THE PHELPSIES

OK, its near the end of the year when end of year lists always come out. Its also near the end of the decade although so some would demur that that will not occur until the end of 2020. Nevertheless, its time for some recounting of the Olympians of the 21st Century.

We often provide all-time lists of top Olympians in terms of medals won, gold medals won, etc. But here we are restricting ourselves only to a series of lists for the 21st century, and then some lists for the 2010s – to see who the top Olympians have been since the turn of the millennium and for the last decade.

And yes, its virtually always Michael Phelps, of course, who won 28 medals and 23 gold medals in his Olympic career from 2000-2016. So in his honor, we will leave him off the lists and because its also getting close to that time when there are all sorts of awards show, we present to your “The Phelpsies” – the 15 top Olympians (and ties) of the 21st Century and the 2010s, other than that swimming guy from Baltimore.

We will give out The Phelpsies for men and women, but also will list separate categories for women and for Winter Olympians, because there are fewer events at the Winter Olympics, and because, until recently, women have had fewer Olympic events than man in which they could compete.

Note also that for the 2010s many of The Phelpsies are given to Winter Olympians. That’s because there have been 5 Olympics in each decade of the 21st Century, but in the 2000s there were 3 Summer Olympics (2000, 2004, 2008), while in the 2010s there were 3 Winter Olympics (2010, 2014, 2018).

