire Lad

A[lfred] E[dward] Housman (1859-1936)

 

With rue my heart is laden

For golden friends I had,

For many a rose-lipt maiden

And many a lightfoot lad.

 

By brooks too broad for leaping

The lightfoot boys are laid;

The rose-lipt girls are sleeping

In fields where roses fade.

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In 1912, the New Zealander, Tony Wilding, won a bronze medal in the men’s covered courts tennis singles.  It was a minor highlight of the career of the man who may still be considered New Zealand’s greatest ever tennis player.  Anthony Wilding attended Trinity College, Cambridge, and based himself in England.  He was Australian champion in 1907, Victorian champion in 1908-09, and won the singles at Wimbledon for four straight years, 1910-13.  He fought for the English during World War I and was killed by shellfire on the Western Front while serving as a captain in the Royal Marines.

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At the 1912 Olympic Games, athletics fans thrilled to the feats of Hannes Kolehmainen, who won the 5,000 metres, the 10,000 metres, and the cross-country.  But Kolehmainen’s greatest race was the 5,000 metres, where Frenchman Jean Bouin pushed him to his limit, with both breaking the world record, Kolehmainen finishing inches ahead of Boyin.  Jean Bouin became a foot soldier during World War I.  On 29 September 1914, Bouin was killed by an artillery shell that hit him squarely in the chest.  It was felt to be friendly fire.

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Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Pete Seeger (1919- 2014)

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Gone to young girls, every one!

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

 

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?

Where have all the young girls gone?

Gone to young men, every one!

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

 

Where have all the young men gone, long time passing?

Where have all the young men gone, long time ago?

Where have all the young men gone?

Gone to soldiers, every one!

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

 

And where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the soldiers gone, a long time ago?

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Gone to graveyards, every one!

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

 

And where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?

Where have all the graveyards gone?

Gone to flowers, every one!

When will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?

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In his book Who’s Who of UK & GB International Athletes 1896-1939, British Olympic historian Ian Buchanan noted the following British track & field Olympians who made the final sacrifice during World War I.

Anderson, Gerard           (ATH-1912) (*15 Mar 1889 – †09 Nov 1914)  Killed in action 9 Nov 1914 while serving with the Cheshire Regiment.

Anderson, William (ATH-1906)  (†4.1915)  Killed in action April 1915 while serving as a private with the Canadian contingent.

Ashington, Henry           (ATH-1912) (*25 Sep 1891 – †31 Jan 1917)  Killed in action  while serving with the East Yorkshire Regiment.

Astley, Arthur  (ATH-1908)  (†1916)   Killed in action.

Butterfield, George  (ATH-1908)  (*1882 – †17 Oct 1917)  Killed in action while serving as a gunner with the Royal Field Artillery.

Chavasse, Noël  (ATH-1908)  (*9 Nov 1884 – †04 Aug 1917)  one of only three men to have been awarded a bar to the Victoria Cross.  Served as a captain in the RAMC he was first awarded the VC in 1916 and awarded the bar, posthumously, in 1917.  Killed in action Brandhoek, Ypres, France.

Flaxman, Alfred  (ATH-1908)  (*1 Oct 1879 – †01 Jul 1916)  Killed in action in an attack on the enemy positions at Gommercourt, France.

Hawkins, George  (ATH-1908)  (*13 Oct 1883 – †22 Sep 1917)  Served as a gunner in the Royal Artillery.  Killed in action when a shell exploded in the doorway of a dugout while he was on outpost duty.

Hutson, George  (ATH-1912)  (*22 Dec 1889 – †14 Sep 1914)  Killed in action as a regular soldier with the Royal Sussex Regiment.

Kitching, Frederick  (ATH-1908)  (*7 Jul 1886 – †1914)  Killed in action in Dunkirk, France.

Leeke, Henry     GBR ATH-1908 15 Nov 1879 29 May 1915)  Killed in action in France on the eve of his battalion’s departure for Gallipoli.  Served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Macintosh, Henry  (ATH-1912)  (*10 Jun 1892 – †26 Jul 1918)  Commissioned into the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and was killed in action on the Somme.

Patterson, Alan  (ATH-1908/12)  (*12 Mar 1886 – †4 Mar 1916)  Killed in action in France.

Roche, James  (ATH-1908)  (*1886 – †07 Jun 1917)  Served as a lieutenant with the Royal Engineers and won an MC in WWI, before being killed in action in France.

Wilson, Harold  (ATH-1908)  (*22 Jan 1885 – †1916)  Killed in action in France.

Yorke, Richard  (ATH-1908/12)  (*28 Jul 1885 – †22 Dec 1914)  Killed in action in France while serving as a sergeant in the London Scottish.

Buchanan also sent a clipping concerning Charles Rought  (GBR; ROW-1912) who died on 31 January 1918.  It noted, “The unluckiest of all, however, was probably Charles Rought.  A prisoner of war almost from the beginning, he died after eating a bad oyster while waiting to be demobilized after his release, and so technically his death occurred while on active service.  Requiescant in Pace.

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There were certainly many others, but many of their stories have never been told.  In his excellent series of books entitled Olympische Sommerspiele, Volker Kluge lists the Olympic athletes who died in World War I.  In addition to Kluge’s lists, Ian Buchanan has done research on the British athletes who died in World War I.  The following list combines the research of these two prominent Olympic historians.  Listed after the name are the nation, the Olympic sport and year of competing in the Olympics, followed by the dates of birth and death.

