Matthew Best

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

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

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

Bob Lymburne

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

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

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

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

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

Yevgeny Saltsyn

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

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

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

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

Hana Bobková

Today on Oldest Olympians we are keeping our blog entry fairly simple. In the past, we have compiled lists of Olympic medal-winning athletes who are not known to be either alive or deceased. Today we have one more name to add to those lists: Hana Bobková.

Bobková, born February 19, 1929, represented Czechoslovakia in gymnastics at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where she earned a bronze medal in the team all-around. She also placed joint-sixth in the team portable apparatus, while her best individual finish was 27th in the individual bars. While this was her only Olympic appearance as a competitor, she later served as a referee at the 1960, 1968, 1972, and 1980 Games. By career, she coached gymnastics. We suspect that Bobkova is still alive, given her notability, but a combination of the language barrier, as well as the fact that her married name, Vláčilová, matches that of a famous dancer, means that we have been unable to confirm this for certain. If anyone has any additional information, it would be appreciated greatly.

In the meantime, thanks to a contribution from a user on Wikipedia, we have been able to solve one of our previous Olympic silver medal mysteries. Luciano Negrini, born June 22, 1920, who won a silver medal for Italy in the coxed pairs at the 1936 Berlin Games, died December 12, 2012 at the age of 92, according to a biography of his life that was published in a magazine recently. Negrini was the oldest Italian Olympic medalist about whom we had no information, and would have been the oldest living Italian Olympic medalist, ahead of fencer Roberto Ferrari, had he still been alive.

Last Verified Living in 2008

With the new year well underway, we here at Oldest Olympians felt that it was time to review those Olympians whom we believe to be still alive, but may have died unnoticed over the past year. As always, we begin with those whose last confirmation of being alive is the furthest away; in this case, three individuals who were last verified living in 2008, or over 10 years ago. Should no updated confirmation be forthcoming, we would have to remove them from our main table, and thus we decided it was best to dedicate a blog entry to them in the hopes of uncovering whether or not they are still with us.

(Pictured on the left at the archives of

Edna Maskell – Member of South Africa’s track and field delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Edna Maskell, born April 13, 1928, represented South Africa in the 100 metres sprint and the 80 metres hurdles at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and was eliminated in the second round of both events, as she was recovering from an appendix operation. She had far more success representing Northern Rhodesia at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, however, winning the 80 metres hurdles and coming in third in the 100 yards dash. She retired from active competition shortly thereafter to live a quiet life on a farm and, although a magazine did a feature on her for her 80th birthday, we have not heard anything about her since.

(Pictured at

Yoav Ra’anan – Israel’s lone Olympic diver

Yoav Ra’anan, born January 15, 1928, is the only diver to have represented Israel at the Olympics as of 2016. At the 1952 Helsinki Games he was 9th in the springboard and 30th in the platform, while in 1956 in Melbourne he was 22nd in the springboard and carried the national flag in the opening ceremony. He was most successful internationally in-between these two editions, as he won gold in the springboard and silver in the platform at the 1954 Asian Games. There are many hints and suggestions on the internet that he is still alive, but the last definite confirmation that we received comes from 2008.


(The 2008 award ceremony)

Léon Roth – Member of Luxembourg’s canoe/kayak delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Léon Roth, born September 10, 1926, represented Luxembourg in two kayak events at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, finishing 17th in the K-1 10,000 and being eliminated in round one of the K-2 1000. In June 2008, all surviving Luxembourgish athletes who attended the 1936, 1948, 1952, and 1956 Games were awarded the Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which was the last time we were able to confirm that Roth was still alive.


That is it for this week, but we hope that you will join us next time as we continue to blog about Olympic mysteries and explore the caveats and questions that are raised when building the most definitive list possible of the world’s oldest Olympians!

Olympic Missing Links, Part 14

Today we are concluding 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. This week, we are looking into all the cases that remain that did not quite fit into another one of our posts.


Robert Guillin – Member of France’s basketball delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Robert Guillin, born February 15, 1926, represented France in the basketball tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where the nation finished eighth. He had more success at Eurobasket, winning bronze medals with the team in 1951 and 1953. We uncovered a notice for a Robert Guillin who died November 11, 2013 at the age of 87, which would match up to the age of the Olympian. Unfortunately, the obituary provided no details that would help us confirm if the listed individual was indeed the basketball player.



(Roy Congreve’s obituary in The Sydney Morning Herald, May 28, 1994, pg. 99)

Roy Congreve – Member of Kenya’s shooting delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Roy Congreve, born April 16, 1913, represented Kenya in its inaugural appearance at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where he was 39th and 40th in sport shooting’s rifle, three positions, 50 metres and rifle, prone, 50 metres events respectively. We are familiar with a Roy Congreve, born May 3, 1913 in Wellington, New Zealand, who had a lengthy career as a surveyor in Kenya through 1938 through at least 1956 and died May 26, 1994 in Sydney, Australia. Given his service during World War II, we are almost certain that this Roy Congreve is the Olympian, but we lack the smoking gun to make the definitive connection.