THE PHELPSIES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

Marit Bjoergen

Most Medals – 21st Century

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

15

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

12

Ryan Lochte M S USA SWI

12

Natalie Coughlin F S USA SWI

11

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

11

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

9

Ian Thorpe M S AUS SWI

9

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

9

Leisel Jones F S AUS SWI

8

Usain Bolt M S JAM ATH

8

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

8

Bradley Wiggins M S GBR CYC

8

Nathan Adrian M S USA SWI

8

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

8

Inge de Bruijn F S NED SWI

8

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

8

Jason Lezak M S USA SWI

8

Katalin Kovács F S HUN CAN

8

Veronica Campbell-Brown F S JAM ATH

8

Dara Torres F S USA SWI

8

Apolo Anton Ohno M W USA STK

8

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

Embed from Getty Images

Most Gold Medals – 21st Century

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

8

Usain Bolt M S JAM ATH

7

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

6

Ryan Lochte M S USA SWI

6

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

6

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

6

Chris Hoy M S GBR CYC

6

Jason Kenny M S GBR CYC

5

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

5

Ian Thorpe M S AUS SWI

5

Bradley Wiggins M S GBR CYC

5

Nathan Adrian M S USA SWI

5

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

5

Aaron Peirsol M S USA SWI

5

Wu Minxia F S CHN DIV

5

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

5

Valentina Vezzali F S ITA FEN

5

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

5

Zou Kai M S CHN GYM

5

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

5

Georgeta Damian-Andrunache F S ROU ROW

5

Chen Ruolin F S CHN DIV

5

Anastasiya Davydova F S RUS SYN

5

Nataliya Ishchenko F S RUS SYN

5

Svetlana Romashina F S RUS SYN

Most Medals – 21st Century – Women

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

15

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

12

Natalie Coughlin F S USA SWI

11

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

9

Leisel Jones F S AUS SWI

8

Inge de Bruijn F S NED SWI

8

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

8

Katalin Kovács F S HUN CAN

8

Veronica Campbell-Brown F S JAM ATH

8

Dara Torres F S USA SWI

8

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

7

Wu Minxia F S CHN DIV

7

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

7

Valentina Vezzali F S ITA FEN

7

Libby Lenton-Trickett F S AUS SWI

7

Kati Wilhelm F W GER BIA

7

Petria Thomas F S AUS SWI

7

Kirsty Coventry F S ZIM SWI

7

Aliya Mustafina F S RUS GYM

Most Gold Medals – 21st Century – Women

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

6

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

5

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

5

Wu Minxia F S CHN DIV

5

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

5

Valentina Vezzali F S ITA FEN

5

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

5

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

5

Georgeta Damian-Andrunache F S ROU ROW

5

Chen Ruolin F S CHN DIV

5

Anastasiya Davydova F S RUS SYN

5

Nataliya Ishchenko F S RUS SYN

5

Svetlana Romashina F S RUS SYN

Most Medals – 21st Century – Winter Olympics

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

15

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

11

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

11

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

8

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

8

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

8

Apolo Anton Ohno M W USA STK

8

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

7

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

7

Kati Wilhelm F W GER BIA

7

Felix Gottwald M W AUT NCO

6

Janica Kostelić F W CRO ASK

6

Kevin Kuske M W GER BOB

6

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

6

Wang MenGold F W CHN STK

6

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

6

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

6

Eric Frenzel M W GER NCO

6

Claudia Künzel-Nystad F W GER CCS

6

Johan Olsson M W SWE CCS

6

Bode Miller M W USA ASK

6

Cindy Klassen F W CAN SSK

6

Anja Pärson F W SWE ASK

Most Gold Medals – 21st Century – Winter Olympics

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

7

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

6

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

5

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

5

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

4

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

4

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

4

Janica Kostelić F W CRO ASK

4

Kevin Kuske M W GER BOB

4

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

4

Wang MenGold F W CHN STK

4

André Lange M W GER BOB

4

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

4

Simon Ammann M W SUI SKJ

4

Dario Cologna M W SUI CCS

4

Tobias Arlt M W GER LUG

4

Jayna Hefford F W CAN ICH

4

Caroline Ouellette F W CAN ICH

4

Tobias Wendl M W GER LUG

4

Hayley Wickenheiser F W CAN ICH

THE PHELPSIES FOR THE 2010s

Most Medals – 2010s

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

13

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

12

Michael Phelps M S USA SWI

9

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

8

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

7

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

7

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

7

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

7

Nathan Adrian M S USA SWI

7

Aliya Mustafina F S RUS GYM

7

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

6

Usain Bolt M S JAM ATH

6

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

6

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

6

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

6

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

6

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

6

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

6

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

6

Sun Yang M S CHN SWI

6

Aly Raisman F S USA GYM

6

Ryan Lochte M S USA SWI

6

Eric Frenzel M W GER NCO

Most Gold Medals – 2010s

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

9

Michael Phelps M S USA SWI

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

6

Usain Bolt M S JAM ATH

5

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

5

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

5

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

5

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

5

Jason Kenny M S GBR CYC

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

4

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

4

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

4

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

4

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

4

Nathan Adrian M S USA SWI

4

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

4

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

4

Simone Biles F S USA GYM

4

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

4

Dario Cologna M W SUI CCS

4

Mo Farah M S GBR ATH

4

Laura Trott F S GBR CYC

4

Tobias Arlt M W GER LUG

4

Nataliya Ishchenko F S RUS SYN

4

Svetlana Romashina F S RUS SYN

4

Tobias Wendl M W GER LUG

Most Medals – 2010s – Women

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

13

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

9

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

7

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

7

Aliya Mustafina F S RUS GYM

7

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

6

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

6

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

6

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