Alexander, Gordon  (GBR; FEN-1912)  (*1888 – †24 Apr 1917)

Aho, Paavo  (FIN; ATH-1912)  (*21 Dec 1891 – †04 Mar 1918)

Alibert, Gaston  (FRA; FEN-1908)  (*1883 – †26 Dec 1917)

Almqvist, Anders  (SWE; ROW-1912)  (*1885 – †30 Nov 1915)

Bartholomae, Fritz  (GER; ROW-1912)  (*29 Oct 1886 – †1915)

Békessy, Béla  (HUN; FEN-1912)  (*16 Nov 1875 – †06 Jul 1916)

Bellin du Coteau, Marc  (FRA; ATH-1906)  (*1883 – †1915)

Bentham, Isaac  (GBR; WAP-1912)  (*27 Oct 1886 – †ca1914-18)

Bieberstein, Arno  (GER; SWI-1908)  (*17 Oct 1886 – †04 Oct 1918)

Bouin, Jean (FRA; ATH-1912)  (*21 Dec 1888 – †29 Sep 1914)

Braathe, Julius  (NOR; SHO-1906/12)  (*4 May 1876 – †08 Jul 1914)

Braun, Hanns  (GER; ATH-1912)  (*26 Oct 1886 – †09 Oct 1918)

Brebner, Ronald  (GBR; FTB-1912)  (*23 Sep 1882 – †11 Nov 1914)

Bretting, Kurt  (GER; SWI-1912)  (*8 Jun 1892 – †30 May 1918)

Burkowitz, Hermann  (GER; ATH-1912)  (*31 Jan 1892 – †11.1914)

Burn, Thomas  (GBR; FTB-1912)  (*1888 – †1916)

Bury, Edmund  (GBR; RAQ-1908)  (*4 Nov 1884 – †04 Dec 1915)

Carver, Oswald  (GBR; ROW-1908)  (*2 Feb 1887 – †07 Jun 1915)

Caulle, Joseph  (FRA; ATH-1912)  (*3 May 1885 – †ca1914-18)

Chaffe, Walter  (GBR; TOW-1912)  (*2 Apr 1870 – †22 Apr 1918)

Chalmers, Ralph  (GBR; FEN-1908)  (*13 Jan 1891 – †10 May 1915)

Coles, Geoffrey  (GBR; SHO-1908)  (*13 Mar 1871 – †27 Jan 1916)

Cooper, Robert  (GBR; GYM-1906)  (†Mar 1918)

Crank, Harry  (GBR; DIV-1908)  (*1885 – †23 Oct 1917)

Crowther, Herbert  (GBR; CYC-1906/08)  (*1882 – †1916)

Cumming, Arthur  (GBR; FSK-1908)  (*8 May 1889 – †08 May 1914)

Davies, Robert  (GBR; SHO-1912)  (*10 Dec 1876 – †09 Sep 1916)

Dines, Joseph  (GBR; FTB-1912)  (*12 Apr 1886 – †27 Sep 1918)

Donners, Herman  (BEL; WAP-1908/12)  (*5 Aug 1888 – †1915)

Drescher, Ludwig  (DEN; FTB-1908)  (*21 Jul 1881 – †14 Jul 1917)

Duffy, Edward  (RSA; ATH-1908)  (*6 Jun 1883 – †19 Oct 1918)

Duffy, James  (CAM; ATH-1912)  (*1 May 1890 – †23 Apr 1915)

Erickson, Charles  (USA; WRE-1904)  (*1875 – †23 Feb 1916)

Escombe, Lionel  (GBR; TEN-1908)  (*1875 – †15 Oct 1914)

Fairbairn, George  (GBR; ROW-1908)  (*18 Aug 1888 – †20 Jun 1915)

Flameng, Leon  (FRA; CYC-1896)  (*1877 – †1917)

Fogelmark, Ragnar  (SWE; WRE-1912)  (*15 Mar 1888 – †20 Sep 1914)

Fóti, Samu  (HUN; ATH-1912)  (*6 Nov 1884 – †17 Jun 1916)

Gillespie, Thomas  (GBR; ROW-1912)  (*14 Dec 1892 – †18 Oct 1914)

Goldsmith, Henry  (GBR; ROW-1908)  (*22 Jul 1885 – †09 May 1915)

Gönczy, Lajos  (HUN; ATH-1900)  (*24 Feb 1881 – †1914)

Goßler, Carl  (GER; ROW-1900)  (*17 Apr 1885 – †09 Sep 1914)

Grantz, Gunnar  (NOR; ROW-1912)  (*27 Jan 1885 – †1916)

Haagensen, Karl Johan  (NOR; GYM-1906)  (*26 Mar 1871 – †25 Aug 1918)

Halme, Juho  (FIN; ATH-1908/12)  (*24 May 1888 – †01 Feb 1918)

Healy, Cecil  (AUS; SWI-1912)  (*28 Nov 1881 – †29 Aug 1918)

Herrmann, Max  (GER; ATH-1912)  (*17 Mar 1885 – †29 Jan 1915)

Hestdahl, Mikael  (NOR; WRE-1912)  (*13 Nov 1890 – †11 Nov 1918)

Hoben, John  (USA; ROW-1904)  (*1884 – †06 Jul 1915)

Irgens, Emil  (NOR; ROW-1908)  (*2 Aug 1883 – †13 Jul 1918)

January, John  (USA; FTB-1904)  (*6 Mar 1882 – †01 Dec 1917)

Jesinghaus, Walter  (GER; GYM-1912)  (*10 Oct 1887 – †1918)

Johnstone, Albert  (RSA; SHO-1912)  (*7 Sep 1878 – †23 Jul 1918)

Kenna, Paul  (GBR; EQU-1912)  (*16 Aug 1862 – †30 Aug 1915)

Kolehmainen, David “Tatu”  (FIN; WRE-1912)  (*10 Sep 1885 – †1918)

Laing, Ivan  (GBR; HOK-1908)  (*18 Aug 1885 – †30 Nov 1917)

Larsen, Edvard  (NOR; ATH-1908/12)  (*27 Oct 1881 – †11 Sep 1914)

Laws, Gilbert  (GBR; SAI-1908)  (*6 Jan 1870 – †03 Dec 1918)

Legat, Manlio  (ITA; ATH-1912)  (*30 Aug 1889 – †18 Sep 1915)

Lehmann, Erich  (GER; ATH-1912)  (*12 Sep 1890 – †ca1914-18)

Leiblee, Clark  (USA; ATH-1900)  (*2 Nov 1877 – †20 Aug 1917)

Lindh, Erik  (FIN; SAI-1912)  (*1 May 1865 – †01 Dec 1914)