Ghislain Delaunois – Member of Belgium’s fencing delegations to the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics

Ghislain Delaunois, born December 20, 1923, represented Belgium in six épée and foil events between the 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Olympics, with a best finish of joint-fifth in the team épée in 1956. He never won an international medal, and the only hints to his later life that we could uncover came from an anonymous Wikipedia edit, which claimed that he died on December 12, 1992. We have not, however, been able to confirm this as a fact.


And that’s a wrap for this topic! We are deeply grateful to those who took the time out to resolve some of the mysteries we posted and who uncovered new information. Not only did we solve cases thanks to their contributions, but the research we put into deciding who would be posted helped us answer other questions that never made it to the blog. Moreover, since nothing on the internet ever disappears, we hope that for those cases that remain mysterious, our blogging will help spread our research and help new information come to the light in the near future. For next week, however, we will have to come up with a new topic for the first time in a long time, and although we are not sure yet what it will be, we hope that you will join us!

Olympic Missing Links, Part 13

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. This week, we are looking into Switzerland, a nation that, like Austria last week, happens to have three mysteries left for us to discuss, and is a country that we have mentioned in the past as having Olympians about whom it can be surprisingly difficult to locate information.


Roger Rubini – Member of Switzerland’s weightlifting delegation to the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics

Roger Rubini, born January 25, 1920, represented Switzerland in middleweight and lightweight weightlifting at the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics, finishing well off the podium both times. He had more luck as a lightweight at the 1951 European Championships, where he earned a bronze medal. Years ago, we came across an obituary for a Roger Rubini who died in Switzerland in August 2007 but, without further collaborating information, we have only been able to speculate as to whether this was the Olympian.

(Pictured at

Hans Frischknecht – Member of Switzerland’s marathon team at the 1948 London Olympics

Hans Frischknecht, born December 31, 1922, was one of Switzerland’s top marathon runners during the 1950s, but his only Olympic appearance came at the 1948 London Games, where he failed to complete the race. He was also selected for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, but did not actually participate. At home, he won eight national championships between the marathon and the 10,000 metres, set several national records, and was elected Swiss Sportsman of the Year in 1955. He did not retire fully until 1975. Despite how well-known he was, we have found no definite indication of his death, just a brief notice that someone with his name and of the correct age died in 2001.

(Obituary at

René Wohler – Member of Switzerland’s basketball squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

René Wohler, born September 4, 1922, represented Switzerland at the basketball tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where the nation was eliminated in the qualifying round. He also took part in the 1946 and 1951 editions of EuroBasket, while domestically he suited up for Servette FC. Outside of basketball, we came across an obituary for a man of the same name, born in 1922, who died in January 2017, but with no corroborating details that would help us identify him definitively as the Olympian.

In terms of updates on Olympians that we have already discussed on this blog, we have learned, thanks to submissions from Connor Mah, that Canadian track and field bronze medalist Viola Myers died November 15, 1993 and Canadian equestrian Larry McGuinness was the same individual as the one who died December 27, 2017. He also suggested that the obituary we uncovered for Johnny Keller was likely not the Olympian of the same name, and that the Olympic Keller likely died in British Columbia in 1980, a lead that we will be following up. We also contacted the son of swimmer Dick Wyndham, who confirmed that the individual mentioned in the obituary we discussed was indeed in the Olympian.


That is our post for today, but we hope that you will join us next week, when we will be concluding this lengthy series by looking at the remaining Olympic mysteries that fall in this category. We hope that you will join us!

Olympic Missing Links, Part 12

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. This week, we are looking into Austria, a nation that happens to have three mysteries left for us to discuss.


Adam Bischof – Member of Austria’s field hockey squad at the 1948 London Olympics

Like many Olympic field hockey players, there is very little that we know about Adam Bischof, born October 13, 1915, other than the fact that he was a member of the Austrian field hockey team that was eliminated in the preliminary round of the tournament at the 1948 London Olympics, after losing one game and tying two. Without information on his club, coupled with his not entirely uncommon name, we have been unable to uncover more details, although Viennese cemetery records indicate that an Adam Bischof died in September 1977 at the age of 62, which would have made him only one year older than he Olympian. Without further corroborating evidence, however, we cannot make a certain determination that this individual is the Olympian.


Walter Niederle – Member of Austria’s field hockey squad at the 1948 London Olympics

Bischof’s teammate Walter Niederle, born February 17, 1921, is equally mysterious. With a much less common name, one might suspect that information on Niederle would be easier to come across, but the best we could find is another Viennese cemetery record that listed a Walter Niederle as having died on November 28, 1962 at the age of 42. Although in this case the age aligns correctly with the Olympian, we still do not possess independent confirmation that the two are one and the same.


