1948 French Rowing Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to cover French rowing mysteries from 1948. France had a large rowing contingent to the London Games, but we are missing a considerable amount of biographical data on the team. With so many members to cover, therefore, we feel that it is best to just jump right into this topic!

Gérald Maquat – Member of the coxed fours crew

In the past, we were very uncertain as to even Gérald Maquat’s real name, but now we know more about him than any other individual that we will be engaging today. Born July 15, 1912 in Switzerland, he won national championships in 1936 and 1941 and a European title in 1947, along with bronze in 1951. In 1948, he was a member of the coxed fours squad that was eliminated in the semifinals. Given his date of birth, he is definitely deceased, but we have been unable to locate when this occurred, perhaps because he moved back to Switzerland in his later years.

Marcel Boigegrain – Member of the coxed fours crew

Marcel Boigegrain was a teammate of Maquat in both his 1947 European Championship victory and his Olympic coxed fours squad. Contemporary reports of the former event list him as being 18 at the time, which means that he was born c. 1929. This may mean that he is still alive, or that he is the Marcel Lucien Boigegrain who was born July 26, 1929 and died September 12, 1986. Either way, we have been unable to confirm anything with certainty.

René Lotti – Member of the coxed fours crew

The most mysterious member of the Olympic coxed fours squad is René Lotti, who is listed as Jacques Lotti in many sources. We do know that he had a lengthy rowing career and at least some success in the international realm, as he won a bronze medal in the eights at the 1955 Mediterranean Games, but little else is certain. One candidate for his identity is Reno Lotti, born April 17, 1929, died December 29, 2020, but this is speculative as it would require his name having been incorrect in all contemporary reports (which, sadly, is not unheard of).

Aristide Sartor – Member of the coxed pairs crew

For Aristide Sartor, we have at least a date and place of birth, July 28, 1923 in Italy, and we know that he was the brother of Ampélio Sartor, one of his teammates. At the 1948 London Games, he took part in the coxed pairs and was eliminated in the semifinals. Beyond this, we know little about him, including when (and if) he died.

Roger Crezen – Member of the coxed pairs crew

The Sartor brothers’ third teammate was Roger Crezen, who has been listed incorrectly in the past as René Crezen. Aside from his Olympic results, we know little else other than that he was active as early as 1934 and is therefore likely deceased. A possible candidate is Jean-Joseph Roger Crézen, born April 16, 1911 and died April 1, 1995, but we have been unable to confirm a connection.

Robert Léon – Member of the coxed eights crew

Crezen was the cox of the pairs, while Robert Léon was the cox of the eights, which did not start in the round one repêchage and was thus eliminated from the tournament. This squad contains two of the currently oldest living Olympians, Roger Lebranchu and Philippe Fauveau, but unfortunately we know little about Léon. He was active in the early-to-mid 1930s, however, so it seems likely that he is deceased.

Pierre Clergerie – Member of the coxed eights crew

Finally, we have Pierre Clergerie, another member of the coxed eights squad. He too was active in the mid-1930s and therefore seems likely to be deceased. He also competed at the 1947 European Championships, but otherwise we have been able to discover little else about him.

Finally, before we end this entry, we would like to acknowledge and thank Muhammad Afsar Khan, who has provided us with information that has helped us solve some of our previous Olympic mysteries. Most notably, he informed us that Pakistani Olympic hockey medalist Habibur Rehman, whom we covered previously on this blog, died January 19, 1984. He also had information on the death of another hockey medalist, Latif-ur Rehman, who won medals for both India and Pakistan and died February 27, 1987, as well as others. We very much appreciate such contributions!

Tun Maung

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to provide a post on an interesting case, that of Tun Maung, who represented Myanmar/Burma in weightlifting at three consecutive editions of the Games. Thanks to some excellent research by Connor Mah, we know a lot about him, yet still he remains an Olympic mystery.