Lönnberg, Ivan  (SWE; ATH-1912)  (*12 Nov 1891 – †26 Apr 1918)

Lützow, Wilhelm  (GER; SWI-1912)  (*19 May 1892 – †1917)

Mackinnon, Duncan  (GBR; ROW-1908)  (*29 Sep 1887 – †09 Oct 1917)

Maclagan, Gilchrist  (GBR; ROW-1908)  (*5 Oct 1879 – †25 Apr 1915)

Mannström, Bror  (SWE; MOP-1912)  (*26 Oct 1884 – †19 Jul 1916)

Martens, Hermann  (GER; CYC-1908)  (*16 Apr 1877 – †1916)

Mickler, Alfred Georg  (GER; ATH-1912)  (*7 Sep 1892 – †14 Jun 1915)

Molinié, Henri  (FRA; ATH-1906)  (*1874 – †1918)

Mudin, Imre  (HUN; ATH-1908/12)  (*8 Nov 1887 – †23 Oct 1918)

Mudin, István  (HUN; ATH-1906/08)  (*16 Oct 1881 – †22 Jul 1918)

Nejedlÿ, ArnoWt  (BOH; ATH-1906)  (*1883 – †1917)

Nerali¢, Milan  (AUT; FEN-1900)  (*26 Feb 1875 – †17 Feb 1918)

Nilsson, Calle  (SWE; ATH-1912)  (*18 May 1888 – †23 Jun 1915)

Odberg, Frank  (BEL; ROW-1900)  (†1917)

Ommundsen, Harcourt  (GBR; SHO-1908/12)  (*23 Nov 1878 – †1915)

Pedersen, Oluf  (DEN; GYM-1906/12)  (*14 Mar 1878 – †08 Mar 1917)

Pédery, Ärpád  (HUN; GYM-1912)  (*1 Feb 1891 – †21 Oct 1914)

Person, Julius  (GER; ATH-1912)  (*1 May 1889 – †ca1914-18)

Persson, Martin  (SWE; ATH-1912)  (*13 Oct 1886 – †13 Feb 1918)

Petersdorff, Herbert von  (GER; WAP-1900)  (*2 Jan 1882 – †1917)

Pohl-Polenskÿ, Bohuslav  (BOH; ATH-1906)  (*1881 – †1916)

Powell, Kenneth  (GBR; TEN-1912)  (*8 Apr 1885 – †18 Feb 1915)

Pridmore, Reginald  (GBR; HOK-1908)  (*29 Apr 1886 – †13 Mar 1918)

Robinson, John  (GBR; HOK-1908)  (*6 Aug 1885 – †23 Aug 1916)

Romano, Guido  (ITA; GYM-1908/12)  (*31 Jan 1887 – †18 Jun 1916)

Rowland, Arthur  (NZL; ATH-1908)  (*26 Oct 1885 – †23 Jul 1918)

Salmon, Gaston  (FRA; FEN-1912)  (*1878 – †1917)

Salomez, Maurice  (FRA; ATH-1900)  (†1916)

Sanderson, Ronald  (GBR; ROW-1908)  (*11 Dec 1876 – †17 Apr 1918)

Schneidereit, Heinrich  (GER; WLT-1906)  (*23 Dec 1884 – †30 Sep 1915)

Soalhat, Michel  (FRA; ATH-1906)  (*1874 – †25 Sep 1915)

Somers-Smith, John  (GBR; ROW-1908)  (*15 Dec 1887 – †01 Jul 1916)

Spiedl, Zoltán  (HUN; ATH-1900)  (*17 Mar 1880 – †03 Jul 1917)

Spitzer, Roger  (USA; ATH-1908)  (*21 Sep 1885 – †20 Mar 1916)

Steuernagel, Curt  (GER; GYM-1908)  (*1886 – †30 Jul 1918)

Sztantics, György  (HUN; ATH-1906)  (*19 Aug 1878 – †09 Jul 1918)

Tietgens, Waldemar  (GER; ROW-1900)  (*26 Mar 1879 – †28 Jul 1917)

Tsiklitaras, Konstantin  (GRE; ATH-1912)  (*1888 – †1913)

Vigurs, Charles  (GBR; GYM-1908/12)  (*11 Jul 1888 – †22 Feb 1917)

Viljamaa, Kalle  (FIN; WRE-1912)  (*15 Feb 1885 – †28 Mar 1918)

von Blixen-Finecke, Hans Gustaf, Sr.  (SWE; EQU-1912)  (*25 Jul 1886 – †26 Sep 1917)

von Gaza, Bernhard  (GER; ROW-1908)  (*6 May 1881 – †25 Sep 1917)

von Las-Torres, Béla  (HUN; SWI-1908)  (*20 Apr 1890 – †13 Oct 1915)

von Lütcken, Eduard  (GER; EQU-1912)  (*26 Oct 1882 – †15 Sep 1914)

von Preußen, Friedrich Karl, Prince  (GER; EQU-1912)  (*6 Apr 1893 – †1917)

Vosbergen, Ary  (NED; ATH-1908)  (*10 Jun 1882 – †14 Nov 1918)

Watzl, Rudolf  (AUT; WRE-1906)  (*14 Apr 1882 – †15 Aug 1915)

Whittindale, Raymond  (GBR; RUG-1900)  (*1883 – †09 Apr 1915)

Wilde, Arthur  (GBR; SHO-1908)  (†1916)

Wilhelm, Richard  (GER; ATH-1908)  (*1888 – †1917)

Willems, Victor  (BEL; FEN-1912)  (*1877 – †1918)

Wilson, Arthur  (GBR; RUG-1908)  (*29 Dec 1886 – †01 Jul 1917)

Wilson, Herbert  (GBR; POL-1908)  (*14 Feb 1875 – †11 Apr 1917)

Zulavszky, Béla  (HUN; FEN-1908/12)  (*23 Oct 1869 – †24 Oct 1914)

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To An Athlete Dying Young

A[lfred] E[dward] Housman (1859-1936)

from A Shropshire Lad

 

The time you won town your race,

We chaired your through the marketplace.