6

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

6

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

6

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

6

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

6

Aly Raisman F S USA GYM

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

5

Simone Biles F S USA GYM

5

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

5

Tessa Virtue F W CAN FSK

5

Brittany Elmslie F S AUS SWI

5

Park Seung-Hui F W KOR STK

5

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce F S JAM ATH

5

Alicia Coutts F S AUS SWI

5

Stina Nilsson F W SWE CCS

5

Tiril Eckhoff F W NOR BIA

Most Gold Medals – 2010s – Women

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

5

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

5

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

5

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

4

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

4

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

4

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

4

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

4

Simone Biles F S USA GYM

4

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

4

Laura Trott F S GBR CYC

4

Nataliya Ishchenko F S RUS SYN

4

Svetlana Romashina F S RUS SYN

Most Medals – 2010s – Winter Olympics

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

13

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

9

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

8

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

7

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

7

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

7

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

6

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

6

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

6

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

6

Eric Frenzel M W GER NCO

5

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

5

Scott Moir M W CAN FSK

5

Tessa Virtue F W CAN FSK

5

Lee Seung-Hun M W KOR SSK

5

Martin Johnsrud Sundby M W NOR CCS

5

Johan Olsson M W SWE CCS

5

Park Seung-Hui F W KOR STK

5

Kjetil Jansrud M W NOR ASK

5

Stina Nilsson F W SWE CCS

5

Tiril Eckhoff F W NOR BIA

Most Gold Medals – 2010s – Winter Olympics

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

5

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

4

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

4

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

4

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

4

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

4

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

4

Dario Cologna M W SUI CCS

4

Tobias Arlt M W GER LUG

4

Tobias Wendl M W GER LUG

3

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

3

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

3

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

3

Eric Frenzel M W GER NCO

3

Scott Moir M W CAN FSK

3

Tessa Virtue F W CAN FSK

3

Maria Höfl-Riesch F W GER ASK

3

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

3

Marcus Hellner M W SWE CCS

3

Kamil Stoch M W POL SKJ

3

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

3

Charles Hamelin M W CAN STK

3

Jorien ter Mors F W NED SSK

3

Felix Loch M W GER LUG

3

Wang Meng F W CHN STK

3

Zhou Yang F W CHN STK

3

Johannes Høsflot Klæbo M W NOR CCS

1956 Pakistan Olympic Field Hockey Team

Today Oldest Olympians is taking a look into the Pakistani field hockey team that won the silver medal at the 1956 Melbourne Games, because this case contains elements of the different types of mysteries that we face while building our tables. While most of the players are either known to be deceased, or are too young to be among the Oldest Olympians, a few are right at home on the (digital) pages of this blog.

Our original objective with this post was simply to cover a silver medal mystery that we had missed previously. Habibur Rehman, born August 15, 1925, is the only medalist on the team over 90 about whom we are uncertain as to whether or not he is still alive. In addition to his silver from 1956, he was also with the squads that finished fourth at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and won a gold medal at the 1958 Asian Games. Despite these accomplishments, we have been unable to ascertain if Rehman, who would be 94, is alive or deceased.

(Aziz Malik)

We then noticed that one of the alternates on the team, Aziz Malik, was actually an Olympian in his own right. Although he did not receive a medal in 1956, because he did not actually play in any of the matches, he was a starter for Pakistan at the last two editions, in 1948 in London and 1952 in Helsinki, both times of which his country finished just off the podium in fourth. His date of birth is usually listed as April 16, 1916, although some sources have the year as 1918 instead. Regardless, we could not find any confirmation of his living status, so he is also an Olympic mystery, just not officially a medal one.

Then there was the case of another alternate, Zafar Hayat, who was a non-playing reserve not only in 1956, but also in 1960 in Rome, when Pakistan finally earned its first field hockey gold medal. It was not until 1964 in Tokyo, when Pakistan was relegated back to silver, that Hayat earned an Olympic medal officially. Two years earlier, however, he had taken gold with the national team at the 1962 Asian Games. Complicating Hayat’s case is his uncertain year of birth: while some sources list him as being born on March 31, 1927, others have him as being born in 1937. Despite the decade-long gap, neither date would be outside of the realm of possibility for his career for a field hockey player of this era, and thus we cannot be certain if he even qualifies as among the Oldest Olympians yet. Regardless, we have no information on whether or not he is still alive.

Finally, in terms of alternates, there were two other reserves on the 1956 squad about whom we know nothing: Muhammad Amin and Muhammad Nasib. We know of no other results from them in any international tournaments, and do not have even a year of birth for either; given how little attention such reserves receive, we cannot even be certain that their names are correct. Our list of “possibly living” oldest Olympians only takes into consideration Olympians without a date of birth when they competed prior to World War II, because otherwise we cannot be certain that they would have even reached the age of 90 yet. The reality is, however, that many postwar alternates would now be well over 90 if still alive, especially in a sport such a field hockey. Amin and Nasib, therefore, add to the mystery surrounding the 1956 Pakistani Olympic field hockey squad.

Thus this case study highlights the many difficulties and caveats that plague our research here at Oldest Olympians. Still, it is work that we enjoy and such mysteries keep us on our toes, so we always enjoy sharing some of what goes on behind the scenes in order to add additional transparency and, we hope, credibility to our ultimate results.

Amit Singh Bakshi

Today on Oldest Olympians we are looking at a gold medal mystery of a different kind. The case of Indian field hockey player Amit Singh Bakshi is one where the mystery does not come from whether or not he is alive, as we have evidence that he was still living in 2012 and have no reason to believe that he has since died. Instead, our confusion comes from not being certain exactly how old he is.

(Photograph of the 1956 Indian Olympic hockey team from bharatiyahockey.org)

A member of New Delhi’s Services Sport Control Board, Bakshi was originally a backup player on the Indian field hockey squad that was chosen for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. After teammate Gursewak Singh was declared medically unfit, however, Bakshi was moved up to a starting player. He only appeared in one of India’s five games on their way to earning their sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal, however, a 16-0 blowout of the United States in the group stage. By career, he was a commercial airline pilot.