(Tun Maung, pictured on the left at the Mandalay Bodybuilding Hall of Fame)

Tun Maung, born September 30, 1931, got his start in international weightlifting at the 1951 Asian Games, and then attended the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as a featherweight, placing 14th out of 22 entrants. He won that division at the Asian Games in 1954, and took bronze at the World Championships that same year. In 1955 he switched to the lightweight category and was again third at the World Championships, before placing eighth at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He was later fourth at the 1958 Asian Games and failed to record a mark in the snatch at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

A member of the Burma Amateur Weight Lifting Federation, Tun Maung was also the runner-up to two-time American Olympic champion Tommy Kono in the 1954 Mr. Universe international bodybuilding competition held in Paris, and finished in third place at the Mr. Asia bodybuilding competition in 1951. By all accounts, he seems to have been one of most noteworthy strongmen from Burma in the 1950s.

(Video footage of Maung begins at 1:49)

Aside from a few of the usual uncertain aspects, such as his year of birth, which is sometimes seen as 1928, and whether or not he is living, there are some additional mysteries surrounding Tun Maung. The first is his name, which is complicated by a Burmese naming system that does not follow western structures, can change over time, and is often complicated by indigenous honorifics such as “U” and “Bo”, as well as foreign titles such as “Captain” and “Sergeant”, all of which have been used to refer to Tun Maung. In some databases, he is listed as Nil Tun Maung, although it remains unclear as to whether “Nil” is part of his name or just a shorthand to indicate that he has no surname in the western sense.

A final complication is Tun Maung Kwye, born October 15, 1931 in the same place as the other Tun Maung. This individual was always a featherweight weightlifter: he was 14th and 7th in that division at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics respectively, and came in 5th at the 1958 Asian Games. What connection between the two, if any, is unclear but their similarities in date and place of birth, as well as weight classes and periods of activity, suggests that there might be some confusion in their results. At least one source claims that there were only two weightlifters at the Melbourne Games, which would indicate that the two Tun Maungs were one and the same and somehow competed in two different weight classes at the same Olympics.

Whatever the case, we hope that you have found this blog interesting and we will be back in a week with another topic. We hope that you will join us! We also wanted to point out one removal of an Olympian thanks to Mah’s research that might have gone under the radar: Norwegian alpine skier Jack Nielsen, Jr., born October 7, 1923, died May 8, 2020 in Switzerland at the age of 96.

Egyptian Olympians from 1928

Recently at Oldest Olympians, the Egyptian delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Games has been on our mind because we discovered that one of the competitors, wrestler Ibrahim Sobh, later became known as a poet, and thus we were able to uncover more of his life story. We have also been wanting to feature some of the lesser-known competitors from this edition, and thus today we have decided to feature a few of the Egyptian participants for whom we lack dates of birth and death.

(Ali Kamel, left, and Ibrahim Kamel, right, pictured in Al-Ahram)

Ali Kamel – Member of Egypt’s wrestling delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Ali Kamel represented Egypt in the Greco-Roman, featherweight competition at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, where he lost his first bout, won his second match, and was then eliminated in round three by the upcoming gold medalist Voldemar Väli of Estonia. Domestically, he had a successful career and was one of Alexandria’s best-known wrestlers during the 1920s, winning several national titles, but unfortunately his common name has made it difficult to track any details of his later life.

Ibrahim Kamel – Member of Egypt’s wrestling delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Much the same can be said of Ibrahim Kamel, who competed in the Greco-Roman bantamweight wrestling event in 1928 and lost his first two bouts, leading to his elimination from the competition. Competing out of Giza’s Tersana Club, he was of no relation to Ali Kamel, but saw similar domestic success in the Cairo region. Furthermore, just like Ali, his common name has made it difficult to know his ultimate fate.

Saul Moyal – Member of Egypt’s fencing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

We know much more about fencer Saul Moyal, who represented Egypt in individual and team events in both foil and épée. The Egyptians were eliminated in the first round of the team foil and the quarterfinals of the épée, while individually Moyal was eliminated in the semifinals of the foil and placed 10th in the épée. He had better luck at the 1932 Maccabiah Games, where he won medals in all disciplines, and also performed well domestically, including being Egyptian foil runner-up in 1928 and third place in 1936. By career he was an employee of the Vacuum Oil Company of Cairo, but we have been unable to trace his activities after World War II.