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder high.

 

Today the road all runners come,

Shoulder high we bring you home

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

 

Smart lad to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay.

For quickly though the laurel grows,

It withers quicker than a rose.

 

Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut.

And silence sounds no worse than cheers,

After earth has stopped the ears.

 

Now you will not swell the rout,

Of lads who wore their honors out.

Runners whom renown outran,

And the name died before the man.

 

So set before the echoes fade,

That fleet foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to that low lintel up,

The still defended challenge cup.

 

And round that early laureled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

And find untarnished the its curls,

A garland briefer than a girls.

The 1919 Inter-Allied Games

In 1919, a prelude to the 1920 Olympic Games took place on the outskirts of Paris.  These were the 1919 Inter-Allied Games and they had their origins in 1910 in the Philippine Islands.  In that year, Elwood S. Brown was sent to the Philippines as the Physical Director of the American YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association).  His charge was to build up sporting activities among the American civilian population and eventually the Filipino natives.  Brown was successful and was also instrumental in helping convince the Filipinos to compete in the first Far Eastern Games in 1919.  Through Brown’s efforts, sports became much more popular in the Far East.

In April 1918, Elwood Brown requested war service and was shipped to France as one of the YMCA athletic directors.  As the war neared an end, Brown sought a way to bring the soldiers of the many nations “together in order that they might know each other face to face and thus lay the foundations for those enduring friendships which can come only from personal contact and which, in this case, were of such fundamental importance to the future welfare of the world.”

In October 1918, Elwood Brown sent a letter to Colonel Bruce Palmer, the First Section of the General Staff, G.H.Q., A.E.F., whose subject was “Proposed Athletic Program for Demobilization Period.”  Brown made four suggestions in his letter, as follows:

  1. Great mass games and play for every possible man – “Athletics for everybody.”
  2. Official A.E.F. championships in a wide variety of competitive sports including military events, beginning with elimination regimental contests, ranging upwards through the divisions, possibly the army corps, and culminating in great finals in Paris.
  3. Physical pageants and demonstrations to be held in many centers demonstrating to our allied friends America’s best in sport, her great play spirit and incidentally her finest in physical manhood.
  4. Interallied athletic contests – open only to soldiers of the Allied Armies – a great set of military Olympic Games.

And thus was born the Inter-Allied Games.  They were truly considered a military Olympic Games.  The only requirement for entry was that all competitors had to have been an officer or an enlisted man in one of the Allied military forces.  The entry asked, “Were you a soldier in the Great War?”  The eligibility rules noted that “Each nation participating may enter any officer, non-commissioned officer or private soldier, who has at any time between 4 August 1914 and 11 November 1918 been a member of the military forces of that nation.”

The invitation to nations was sent on 9 January 1919 by General John J. Pershing, the Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF).  The letter read as follows:

AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES

Office of the Commander In Chief

January 10, 1919

Sir:

The officers and men of the American Expeditionary Forces, being keenly appreciative of the splendid relations which exist among those who have borne arms in a great, common cause, and which, in the present instance, have so happily developed into such deep feelings of mutual respect and admiration, are most anxious to preserve and strengthen this relationship in every way possible.

Now that active military operations have ceased, they believe that nothing could be more conducive to this end than to gather in friendly competition on the field of sport, representatives of the Armies of each of the nations which have so long been associated together in the stern struggle for right.

Accordingly, they have decided to organize an Inter-Allied Athletic Meeting, to be held in the Colombes Stadium, Paris, during the month of May or June, 1919, in which the officers and men of all of these Armies shall be eligible to take part.

As Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, I have the honor, therefore, to invite, through you as their Commander-in-Chief, the officers and men of the armies of France to participate in these contests and to express the earnest hope that many of them may do so, so that the ties of the much cherished spirit of comradeship which have spring from the gallant joint effort of our forces on the battlefield may thus be even more closely cemented.

Respectfully,

JOHN J. PERSHING

Twenty-nine Allied nations were invited to compete in Paris.  The invited nations were:

Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hedjaz, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Siam, and South Africa.

Hedjaz was a Kingdom on the Arabian Peninsula that later became a part of Saudi Arabia.

Of these, eventually eighteen nations competed at the Inter-Allied Games.

Australia, Belgium, British Army of the Rhine, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Hedjaz, Italy, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, and United States.

A Games Committee was formed, which consisted of five members:

Col. Wait S. Johnson, G.S., Lt. Col. D. M. Goodrich, G.S., Lt. Col. T. C. Lonergan, G.S., Mr. Elwood S. Brown, YMCA, Mr. W. A. Reynolds, YMCA

The Games Committee planned the following program:

Baseball, Basketball, Boxing, Equestrian Competition, Fencing, Football (Association/Soccer), Football, Rugby, Football, American, Golf – individual and team, Rowing, Shooting, Swimming, Tennis, Track & Field Athletics, Tug-of-War, Water Polo, Wrestling – Catch-as-Catch Can, and Wrestling – Greco-Roman,

Eventually, not all of the scheduled events were held.  Notably, there was no American football competition.  A few events were also added to the above program.

The Inter-Allied Games took place at the Pershing Stadium, which was situated near Paris.  It was on the eastern edge of the Bois de Vincennes on the ancient highway between Vincennes and Joinville-le-Pont.  Originally the Games were to have been held in the Colombes Stadium in Paris, where the 1924 Olympic Games would take place.  But the Colombes Stadium was felt to favor the American athletes unfairly and it was not used as the main venue.  Instead, it was decided to build a new stadium, which became the Pershing Stadium.  Incredibly the construction began only on 11 April 1919 and was completed within 60 days.  The stadium seated 25,000 spectators.

The Inter-Allied Games began on 22 June 1919, with an Opening Ceremony in the Stadium.  They were formally opened by Monsieur Leygues, the French Minister of the Navy.  The Games lasted for exactly two weeks, ending on 6 July 1919.  While most of the events took place in the Pershing Stadium, there were other venues used as well.