The mystery comes from conflicting sources regarding his age. The 1956 Olympic report gives a year of 1936, while the 2012 article confirming that he was alive lists him as 87 years old, making him born in either 1924 or 1925 and suggesting that the Olympic report was not simply a typo for 1926. Due to the fact that he was not a prominent international player, no other sources provide more depth or additional clarification. He may, therefore, be one of the oldest Indian Olympians, third only to water polo player Gora Seal and triple field hockey champion Balbir Singh Sr. On the other hand, he may not even be in his mid-80s. With so much uncertainty about Indian Olympians of this era, it may be difficult to ascertain exactly when he was born, but we felt it worth noting him as an important caveat to our lists.

Wally Hayward

Some time back, when noting the death of Nigerian track athlete Karim Olowu, we here at Oldest Olympians were discussing the longest-lived African Olympians. Based on some research that we have done in the interim, we believe that the distinction of longest-lived Olympian goes to South African marathoner Wally Hayward.

Hayward, born July 10, 1908, was already an established runner in his early 20s. In 1938, he earned his most notable international prize by taking bronze in the six-mile race at that year’s British Empire Games. It was after World War II, however, that he reached the pinnacle of his career. In 1952, he was selected to represent South Africa in the marathon at the Helsinki Olympics, where he finished 10th out of 66 starters. The following year, he won his country’s 90-kilometer Comrades Marathon for the fourth of five times and set world records at 50 and 100 miles, as well as the 24-hours race. He continued racing into his 80s, not stopping for good until 1989. A marathon in South Africa was named in his honor.

By career Hayward was an engineer and he served in that capacity during World War II, winning the British Empire Medal for bravery during the conflict. He died on April 27, 2006, at the age of 97 years, 291 days, making him the longest-lived African Olympian that we know about. For the sake of comparison, the current oldest living African Olympian is Mohamed Selim Zaki, born July 16, 1924, who recently turned 95. There is nothing mysterious about Hayward, but we did want to make a brief post about him here at Oldest Olympians, not only to tie up a loose end from an earlier post, but, as always, to celebrate the achievements of a distinguished sportsman and his contributions to the Olympic movement.

Eisstockschießen (Ice Stock Sport)

Eisstockschießen in action

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to take a quick peek at a sport that, at least in the English-speaking world, is little known, but has twice appeared at the Games as a demonstration event: Eisstockschießen, translated into English as ice stock sport. There are two main variants of the game, but the procedure is similar to curling in both instances: sliding a rock (in this case, known as an ice stock) across the ice towards a specific goal. In target shooting, the objective is to get as close to the target as possible. In distance shooting, the objective is to throw the ice stock as far as possible. It was played as a demonstration sport at both the 1936 and 1964 Winter Olympics.

As you might imagine, our interest lies primarily in the former tournament. Given the obscurity of the sport, at least in English-speaking countries, there is not a lot of information on most of the competitors, not even dates of birth. This means that the majority of the participants are listed on our list of “possibly living alternates and demonstration event competitors”. While we have been able to eliminate a handful of them as being still living, either based on precise information that we have found or dates of previous competition that are too early for them to still be alive, the possibility that some of these players are still with us is not outside the realm of possibility. In fact, there are well over 100 of them on our list, from three different countries: Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.

In terms of why we are blogging about this, there is always the importance of  broadening the search for obscure information so that we may be able to find somehow who can help cross off a few names. There are, for example, some Olympic missing links. The website for Eisstock-Club Bad Reichenhall, for example, lists a Kaspar Knoll as being born on June 11, 1920 and dying on May 5, 2007. A Kaspar Knoll also participated in the 1936 Games for the same club, and while this might seem a bit young for an Olympian, the age range for this sport is quite large, just as it is in curling. On the other end of the age scale, the Olympian Matthäus Maucher might be this man, who died in 1957, both of whom have connections to Oberstdorf. We cannot even be certain of the spelling of names; a Helmut Müller-Leuthert supposedly participated in 1936 with Gießener Eisverein. Is he actually Helmut Müller-Leutert, an artist who was born and died in Giessen and lived from September 15, 1892 to December 5, 1973, who otherwise has no known connection to the sport?