(Mohamed Gamal)

There were also several members of the football team that we have been unable to uncover much information about, although some are relatively better known. Mohamed Shemais, for example, played with Tersana during the 1920s and was a member of the administrative committees for both the delegation to the 1948 London Olympics and the 1951 Mediterranean Games. He was still alive and living in Shubra, Cairo, in May 1960, although we have not been able to uncover his age at the time. Similarly, we know that El-Olympi player Mohamed Gamal was still alive and coaching in January 1949, but nothing further.

(Abdel Hamid Hamdi)

About other players, such as Ahmed Soliman and Abdel Hamid Hamdi, both of Al-Ahly, we know nothing. Furthermore, for at least one of the alternates on the team, Sid Ahmed, we do not even know what club he was a member of, or if there are errors in his name as presented by the relevant sources. Thus, as you can see, there is a lot to explore about the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, and so we hope that you will join us for future blogs as we continue to explore some of the lesser touched-upon aspects of these Games!

Missing Biographical Data from the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

After travelling back to 1904 for our last blog post, today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to approach an edition that is (relatively) more recent: the 1952 Helsinki Games. In particular, it was brought to our attention that out of all those who participated, only four are missing their complete birth data on Olympedia. Since there is more known in general about these athletes, given the era in which they competed, we felt that it would be worth featuring them here.

(Jehangir Naigamwalla, pictured on page 29 of the March 8, 1998 edition of The Times of India)

Jehangir Naigamwalla – Member of India’s water polo squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Jehangir Naigamwalla represented India in the water polo tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where his country was eliminated in the qualification round after being defeated by both Italy and the Soviet Union. He was also entered in swimming’s 200 metres breaststroke competition, but did not start. He had better luck at the 1951 Asian Games, where he won bronze medals in that event, as well as the 3×100 metres medley relay, and he was active in the postwar period until at least 1955. He was still alive in 1998, but unfortunately we have seen no updates since then and have no indication of his age.

(Juan Bizama, pictured at the Chilean National History Museum)

Juan Bizama – Member of Chile’s shooting delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Juan Bizama represented Chile in two small-bore rifle, 50 metres events at the 1952 Helsinki Games, placing 25th in the prone and 28th in the three positions. He had much better luck at the 1951 Pan American Games, where he took silver in the small-bore rifle, three positions team event and bronze in both the army rifle three positions and standing competitions. An army sergeant, he was active as early as 1940, but unfortunately we have been unable to locate any information about his age or activities after the 1950s.

(Karl Hofstetter, pictured in the archives of HC Olten)

Karl Hofstetter – Member of Switzerland’s field hockey squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Karl Hofstetter represented Switzerland in the field hockey tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where his country was eliminated by Austria in round one. A forward with HC Olten, we have been unable to uncover much else about him, as is often the case with individuals who participate in team sports. There is, however, certainly a possibility that he is still alive, and perhaps even under the age of 90.

Pradip Bose – Member of India’s cycling delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Games

Pradip Bose, born c. 1935, represented India in cycling’s road race at the 1952 Helsinki Games, but since no members of the team completed the course, they did not place in the event. Unfortunately, we know of no other results or life events, although he was aged only 17 at the Olympics, which means that he could very well still be alive.

Although these are the only four individuals completely missing biographical data for their birth, there are nearly 100 more competitors for whom only their year of birth is known and for whom their subsequent fate remains a mystery. With that in mind, it seems very likely that we will address this topic again sometime in the future, so we hope that you will join us!

The 1904 Gold Medal-Winning Tug-of-War Team

Today Oldest Olympians is going all the way back to the 1904 St. Louis Games, where the United States would have the largest number of athletes representing it until 1992. Of course, this is not too surprising when one considers that it was held in the midst of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and most of the competitors did not even know that they were taking part in the “Olympics”, as there were no official national delegations at the time. Thus Olympic historians have had to work hard in determining which events were Olympic and which were not and this had led to the appearance of many athletes whose identity is unknown, as they were not otherwise famous.