Swimming took place in the St. James Lake in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.  The equestrian competition was held at Chennevières.  The fencing was conducted at the École d’Éscrime in Joinville.  Rugby football took place at Colombes Field in Paris.  The golf matches were held on the La Boulie Course on the outskirts of Paris.  Tennis competition occurred at the Racing Club de Paris and Stade Français de Paris.  Shooting was conducted far removed from Paris, at the d’Auvours range near Le Mans.

The 1919 Inter-Allied Games ended on Sunday, 6 July.  Two events were held that day – a baseball game between the United States and Canada, and the light-heavyweight boxing final.  The baseball game was ended prematurely, with the United States leading 12-1.  Canada agreed to stop the game to allow the Closing Ceremony to take place in the Pershing Stadium.  General Pershing presided and received all the champions in the Tribune d’Honneur, awarding them their prizes.  The Ceremony ended with the formal lowering the flags of the Allied Nations.

The champions of the 1919 Inter-Allied Games were as follows:

Baseball USA
Basketball USA
Boxing
Bantamweight Pvt. Albert Evans AUS
Featherweight Louis De Ponthieu FRA
Lightweight Bennie McNeil USA
Welterweight Sgt. Joe Attwood CAN
Middleweight Edward Eagan USA
Light-Heavyweight Sgt. Ermino Spalla ITA
Heavyweight Bob Martin USA
Equestrian Events
Military Riding – Individual Maj. Joseph De Soras FRA
Military Riding – Team France
Show Jumping – Individual Maj. Ruggero Ubertalli ITA
Show Jumping – Pairs Maj. Giacomo Antonelli/Capt. Alessandro Alvisi ITA
Fencing
Foil Individual Lt. Nedo Nadi ITA
Foil Team FRA
Épée Individual Sgt. E. Henri Laurent FRA
Épée Team FRA
Sabre Individual NCO Vincent Gillens BEL
Sabre Team ITA
Football/Soccer TCH
Football Rugby FRA
Golf Individual Arnaud Massy FRA
Golf Team FRA
Rowing
Single Sculls Sgt. Clarence d’Arcy Hadfield NZL
Coxed Fours FRA
Coxed Eight GBR
Shooting
Military Rifle Individual 1st Sgt. Stanley Smith USA
Military Rifle Team USA
Pistol Shooting Individual Master Sgt. Michael Kelley USA
Pistol Shooting Team USA
Swimming
100 metre freestyle 2nd Lt. Norman Ross USA
400 metre freestyle 2nd Lt. Norman Ross USA
800 metre freestyle 2nd Lt. Norman Ross USA
1500 metre freestyle 2nd Lt. Norman Ross USA
100 metre backstroke 2nd Lt. Norman Ross USA
200 metre breaststroke H. Sommer FRA
4 x 200 metre freestyle relay AUS
Tennis Singles Lt. André Gobert FRA
Tennis Doubles Capt. Pat O'Hara-Wood/Bombdr. Randolph Lycett AUS
Tennis Team AUS
Track & Field Athletics
100 metres 2nd Lt. Charles Paddock USA
200 metres 2nd Lt. Charles Paddock USA
400 metres 1st Lt. Earl Eby USA
800 metres Sgt. Daniel Mason NZL
1500 metres 2nd Lt. Clyde Stout USA
Modified Marathon Pvt. Jean Vermeulen FRA
110 metre hurdles 1st Lt. Robert Simpson USA
200 metre hurdles 1st Lt. Robert Simpson USA
4 x 200 metre relay USA
4 x 400 metre relay USA
Medley relay USA
High Jump Lt. Clint Larson USA
Pole Vault 2nd Lt. Florin Floyd USA
Long Jump Pvt. Sol Butler USA
Standing Long Jump 2nd Lt. William Taylor USA
Triple Jump 1st Lt. Herbert Prem USA
Shot Put 2nd Lt. Edward Caughey USA
Discus Throw Sgt. Charles Higgins USA
Javelin Throw 2nd Lt. George Bronder USA
Pentathlon Cpl. Robert LeGendre USA
Cross-Country Individual Pvt. Jean Vermeulen FRA
Hand-Grenade Throwing Chaplain Fred Thompson USA
800 metre relay Armies of Occupation FRA
Long Jump Armies of Occupation Capt. John Madden USA
Tug-of-War USA
Water Polo BEL
Wrestling – Catch-as-Catch Can
Bantamweight Frank Slinger USA
Featherweight Carl Lilejahault USA
Lightweight George Metropolis USA
Welterweight Cal Farley USA
Middleweight William Prehm USA
Light-Heavyweight Ralph Parcault USA
Heavyweight Chevalier ….. Salvator FRA
Wrestling – Greco-Roman
Bantamweight ….. Wiseman USA
Featherweight Henri Diereckx BEL
Lightweight Cpl. Joseph Beranek TCH
Welterweight Pvt. Karel Halik TCH
Middleweight Pvt. Louis Van Antwerpen BEL
Light-Heavyweight Sgt. Maj. Frant Kopriva SRB
Heavyweight Mstr. Gunner François Bechard FRA

This post was modified from an Appendix to my book on the 1920 Olympic Games: The 1920 Olympic Games:  Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001.

Olympians Who Died in WWI – RIP

World War I ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 100 years ago. On our website www.olympedia.org, we provide lists of all Olympians who died during wars. Sadly, there are over 625 Olympians on that list.

Many of the 1896-1912 Olympians fought in the “Great War.” We list here all those we know of who met their demise as the result of World War I. Requiescat in pace

Embed from Getty Images
Tony Wilding, killed at Aubers Ridge during the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle.