More importantly, however, we wanted to shed some light on this obscure piece of Olympic history to remind our readers that there is nothing that we take for granted. It might seem unnecessary to keep track of demonstration sport competitors who are almost certainly deceased, but we find it important to perform our due diligence in this regard and stand behind the accuracy of our data. An individual’s contribution to the Olympic movement, no matter how small, is always worth noting, particularly if they are a living link to an almost forgotten past.

Japan’s Oldest Olympians

Today Oldest Olympians is taking a look at Japan. Despite having a reputation as a country for longevity, as well as a lengthy and prolific history at the Olympics, we have been able to identify only one definite centenarian among their Olympians: Seibo Kitamura, an art competitor at the 1932 Los Angles Games. We wanted, therefore, to take a closer look at some of Japan’s oldest Olympians.

(Uto, pictured on the right, on the Olympic podium)

The first case that might come to mind is that of Shunpei Uto, born December 1, 1918, who won two swimming medals for Japan at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In the 400 metres freestyle he took silver, while in the 1500 metres freestyle he earned bronze. Until recently, we listed him as not only among our oldest Olympians, but also as Japan’s first centenarian Olympian in a physical sport. Unfortunately, however, we learned from journalist Ayako Oikawa, who undertook much research on this subject, that Uto had actually died several years ago, sometime in the 2010s, and never reached the age of 100.

(Shibata, pictured on the left, at a ceremony of the Olympians Association of Japan)

Once we learned this, our next idea was to see if anyone had been named as Japan’s oldest Olympian recently. While this distinction can sometimes be misapplied, it is often an excellent departure point for further research. The last title-holder that we were able to find, however, was from back in 2006, when the media covered Umetaro Shibata, a rower who took part in the coxed fours event at the 1932 Los Angles Games. His age varied across several reports, and we do not have even a year of birth for him in our database, but he was born c. 1909 and was in his mid-to-late 90s at the time. We could not find any updates beyond 2006 and, while he is certainly deceased by now, it remains an open question as to whether or not he reached the age of 100.

Finally, we come to our latest candidate, track athlete Etsuko Komiya, who represented Japan in the 100 metres event at the 1936 Berlin Games. Komiya was born on October 27, 1919 and would therefore have turned 100 recently if still alive, but unfortunately the last update we have on her is from 2012. With no evidence of her death, we have listed her tentatively as alive, but she will be removed from our lists on her 101st birthday if there are no further updates.

Unless and until Komiya is confirmed as having reached the age of 100, therefore, Seibo Kitamura, born December 16, 1884, will remain Japan’s lone centenarian Olympian. Kitamura, who took part in the sculpture contest at the 1932 Los Angles Games, is best known as the creator of the Peace Statue in Nagasaki’s Peace Park, a commemoration of the 1945 atomic bombing of that city during World War II. He died on March 4, 1987, at the age of 102 years, 78 days.

Finally, we wanted to end with two updates to previous cases. Thanks to his children, we have been able to confirm that the Morgan Plumb whom we profiled earlier this year was indeed the Canadian Olympic wrestler. We also want to thank Sven Buren, who found an article confirming that French bronze medal-winning cyclist Claude Rouer was still alive in 2017 and therefore among the oldest living Olympians. We are always grateful to those who take the time out to help us solve Olympic mysteries!

More Medal Mysteries

Over the last few weeks, Oldest Olympians has been taking a look at Olympic missing links. One of them, South African boxer Dries Nieman, was also a medal mystery, as he took bronze in the heavyweight tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Continuing on that theme, we wanted to look into two Olympians who would have recently turned 90 if they were still living, but for whom we could not find any evidence of their being alive recently.

(Rouer, pictured at Cycling Archives)

Claude Rouer – Bronze medalist for France in the team road race at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Claude Rouer, born October 25, 1929, reached the pinnacle of his cycling career at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where he won a bronze medal in the team road race with the French squad. Individually, he had been 23rd and, at the national level, he had been the runner-up in the road race that same year, behind his Olympic compatriot Jacques Anquetil. From 1953 through 1955 he was a professional rider, and in his first year earned the lanterne rouge as the final finisher of that the Tour de France. Despite the notoriety that these achievements brought, we have been unable to find much information about his post-racing life, and thus do not know whether or not he is alive.