Milwaukee Athletic Club. Tug of War Olympic champions. [L-r, H. Seiling, C. Magnussen, P. Flanigan, B. Johnson, O.G. Olson]. [1904 Olympics]. [Louisiana Purchase Exposition]. LPE 917. Photograph, 1904. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. WF 0743. NS 16179. Scan © 2004, Missouri Historical Society.

One example that we have chosen to explore today is the Milwaukee Athletic Club’s gold medal-winning entry to the tug-of-war contest. Despite the team’s name, they were all actually members of the Columbian Knights Athletic Association in Chicago, which has made tracking them down even more difficult. One newspaper article stated that two of the members were originally from Milwaukee but had moved to Chicago, without specifying which ones. Despite the team’s victory in their event, the coverage in newspapers was relatively limited, without many identifying clues or sporting histories of the individual members. In terms of biographical data, only one, the Norwegian-born Conrad Magnusson, is complete.

(Oskar Gustave Olsen)

For two of the members, frequent contributors Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore have been able to at least identify a candidate. In addition to competing in the tug-of-war event, Oscar Olson was also one of four participants in the two-handed weightlifting event. Newspaper accounts seem to confirm that an O.G. Olsen was a member of the Sleipner Athletic Club (later known as the Norwegian-American Athletic Association) during the 1900s in Chicago, alongside Magnusson. Census research suggests that Oskar Gustave Olsen, born December 15, 1875 in Oslo and died December 5, 1962 in Chicago was likely the athlete. This Olsen was a machinist who had immigrated from Norway in 1881 and spent his life in Chicago. Although this Oskar Olsen’s picture resembles that of the Olympian, there is no concrete evidence tying the two together. 

(Henry Conrad Sieling)

Similarly, a later-in-life photo of Henry Conrad Sieling, born February 5, 1869 in Hanover Germany and died February 6, 1949 in Chicago resembles that of the Olympian Henry Seiling. He was a laborer who had lived in Chicago since immigrating as an infant, and research of census records suggests that he is a likely candidate, though we have not been able to verify this with certainty. As for Sidney Johnson (whose name is sometimes listed as “B. Johnson” or “B. B. Johnson”) and Patrick Flanagan (also spelled “Flannigan” in some sources), we have essentially nothing except for their photos above, due to their common names and lack of other mentions in newspapers. Olson, Magnusson and Johnson seem to have competed together again in a tug-of-war event at an athletics meet in Chicago under the Milwaukee Athletic Club banner in March 1905; this is the last certain mention that we have been able to find. Even though we have nothing to go on, however, we still wanted to share this as a reminder that even some of the most decorated American Olympians can be lost to obscurity, and we hope that at some time in the future we can uncover the stories of their lives once more.

1948 Iranian Olympic Boxers

Continuing our look into Iran at the 1948 London Olympics, we noted recently that one of the boxers, Emanoul Aghasi, died last month at the age of 90. Aghasi was much better known, however, as the father of Andre Agassi, one of the most successful tennis players in history. Emanoul, however, is the only one of the eight boxers that Iran sent to that edition for whom we know their ultimate fate. Today, therefore, we wanted to take a quick look into the other seven and share what little we do know about them.

(Ghasem Rassaeli, from a picture uploaded by Babak Bagheri)

For two, we know at least that they are deceased. George Issabeg, born November 9, 1930, was the only boxer who returned in Helsinki in 1952; he competed both times as a welterweight, but did not advance far. We do know that he is deceased but, unfortunately, we do not know when this occurred. A grave for a George Issabeik (another potential transliteration of his name), born December 18, 1930, who died November 8, 1990, can be found in Los Gatos Memorial Park in California, but unfortunately we cannot confirm that this is the Olympian. Frequent contributor Connor Mah also found evidence that flyweight Ghasem Rassaeli, who was eliminated in his first bout, is also deceased.