Embed from Getty Images

Athlete Nation Sport(s) Era Notes
Andrey Akimov RUS FTB 1912 †1916. Killed during World War I.
Gordon Alexander GBR FEN 1912 †24 April 1917. Killed in action during World War I.
Laurie Anderson GBR ATH 1912 †9 November 1914. Killed in action while serving with the Cheshire Regiment.
William Anderson GBR ATH 1906 †April 1915. Killed in action France.
Henry Ashington GBR ATH 1912 †31 January 1917. Killed in action France.
Louis Bach FRA FTB 1900 †16 September 1914. Killed in action.
Fritz Bartholomae GER ROW 1912 †12 September 1915. Killed in action during World War I.
Georg Baumann RUS WRE 1912 Missing-in-action during World War I but date and place not known.
Béla Békessy HUN FEN 1912 †6 July 1916. Killed in action during World War I.
Isaac Bentham GBR SWI/WAP 1912 †15 May 1917. Killed in action during Battle of Arras.
Renon Boissière FRA ATH 1912 †25 September 1915. Killed in action in World War I.
Henri Bonnefoy FRA SHO 1908 †9 August 1914. Killed in action during World War II.
Hermann von Bönninghausen GER ATH 1908-12 †26 January 1919. Died from wounds from being shot in the face in World War I.
Hermann Bosch GER FTB 1912 †16 July 1916. Killed in action in World War I.
Jean Bouin FRA ATH 1908-12 †29 September 1914. Killed in action by friendly fire.
Hanns Braun GER ATH 1908-12 †9 October 1918. Died as a fighter pilot near Saint-Quentin Aisne France in World War I.
Karl Braunsteiner AUT FTB 1912 †19 April 1916. Died as a prisoner of war.
Kurt Bretting GER SWI 1912 †30 May 1918. Killed in action during World War I.
Wilhelm Brülle GER GYM 1912 †5 August 1917. Killed in action during World War I.
Heinrich Burkowitz GER ATH 1912 †November 1918. Missing in action in November 1918 somewhere in Belgium.
Edmond Bury GBR RAQ 1908 †5 December 1915. With the 11th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps he was killed in action in France during World War I and is buried in Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery in Fleurbaix.
George Butterfield GBR ATH 1908 †24 September 1917. Killed in action France.
Giuseppe Caimi (DNS) ITA FTB 1912 †14 December 1917. For his courage and boldness he received by Royal decree a posthumous gold medal for military valour.
Oswald Carver GBR ROW 1908 †7 June 1915. With the 1st/2nd East Lancashire Royal Engineers he was killed in action in Turkey in World War I and is buried in the Lancashire Landing Cemetery.
Joseph Caullé FRA ATH 1912 †1 October 1915. Killed in action during World War I.
Ralph Chalmers GBR FEN 1908 †8 May 1915. Killed in action during World War I.
Noel Chavasse GBR ATH 1908 †4 August 1917. He is one of only three men to have been awarded a bar to the Victoria Cross. Serving as a captain in the RAMC he was first awarded the VC in 1916 and a bar posthumously in 1917.
Geoffrey Coles GBR SHO 1908 †27 January 1916. Killed in action during World War I.
André Corvington HAI FEN 1900 †13 December 1918. Killed in action in World War I near Reims.
Percy Courtman GBR SWI 1908-12 †2 June 1917. Part of 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment he was killed in action in World War I. Buried at Neuville-Bourjonval British Cemetery.
Harry Crank GBR DIV 1908 †22 October 1917. Killed in action near Ypres Belgium.
Robert Davies GBR SHO 1912 †9 September 1916. A member of the 1st/9th Batallion London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles) he was killed in action in the Somme in France in World War I.
Olivier Baron de Brandois FRA SAI 1900 †9 June 1916 Death of illnesses contracted whilst serving as a member of the French Army
Louis de Champsavin FRA EQU 1900 †20 December 1916. Killed in action during World War I.
Félix Debax FRA FEN 1900 †25 August 1914. Killed in action in World War I.
Alex Decouteau CAN ATH 1912 †17 October 1917. Killed in action in the Battle of Passchendale.
Oszkár Demján HUN SWI 1912 †4 September 1914. Killed in action during World War I.
Charles Devendeville FRA SWI/WAP 1900 †19 September 1914. Killed in action.
Karl Baron von Diepurg GER IOC 1909-14 †25 October 1914. Killed in action during World War I.
Joe Dines GBR FTB 1912 †27 September 1918. He was killed in Pas de Calais as a second lieutenant on the Western front during World War I.
Herman Donners BEL WAP 1908-12 †14 May 1915. Killed in action World War I.
Jimmy Duffy CAN ATH 1912 †23 April 1915. In September 1913 he joined the Canadian Army and was assigned to the 91st Argyle Regiment. On April 23 1915 he was fatally wounded near Ypres Belgium.
Hugh Durant GBR MOP/SHO 1912 †20 January 1916. With the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers he was killed in action in France in World War I and is buried in the Vermelles British Cemetery.
Eric Fairbairn GBR ROW 1908 †20 June 1915. Killed in action in the Somme in France during World War I.
René Fenouillière FRA FTB 1908 †4 November 1916. Killed in action during World War I.
Léon Flameng FRA CYC 1896 †2 January 1917. Killed in action during World War I.
Alfred Flaxman GBR ATH 1908 †1 July 1916. Killed in an attack on the enemy positions at Gommecourt.
Mauricio Galvao GER HOK 1908 †6 March 1945. Killed in action in World War II. His grave is in the war cemetary in Zagreb Croatia.
Bert Gayler GBR CYC 1912 †23 June 1917. Killed by rifle fire during an ambush in a valley near Kotkai Bozi Khel.
Bernhard von Gaza GER ROW 1908 †25 September 1917. Killed in action during World War I in Belgium.
Thomas Gillespie GBR ROW 1912 †18 October 1914. A lieutenant with the King's Own Scottish Borderers he was killed in action in France in World War I and is buried in Le Touret Memorial.
Henry Goldsmith GBR ROW 1908 †9 May 1915. Killed in action at Fromelles.
Lajos Gönczy HUN ATH 1900-06 †4 December 1915. Killed in action in area of Galicia and Lodomeria.
Carl Heinrich Goßler GER ROW 1900 †9 September 1914. Killed in action during World War I.