Jim Hill – Silver medalist for the United States in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres competition at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Jim Hill, born October 30, 1929, was even more prominent in the sporting world. Hill’s only Olympic appearance came at the 1960 Rome Games, where he took silver in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres competition and was 24th in the same event at three positions. He was even more successful at the 1962 World Championships, where he won silver in the team prone event, bronze individually, and bronze in the team kneeling competition. A member of the United States Marine Corps, he also earned several national distinctions, and thus we believe our difficulty in determining whether or not he is still alive stems from the commonality of his name, rather than an actual dearth of information on him. We believe, therefore, that he is most likely still alive, but we cannot prove it.

Yet More Olympic Links Part III

Today we conclude the series that we revived two weeks ago by once again looking at cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As always, we present them here not only in the hopes of solving some of these cases, but to continue our commitment to transparency in our research.

(Grave of a Kurt Bryner born in 1916 who died in 1984 from Find-A-Grave)

Kurt Bryner – Member of Switzerland’s sailing delegations to the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics

Kurt Bryner, born October 9, 1916, twice represented Switzerland in Star class sailing at the Olympics, both times with his brother Hans. In 1948 they were 15th among 17 teams, while in 1952 they came in 9th in a larger field of 21. Like many sailors, this is the extent of our knowledge on his career, but we do know that his brother died in Milano in the 2000s. We located the record of a grave in Cape Verde for a Kurt Bryner, born 1916, who died in 1984. Given that his brother left Switzerland later in life, there is no reason not to suspect that this may be a marker for the Olympian but, unfortunately, we do not have enough proof to make that conclusion.

Hermann Dür – Member of Switzerland’s equestrian delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics

Active in the 1970s, Hermann Dür, born June 23, 1925, represented Switzerland in the dressage tournament at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where he came in 7th with the national team and 21st individually. The following year, he was a bronze medalist in the team dressage at the European Championships, and he then earned another bronze medal in that event at the 1974 World Championships. Our research located a man with the same name and birth year who died in 2015, but unfortunately there were no additional details to corroborate a claim that this man was the Olympian.

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

Dries Nieman, born September 11, 1927, won a bronze medal for South Africa in heavyweight boxing at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, after losing in the semifinals to upcoming champion Ed Sanders. He turned professional after the Games and had some success, although few bouts, over the next four years. On November 10, 1956, he fought Johnny Arthur, the 1948 Olympic bronze medalist, for the South African Heavyweight Title, but lost and then retired with a record of 8-2-0. Several Wikipedia articles have him dying on August 13, 2009, but we believe that this may be based on a report of an Andries Nieman born August 12, 1927 who died on that date. Regardless, we have no evidence of the Olympian being alive in recent years, which makes Nieman both an Olympic missing link and a bronze medal mystery.

(Laurent Bernier pictured in his obituary)

Finally, we like to end with a story that has been resolved if we can, and today we have one. We previously covered Laurent Bernier, a ski jumper who represented Canada at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics, suggesting that he had possibly died on April 27, 1998. This, however, was based on the idea that he was born December 22, 1928, and it turns out that he was actually born in 1921. This in turn led to an obituary that demonstrated that he had in fact died August 13, 2007, making it the first mystery that we have featured that was resolved in a different fashion than presented. That’s all we have for today, but we hope that you will join us next week as we bring you more Olympic mysteries!

Tokyo 2020 – How Hot Is It?

At the 2020 Olympic Games, we’ll all supposedly be saying that “Tokyo is hot.” How hot is it, Johnny Carson aficionados might ask. Below is a little historical perspective on how hot the Olympic Games host cities have been during their Olympic months. Here are the stats for all the previous summer Olympics, in terms of the average temperatures during the Olympic months.