Jamshid Fani of Iran (left) and Armand Savoie of Canada compete in the featherweight boxing competition at Wembley, during the Olympic Games in London, 9th August 1948. Savoie won the match. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Jamshid Fani, left, pictured at Getty Images)

About the remaining team members, we know essentially nothing. The other boxers to be eliminated in their first match were featherweight Jamshid Fani and lightweight Masoud Rahimiha, while Eskander Shora (light-heavyweight), Hussain Tousi (middleweight), and Mohamed Jamshid Abadi (heavyweight) made it to round two before being eliminated in the next. Tousi, however, was the only one to actually win a match when he defeated Sweden’s Tore Karlsson; the others received a bye.

Unfortunately, that is all we have for today, but we wanted to post this entry as an extension of our previous one in the hopes that we can shed some more light on the Iranian delegation to the 1948 London Games. We hope that you will join us next time as we continue to explore the world of Olympic mysteries!

The 1948 Iranian Basketball Team

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to take a look into another country for whom we are missing significant amounts of data: Iran. Most of the information that we are missing comes from their first official foray into the Games in 1948. With so many names that deserve attention, we have decided to focus on the basketball squad for this post.

Two of the members of that team ended up becoming better known in other fields: Fereidoun Esfandiary later achieved fame as a transhumanist writer under the name of FM-2030, while Farhang Mohtadi had a lengthy career as an engineer at the University of Calgary and lived to the age of 94. Mohtadi was not the only nonagenarian on the team; Hossein Soudipour was 95 when he died in September 2017, as was Abolfazl Salabi when he died last year. We have complete information on many of the aforementioned individuals, as well as Ziaeddin Shademan, who died in Montreal in 2009 at the age of 85.

The mysteries begin with another claimant to longevity: Houshang Rafati. According to edits on Wikipedia, his family name was actually spelled Rafatjah and he was born on June 16, 1922 in Tehran. He later moved to Switzerland and died in Geneva on January 29, 2019, aged 96. Unfortunately, we have been able to verify this information.

(Hossein Soroudi)

For three other members, we at least know a year of death. Hossein Soroudi was not only a basketball player, but also a member of Iran’s national football team, a sport in which he represented his country at the 1951 Asian Games. We know that he died in 1992, but unfortunately do not have an exact date or a year of birth. Similarly, we know that Hussain Jabbar Zadegan died in July 1997 and Ferydoun Sadeghi in December 2005, but little else about either.

About the remaining four members, Asghar Ehssassi, Hossein Karandish, Hossein Hashemi, and Kazem Ashtari, we know nothing at all, not even whether or not they are still alive. They are among the many Iranian mysteries for whom language may very well be a critical barrier to our learning more. For example, we discovered that weightlifter Hussain Zarrini, born June 19, 1930, who represented the country in the featherweight division at the 1956 Melbourne Games, was still alive in December 2019, but in coma, and we have been unable to locate an update as to whether or not he pulled through. Thus we will very likely cover more Iranian Olympic mysteries in a future post.

Return of Olympic Missing Links

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to address a topic that we have not engaged in a while: a classic Olympic missing links post. These are individuals for whom we believe that we have a date of death, but cannot confirm that the information is accurate or connect it to the Olympian with certainty. We have accumulated many such cases over the last months and today we are going to feature five of them.

Arquímedes Arrieta – Member of Uruguay’s boxing delegation to the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Arquímedes Arrieta, born May 1, 1918, represented Uruguay in the featherweight boxing tournament at the 1936 Berlin Games, where he won his first-round bout against Sajiro Miyama of Japan, before losing to Great Britain’s Jack Treadaway in round two. According to Uruguay’s Civil Registration Index, an individual by this name died in 1937 in Montevideo. Unfortunately, there is no additional corroborating evidence (such as an age) to help prove that this was the Olympian, although we were unable to find any activity for the boxer after the Berlin Games, which makes it possible that the deceased individual and the Olympian were one and the same.