Ámon von Gregurich HUN FEN 1900 †28 June 1915. Killed in action during World War I.
Jaroslav Hainz BOH TEN 1912 Died in Russia in World War I but further details not known.
Juho Halme FIN ATH 1908-12 †1 February 1918. Killed in action in Finnish Civil War.
Wyndham Halswelle GBR ATH 1906-08 †31 March 1915. Killed by a sniper's bullet in France.
George Hawkins GBR ATH 1908 †22 September 1917. During World War I he served as a Gunner with the Royal Artillery and was killed in action when a shell exploded in the doorway of a dugout while he was on outpost duty.
Harold Hawkins GBR SHO 1908 †16 June 1917. Reported missing between Bullecourt and Croisilles. When last seen he was wounded lying in a very forward position which unfortunately had to be abandoned.
Cecil Healy AUS SWI 1906-12 †29 August 1918. Killed in action in World War I.
Max Herrmann GER ATH 1912 †29 January 1915. Killed in action in World War I.
George Hutson GBR ATH 1912 †14 September 1914. Killed in action only five weeks after the outbreak of World War I.
Albert Jenicot FRA FTB 1908 †22 February 1916. An under-lieutenant with the 165th Regiment D Infantry he was killed in action in World War I.
Walther Jesinghaus GER GYM 1912 †1918. Killed in action during World War I.
Ernest Keeley RSA SHO 1912 †23 July 1918. A 2nd lieutenant with the 4th Regiment South African Infantry Unit he was killed in action in World War I and is buried in the Ploegsteert Memorial.
Frederick Kelly GBR ROW 1908 †13 November 1916. Killed in action during World War I.
Paul Kenna GBR EQU 1912 †30 August 1915. Killed in action at the Battle of Gallipoli.
Alister Kirby GBR ROW 1912 †29 March 1917. Served as a captain in the Rifle Brigade and died from illness in 1917.
Frederick Kitching GBR ATH 1908 †1914. Killed in action in World War I.
Dmitry Knyazhevich RUS FEN 1912 †1918 Killed during the Russian Revolution
Adolf Kofler AUT CYC 1912 †13 April 1915. Killed in action during World War I.
Georg Krogmann GER FTB 1912 Krogmann was killed in action in 1915 in Poland during World War I.
Nikolay Kynin RUS FTB 1912 †1916. Killed during World War I.
Ivan Laing GBR HOK 1908 †30 November 1917. With the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards he was killed in action in France during World War I and is buried in Metz-en-Couture Communal Cemetery British Extension.
Octave Lapize FRA CYC 1908 †14 July 1917. Killed when his plane was shot down near Verdun.
Béla Las-Torres HUN SWI 1908-12 †13 October 1915. Killed in action in Italy during World War I.
Henry Leeke GBR ATH 1908 †29 May 1915. Killed in action on the eve of his battalion's departure for Gallipoli.
Erich Lehmann GER ATH 1912 †9 July 1918. Listed as missing in action in World War I.
Feliks Leparsky RUS FEN 1912 †10 January 1917. Killed in action in World War I.
Bertrand Count de Lesseps FRA FEN 1908 †28 August 1918. Killed in action during World War I.
Ismaël de Lesseps FRA FEN 1908 †30 September 1915. Killed in action during World War I.
Paul Lüders GER BPO 1908 †25 February 1916. Killed in action in World War I in Verdun.
Eduard von Lütcken GER EQU 1912 †15 September 1914. Killed in action during World War I.
Georges Lutz FRA CYC 1908 †31 January 1915. Killed in action in World War I.
Willy Lützow GER SWI 1912 †1915. Killed in action during World War I.
William Lyshon USA WRE 1912 †13 October 1918. Killed in the final days of World War I.
Henry Macintosh GBR ATH 1912 †26 July 1918. Died from wounds sustained in the Second Battle of the Somme.
Duncan Mackinnon GBR ROW 1908 †9 October 1917. Killed in action at Ypres in the Battle of Passchendaele.
Gilchrist Maclagan GBR ROW 1908 †25 April 1915. Killed in action in Pilckem Ridge at the Second Battle of Ypres.
Jean de Mas Latrie FRA FEN/MOP 1908-12 †5 September 1914. Killed in action in World War I.
Leopold Mayer AUT SWI 1906 †21 September 1914. Killed in action during World War I.
Alphonse Meignant FRA ROW 1912 †4 November 1914. Killed at First Battle of Ypres during World War 1.
Robert Merz AUT FTB 1912 †30 August 1914. Killed in action during World War I.
Georg Mickler GER ATH 1912 †14 June 1915. Killed in action during World War I somewhere in Poland.
Felice Milano (DNS) ITA FTB 1912 †11 November 1915. Killed at the Fourth Battle of the Isonzo during World War I.
Percy Molson CAN ATH 1904 †5 July 1917. Killed in action when hit by mortar fire while attempting to rescue a fallen friend on the outskirts of Avignon France.
Alfred Motté FRA ATH 1908-12 †31 October 1918. Killed in action in World War I.
István Mudin HUN ATH 1906-08 †22 July 1918. Killed in action during World War I.
Edward Nash GBR EQU 1912 †21 February 1915. Killed in action during World War I.
Georges de la Nézière FRA ATH 1896 †9 October 1914. Killed in action during World War I.
Grigory Nikitin RUS FTB 1912 †1917. Killed during World War I.
Charles Oldaker GBR GYM 1908 †26 September 1915 Killed in action during World War I.at the Battle of Loos.
Harcourt Ommundsen GBR SHO 1908-12 †19 September 1915. A Lieutenant in the Honourable Artillery Company when he was killed at the Battle of Ieper in World War I.
Alan Patterson GBR ATH 1908-12 †14 March 1916. Commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery he was killed in action only two days after his 30th birthday.
Árpád Pédery HUN GYM 1912 †21 October 1914. Killed in action during World War I.
Jacques Person GER ATH 1912 †15 July 1915. From Alsace killed in action in Flanders as a member of the "7. Thüringische Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 96".
William Philo GBR BOX 1908 †7 July 1916. Killed in World War I during the battle of the Somme in France.
Hermann Plaskuda GER FEN 1912 †21 March 1918. Killed in action in World War I. His grave is in the war cemetary in St. Quentin France.