Year City NOC OMAHT OMMHT OMMT OMMLT OMALT
1896 Athina GRE 40 (105) 20 (68) 16 (60) 12 (53) 10 (50)
1900 Paris FRA 40 (105) 25 (77) 21 (69) 16 (60) 6 (43)
1904 St. Louis USA 43 (110) 31 (88) 26 (78) 21 (69) 8 (47)
1906 Athina GRE 40 (105) 25 (77) 21 (69) 16 (60) 10 (50)
1908 London GBR 37 (98) 24 (74) 19 (65) 14 (57) 7 (47)
1912 Stockholm SWE 36 (97) 22 (71) 17 (63) 13 (56) 4 (40)
1920 Antwerpen BEL 35 (95) 23 (73) 19 (66) 15 (59) 6 (43)
1924 Paris FRA 40 (105) 25 (77) 21 (69) 16 (60) 6 (43)
1928 Amsterdam NED 32 (90) 22 (72) 17 (64) 12 (54) 5 (41)
1932 Los Angeles USA 41 (106) 29 (84) 24 (74) 18 (64) 9 (49)
1936 Berlin GER 38 (100) 24 (75) 19 (67) 14 (58) 5 (42)
1948 London GBR 37 (98) 24 (74) 19 (65) 14 (57) 7 (47)
1952 Helsinki FIN 33 (92) 22 (71) 18 (64) 14 (58) 5 (42)
1956 Melbourne AUS 41 (106) 22 (72) 19 (66) 11 (52) 3 (37)
1960 Roma ITA 38 (99) 27 (80) 21 (69) 15 (59) 8 (48)
1964 Tokyo JPN 33 (91) 22 (71) 18 (64) 14 (58) -1 (31)
1968 Ciudad de México MEX 29 (84) 23 (73) 17 (63) 11 (52) 0 (32)
1972 München FRG 30 (86) 19 (66) 14 (57) 9 (48) 0 (32)
1976 Montréal CAN 36 (96) 25 (77) 21 (69) 17 (62) 6 (43)
1980 Moskva URS 38 (101) 24 (76) 19 (67) 14 (58) 1 (34)
1984 Los Angeles USA 41 (106) 29 (84) 24 (74) 18 (64) 9 (49)
1988 Seoul KOR 35 (95) 26 (78) 21 (70) 17 (63) 3 (38)
1992 Barcelona ESP 33 (91) 29 (83) 24 (76) 20 (68) 12 (53)
1996 Atlanta USA 41 (105) 32 (89) 27 (80) 22 (71) 12 (53)
2000 Sydney AUS 35 (95) 20 (68) 15 (60) 11 (52) 5 (41)
2004 Athina GRE 40 (105) 34 (93) 29 (84) 24 (75) 10 (50)
2008 Beijing CHN 38 (101) 30 (86) 26 (78) 21 (69) 11 (53)
2012 London GBR 37 (98) 24 (74) 19 (65) 14 (57) 7 (47)
2016 Rio de Janeiro BRA 36 (97) 26 (78) 22 (71) 19 (66) 11 (51)
2020 Tokyo JPN 39 (102) 31 (87) 26 (80) 23 (73) 15 (60)

Legend: OMAHT = Olympic month absolute high temperature, OMMHT = Olympic month mean high temperature, OMMT = Olympic month mean temperature, OMMLT = Olympic month mean low temperature, OMALT = Olympic month absolute low temperature. The temperatures are all given in degrees as “Celsius (Fahrenheit)”.

Here are the cities ranked from hottest to lowest during their Olympic months, in terms of the mean (average) high temperature

Year City NOC OMMHT OMMT OMMLT
2004 Athina GRE 34 (93) 29 (84) 24 (75)
1996 Atlanta USA 32 (89) 27 (80) 22 (71)
1904 St. Louis USA 31 (88) 26 (78) 21 (69)
2020 Tokyo JPN 31 (87) 26 (80) 23 (73)
2008 Beijing CHN 30 (86) 26 (78) 21 (69)
1932 Los Angeles USA 29 (84) 24 (74) 18 (64)
1984 Los Angeles USA 29 (84) 24 (74) 18 (64)
1992 Barcelona ESP 29 (83) 24 (76) 20 (68)
1960 Roma ITA 27 (80) 21 (69) 15 (59)
1988 Seoul KOR 26 (78) 21 (70) 17 (63)
2016 Rio de Janeiro BRA 26 (78) 22 (71) 19 (66)
1900 Paris FRA 25 (77) 21 (69) 16 (60)
1906 Athina GRE 25 (77) 21 (69) 16 (60)
1924 Paris FRA 25 (77) 21 (69) 16 (60)
1976 Montréal CAN 25 (77) 21 (69) 17 (62)
1980 Moskva URS 24 (76) 19 (67) 14 (58)
1936 Berlin GER 24 (75) 19 (67) 14 (58)
1908 London GBR 24 (74) 19 (65) 14 (57)
1948 London GBR 24 (74) 19 (65) 14 (57)
2012 London GBR 24 (74) 19 (65) 14 (57)
1920 Antwerpen BEL 23 (73) 19 (66) 15 (59)
1968 Ciudad de México MEX 23 (73) 17 (63) 11 (52)
1928 Amsterdam NED 22 (72) 17 (64) 12 (54)
1956 Melbourne AUS 22 (72) 19 (66) 11 (52)
1912 Stockholm SWE 22 (71) 17 (63) 13 (56)
1952 Helsinki FIN 22 (71) 18 (64) 14 (58)
1964 Tokyo JPN 22 (71) 18 (64) 14 (58)
1896 Athina GRE 20 (68) 16 (60) 12 (53)
2000 Sydney AUS 20 (68) 15 (60) 11 (52)
1972 München FRG 19 (66) 14 (57) 9 (48)