Tomás Vilanova – Member of El Salvador’s shooting delegation to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics

Tomás Vilanova, born January 18, 1925, represented El Salvador in two events at the 1968 Mexico City Games, coming in 49th in the rapid-fire pistol, 25 metres competition and 74th in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres tournament. He had more success at the 1950 Central American and Caribbean Games, where he captured one gold and one silver medal. We uncovered an announcement in tribute to a Tomás Vilanova Mayorga that suggests he died c. July 2007. Unfortunately, because we do not have enough information about the Olympian, we cannot connect him for certain to this notice, even though his full name is relatively uncommon.

Kamil Gampe – Member of Czechoslovakia’s modern pentathlon delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Kamil Gampe was one of three individuals to represent Czechoslovakia in the modern pentathlon at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, where he finished 35th and last. Although he has a name that is not common, we have been unable to find any additional information about him. The only reference to a Kamil Gampe outside of the Olympic context is to the son of Czech actress Milada Gampeová. Her son was born in 1903 and died in 1968, which would make him a candidate for the Olympian. Unfortunately, we have not been able to connect him to the Olympian or find any other information about him.

John Read – Member of Great Britain’s bobsleigh delegation to the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympics

John Read, born February 27, 1926, represented Great Britain in the four-man bobsledding event at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Games, where his squad placed 17th out of 21 total entrants. Like many bobsledders, information on Read is scarce, which is not helped by his relatively common name. There is an entry in the England and Wales Death Registration Index for a John Sidney Read who was born on the same day in Salisbury and whose death was registered in the second quarter of 2000. This seems very likely to be the Olympian but, without further confirmation, we cannot be certain.

Albert Piaget – Member of Switzerland’s field hockey team at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Albert Piaget, born April 13, 1928, represented Switzerland in the field hockey tournament at the 1960 Rome Olympics, where his country placed 15th out of the 16 entered teams. Domestically, he was a member of Urania Genève Sport. We found a (now-removed) obituary for an Albert Piaget who died in October 2009 and would have been the same age as the Olympian. Unfortunately, there was insufficient information to make the connection.

Finally, based off of some tips from Connor Mah, we were able to uncover the life story of one of the 1904 Mohawk Indian lacrosse team: Almighty Voice. Almighty Voice, also known as Jacob Jamieson or Jimerson, was born February 19, 1873 on the Cattaraugus Reservation in New York and died August 15, 1960 in Coldspring, New York. He had an extensive sporting career in his youth and was well-known at the Carlisle Indian School. We were also able to locate his photograph, which is presented above.

South Vietnamese Olympic Mysteries

An Olympic committee for South Vietnam was recognized in 1952 and, unlike its northern counterpart, it sent athletes to the Summer Games from 1952 through 1972, after which it participated only as part of a unified Vietnamese team. Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to look into the three members from those squads for whom we are missing even a year of birth, in order to shed some light on these oft-forgotten delegations.

Trung Trung Lê and Trần Gia Thu – Member of South Vietnam’s cycling delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Games

South Vietnam sent a road race team to the 1956 Melbourne Games, but as none of the competitors were able to complete the event, the squad did not place. We know that one member of the team, Ngô Thành Liêm, was born in 1926 and died in 1980. Another member of the team, Nguyễn Hw Thoa, was also born in 1926, but as we know nothing else about him, he remains on our “possibly living” list. For the other two members, we have only an approximation for the year of birth. Trung Trung Lê was likely born c. 1928, which would place him among the Oldest Olympians were he still alive. Trần Gia Thu, on the other hand, was born c. 1934, which would make him slightly too young, but without any additional information on the lives of these individuals, we cannot say anything further.

(Vũ and Hương at the 1972 Munich Olympics)

Hương Hoàng Thi – Member of South Vietnam’s sport shooting delegation to the 1972 Munich Games

Hương Hoàng Thi represented South Vietnam in the free pistol, 50 metres event at the 1972 Munich Games, where she placed 56th out of 59 entrants. We do not have even an approximation for her year of birth, but we do know that he was married to another competitor, Vũ Văn Danh, born April 17, 1926, who is on our list of “possibly living” Olympians. It is likely that she is of a similar age, and therefore possibly among the Oldest Olympians were she still alive.