Léon Ponscarme FRA CYC 1900 †24 November 1916. Killed in action in World War I in Verdun.
Chris Porter (DNS) GBR FTB 1908 †4 June 1915. Killed in action at Gallipoli serving with the Manchester Regiment.
Bobby Powell CAN TEN 1908 Lieutenant in the 48th Canadian Infantry Battalion during World War I. Killed in action while fighting in France. Date and place unknown.
Kenneth Powell GBR ATH/TEN 1908-12 †18 February 1915. Killed in action while serving as a private in the HAC.
Friedrich Karl Prince von Preußen GER EQU 1912 †6 April 1917. During a flight on 21 March 1917 he was forced to land with a bullet in his engine and a slight wound to his foot. He landed his Albatros aircraft in no-man's land but while running towards his own lines he was severely wounded in the back by Australian troops. He was taken into Australian war captivity where he died from his injuries on 6 April 1917 at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray.
Reggie Pridmore GBR HOK 1908 †13 March 1918. Served as a major in the Royal Horse & Field Artillery winning a Military Cross on the Somme before being killed in action in Italy.
John Prosser (DNS) GBR FTB 1908 †27 May 1917. Killed in action on the Western Front during the Battle of Arras.
Joseph Racine FRA CYC 1912 †28 October 1914. With the 113th Regiment Infantry he was killed in action in World War I.
Thomas Raddall GBR SHO 1908 †9 August 1918. With the 8th Battalion Canadian Infantry Manitoba Regiment he was killed in action in France in World War I and is buried in the Manitoba Cemetery in Caix.
Maurice Raoul-Duval FRA POL 1900 †5 May 1916. Killed in action during World War I.
Gino Ravenna ITA GYM 1908 Killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp date unknown.
Josef Rieder GER CYC 1912 †13 July 1916. Killed in action during World War I.
John Robinson GBR HOK 1908 †23 August 1916. Commissioned into the North Staffordshire Regiment he was soon promoted to captain but died from injuries received in the Mesopotamian campaign.
Paddy Roche GBR ATH 1908 †7 June 1917. A lieutenant in the Royal Engineers he won an MC in World War I and was later killed in action.
Claude Ross ANZ ATH 1912 †19 August 1917. Killed in action in France.
Albert Rowland ANZ ATH 1908 †23 July 1918. Killed in action during the Second Battle of The Marne.
Marius Royet (DNS) FRA FTB 1908 †1915. Killed during World War I.
Maurice Salomez FRA ATH 1900 †7 August 1916. Killed in action in World War I.
Ronald Sanderson GBR ROW 1908 †17 April 1918. Killed in action near Ypres.
Ludwig Sauerhöfer GER WRE 1912 Sauerhöfer was killed in action during World War I (1914-18)
Heinrich Schneidereit GER TOW/WLT 1906 †30 September 1915. Killed in action as an artillery officer in France during World War I.
André Six FRA SWI 1900 †1 April 1915. Killed in action.
Pierre Six FRA FTB 1908 †7 July 1916. Killed in action during World War I.
Michel Soalhat FRA ATH 1906 †25 September 1915. Killed in action in World War I.
Robert Somers-Smith GBR ROW 1908 †1 July 1916. Killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Eberhard Sorge GER GYM 1912 †6 August 1918. Killed in action during World War I.
Alfred Staats GER GYM 1912 †22 October 1915. Killed in action during World War I.
Jenő Szántay HUN FEN 1908 †11 December 1914. Killed in action during World War I.
Géza Szegedy HUN ATH 1906 †1918. Killed in action during World War I.
Geoffrey Taylor CAN ROW 1908-12 †24 April 1915. Missing presumed killed during the Second Battle of Ypres.
Felix Tekusch (DNS) AUT FTB 1912 †21 May 1916. Killed in action during World War I.
Otto Thiel GER FTB 1912 Died during World War I
Waldemar Tietgens GER ROW 1900 †28 July 1917. Killed in action during World War I.
Dragutin Tomašević SRB ATH 1912 †1915. Killed in action during World War I in Serbia
Kostas Tsiklitiras GRE ATH 1906-12 †10 February 1913. Volunteered to fight in the Balkan Wars and fought at the Battle of Bizani where he contracted meningitis and died at the age of 24.
Justin Vialaret FRA FTB 1908 †30 September 1916. Killed in action in World War I.
Charles Vigurs GBR GYM 1908-12 †22 February 1917. With the 11th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment he was killed in action in France in World War I and is buried in the Maroc British Cemetery in Grenay.
Edmond Wallace FRA FEN 1900 †18 August 1915. Killed in action in World War I.
Rudolf Watzl AUT WRE 1906 †15 August 1915. Died from illness during World War I.
Arthur Wear USA TEN 1904 †6 November 1918. As a result of refusing to obtain proper treatment for a probable perforated duodenal ulcer he died still commanding his battalion during the Meuse-Argonne fighting.
Arthur Wilde GBR SHO 1908 †21 January 1916. With the 1st/6th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment he was killed in action in World War I and is buried in the Arras Memorial.
Tony Wilding ANZ TEN 1912 †9 May 1915. Joined the British army and was leading an armoured car unit when he was killed at Aubers Ridge during the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle.
Victor Willems BEL FEN 1908-12 †1918. Killed in action during World War I.
Edward Williams GBR ROW 1908 †12 August 1915. With the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards he was killed in action in France in World War I and is buried in the St. Venant Communal Cemetery.
Herbert Wilson GBR POL 1908 †11 April 1917. Was a captain with the Royal Horse Guards near Arras. Died in the preliminary skirmishes leading up to the Battle of Paschendaele in Ypres Belgium.
Richard Yorke GBR ATH 1908-12 †22 December 1914. Killed in action in World War I while serving as a sergeant in the London Scottish.
Heinrich Ziegler GER FEN 1912 Killed in action during World War I
Béla Zulawszky HUN FEN 1908-12 †24 October 1914. Killed in action during World War I.

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!