(Pictured as the individual furthest to the back whose face is visible, according to RV Albatros)

Theodor Obrietan – Member of Austria’s coxed fours rowing squad at the 1948 London Olympics

Austria was represented by a team from RV Albatros, Klagenfurt in the coxed fours event at the 1948 London Olympics, where the squad was eliminated in the quarterfinals. There is little information on the team as a whole, with the only clue about the future lives of any of the members being a Find-A-Grave listing of a Theodor Obrietan who died in 2004 and was buried in Klagenfurt. Given the rarity of his name, we are fairly certain that this is the Olympian, although we cannot prove it with certainty without additional information.


That is all we have for today, but we hope that you will join us next week, as we journey ever closer to the end of this series!

All Olympic Doping Positives – the Count by Games

For those keeping score at home, here are the number of doping positives and disqualifications at the Olympic Games, that we know of (we = myself and @OlympicStatman). In total, there are 418 known cases.

Year City ###
2012 London 121
2008 Beijing 86
2000 Sydney 42
2004 Athínai 41
2006 Torino 19
2016 Rio de Janeiro 17
1996 Atlanta 13
1984 Los Angeles 12
2014 Sochi 12
1976 Montréal 11
1988 Seoul 10
1972 München 7
2002 Salt Lake City 7
1992 Barcelona 5
2018 PyeongChang 5
2010 Vancouver 3
1976 Innsbruck 2
1968 Ciudad de México 1
1972 Sapporo 1
1984 Sarajevo 1
1988 Calgary 1
1998 Nagano 1
Totals 418

An Update on London 2012 Doping Positives

There have been a number of tweets and other comments about the current number of doping positives from London 2012. Here are the correct numbers, to the best of our knowledge (our = myself and @OlympicStatman = Hilary Evans).

There have been 121 doping positives recorded from London 2012. 114 of these are confirmed and 7 of these are pending cases that are not fully confirmed yet.

Of the 121, 11 of these were original positives, that is, they were revealed during the London Olympics or at the time of those Olympics. Four (4) of them were pre-Games positives that were found in testing just prior to the Games with those athletes disqualified from competing. The remainder (106) of the positives have been found in re-testing.

Of the 121, 76 were in women, and 45 in men. Here are the nations that have been implicated:

NOC Doping Positives 2012
Russia 38
Ukraine 16
Belarus 12
Turkey 12
Kazakhstan 6
Moldova 4
Armenia 3
Azerbaijan 3
Morocco 3
Colombia 2
Georgia 2
Saudi Arabia 2
United States 2
Albania 1
Brazil 1
China 1
Spain 1
France 1
Italy 1
Latvia 1
Qatar 1
Saint Kitts and Nevis 1
Slovenia 1
Syria 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
United Arab Emirates 1

Note that 85 of the 121 are from countries derived from the former Soviet Union.

And here are the sports that have been involved:

Sport Doping Positives 2012
Athletics 80
Weightlifting 30
Cycling 3
Wrestling 3
Boxing 1
Gymnastics 1
Judo 1
Rowing 1
Swimming 1

Finally, here are the violations, including the drugs used and the other violations of the WADA code:

Violations / Drugs Doping Positives 2012
Biological passport offense 37
Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (Turinabol) 32
Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (Turinabol) and Stanozolol 14
Never announced 7
Erythropoietin (EPO) 5
Stanozolol (anabolic steroid) 4
Furosemide (Lasix) (diuretic = masking agent) 3
Methylhexanamine 2
Oxandrolone 2
Testosterone (anabolic steroid) 2
Blast-Off Red (ingredients are unclear) 1
Blood doping 1
Clenbuterol; Methandienone and Oxandrolone 1
Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (Turinabol) and Drostanolone 1
Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (Turinabol) and Ipamorelin 1
Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (Turinabol) and Tamoxifen 1
Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (Turinabol; Oxandrolone; and Stanozolol 1
Drostanolone and Stanozolol 1
Marijuana 1
Methandienone metabolite (anabolic steroid) 1
Methenolone and metabolites (anabolic steroid) 1
Oxandrolone and Stanozolol 1
Tampering with doping control samples 1

Of the announced violations (114), fully 50 of them are for Turinabol (dehydrochloromethyltestosterone = DHCMT), often combined with other drugs. Why Turinabol? Turinabol was developed in the former East Germany, by the pharmaceutical company Jenapharm. It was originally only detectable for a few days after administration, but a test developed in 2012 by Grigory Rodchenkov (a familiar name in the Russian doping scandal) enabled it to be detected for up to 50 days after administration. Thus, many athletes who thought they were safe in 2012 were later detected by the use of that test.

All the Olympic Stats You'll Ever Need