While there are many Vietnamese Olympians for whom we are missing data, we will stop here for today, because we also want to share a few updates. Firstly, we wanted to thank the family of Australian athlete Ted Allsopp, born August 15, 1926, who confirmed that he is still alive at the age of 95! We were also able to solve some of our Olympic medal mysteries, largely due to the help of Connor Mah. Enrico Perucconi, born January 4, 1925, who won a bronze medal with the Italian 4×100 metres relay team at the 1948 London Games, was still alive when we covered him on our blog, but he unfortunately died July 15, 2020 at the age of 95. Raymond Robinson, born September 3, 1929, who won two cycling medals for South Africa at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, died January 4, 2018. Argentine boxers Francisco Risiglione and Eladio Herrera, who won bronze medals in boxing at the 1936 Berlin and 1952 Helsinki Games respectively, died July 28, 1999 and November 25, 2014 respectively. Finally, Mah was able to find evidence that French bronze medal-winning cyclist Roland Bezamat, born May 26, 1928, was still alive at least in 2012, which means for now he remains on our list of living Olympians.

1948 Swiss Olympic Mysteries

On Oldest Olympians, we have often mentioned that Switzerland is a nation missing lots of biographical data despite its extensive participation in the Games. This is particularly true of their delegation to the 1948 London Olympics, where nearly four dozen competitors are missing even a year of birth. While of course we cannot cover them all, we did want to highlight several cases raised by researcher and frequent contributor Connor Mah as being potentially alive.

The one about whom we know the most is Maria-Anna Erismann, who was eliminated in round one of the 100 metres freestyle swimming competition. Even then, we are uncertain about the spelling of her first name, which is seen as Marianna, Marianne and Maria. Regardless, we do know that she was active primarily in the 1950s and won at least one national championship in that decade, which suggests that she was relatively young at the 1948 London Games. Unfortunately, the trail ends after the 1950s.

(Walter Kunz)

There are at least two more swimmers in London who went on to win Swiss national championships in the 1950s. Walter Kunz was the Swiss champion in the 100 metres butterfly in 1954, but at the 1948 Olympics he competed in the 200 metres backstroke, where he was eliminated in round one. Also competing in that event, with the same result, was Hans Widmer, who seems to have begun his career shortly after World War II. He too was a Swiss national champion in the mid-1950s.

(Vera Hagemann)

In other sports, fencer Vera Hagemann was a national fencing champion in 1947 before representing Switzerland in the individual foil in London, where she was eliminated in round one. She was still active two years later when she became the first female fencer at a club in Lucerne. In rowing, Maurice Matthey was eliminated in the round one repêchage of the double sculls event at the 1948 Games. He was very successful later in life, becoming the president of the Swiss Rowing Federation in the 1960s. (His Olympic partner, Maurice Gueissaz, is also missing all of his Olympic biographical data, although he seems to have been a bit older).

(Walter Keller)

Finally, for some Olympians, we have very little information at all, but based on their names not appearing in Swiss papers until after World War II, we speculate that they may have been young enough at the Games to still be alive. Athlete Walter Keller, who was eliminated in the first round of both the 400 metres and the 4×400 metres relay, is one example. One runner in that relay, Karl Volkmer, born March 20, 1922, was still alive as recently as 2015. Another, Max Trepp, born June 30, 1924, is on our possibly living list. A second example is water polo player Heinrich Keller, who may be the only survivor of the Swiss team that was eliminated in round one.

Mah also sent us an update on Swiss bronze medal-winning fencer Willy Fitting, born January 25, 1925, whom we profiled previously as an Olympic medal mystery. As it turns out, based on research by Patrick Houda, Fitting died April 26, 2017 at the age of 92. We also want to send our appreciation to Deborah Chai, who confirmed that her father, Olympic field hockey player for Singapore Chai Hon Yam, whom we profiled previously on this blog, was born in 1927 and did die on December 7, 2017.

All the Olympic Stats You'll Ever Need