As you can see, Tokyo does not project to be the hottest Olympic Games on record. In fact, recent Games, notably Athina 2004 and Atlanta 1996 were both hotter. Granted, Athina was a relatively dry heat, but Atlanta’s humidity is almost exactly the same at Tokyo. Beijing 2008 and Los Angeles 1984 were also close to the same temperature as Japan, albeit both with less humidity.

Note that in the chronological listing of summer Olympic cities, the cooler cities were in the early years of the 20th century, for the most part, back when the Games were usually held in northern Europe.

Also note Tokyo 1964, when the Games were held in October, against Tokyo 2020. The average high in 2020 should be 31° C. (87° F.), while in 1964 it was 22° C. (71° F.). This is also true of other Games held in the autumn, as both Ciudad de México (MEX-1968) and Seoul (KOR-1988) can be quite warm, but holding those Games in September-October mitigated problems with the heat.

The marathon is the event of most concern, although the race walks, especially the 50 km will also be affected. These are the starting dates and times for the Olympic marathons since 1896.

Year Class Event Date Time
1896 Men Marathon 10 April
1900 Men Marathon 19 July 1430
1904 Men Marathon 30 August
1906 Men Marathon 1 May 1505
1908 Men Marathon 24 July 1433
1912 Men Marathon 14 July 1348
1920 Men Marathon 22 August 1612
1924 Men Marathon 13 July 1700
1928 Men Marathon 5 August 1514
1932 Men Marathon 7 August 1530
1936 Men Marathon 9 August 1500
1948 Men Marathon 7 August 1500
1952 Men Marathon 27 July 1525
1956 Men Marathon 1 December 1515
1960 Men Marathon 10 September 1730
1964 Men Marathon 21 October 1300
1968 Men Marathon 20 October 1500
1972 Men Marathon 10 September 1500
1976 Men Marathon 31 July 1730
1980 Men Marathon 1 August 1715
1984 Men Marathon 12 August 1715
1984 Women Marathon 5 August 800
1988 Women Marathon 23 September 930
1988 Men Marathon 2 October 1435
1992 Men Marathon 9 August 1830
1992 Women Marathon 1 August 1830
1996 Women Marathon 28 July 705
1996 Men Marathon 4 August 705
2000 Women Marathon 24 September 900
2000 Men Marathon 1 October 1600
2004 Men Marathon 29 August 1800
2004 Women Marathon 22 August 1800
2008 Men Marathon 24 August 730
2008 Women Marathon 17 August 730
2012 Men Marathon 12 August 1100
2012 Women Marathon 5 August 1100
2016 Men Marathon 21 August 930
2016 Women Marathon 14 August 930

As you can see the recent trend has been to run the Marathon either in the morning or the early evening to lessen the effects of the heat. In the early years of the Summer Olympics, when they were usually held in Northern Europe, the marathon was often run in the afternoon.

What about Hokkaido, the northernmost island in the Japanese archipelago, which has been proposed as the site for the 2020 Olympic marathons? The average mean temperature there in August is about 26° C. (79° F.). Better than Tokyo, but still warm if run in midday.

So Tokyo will be hot, but not unheard of for recent Olympic Games. As the world seems to be getting hotter, the effects of always holding the Olympics in July-August, in an effort to avoid competing with the NFL on television in the United States, may make choosing Olympic host cities more difficult in terms of safety for the athletes.

Yet More Missing Olympic Links, Part II

Continuing the series that we revived last week, today Oldest Olympians is once again looking at cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As always, we present them here not only in the hopes of solving some of these cases, but to continue our commitment to transparency in our research.

Julían Velásquez – Member of Argentina’s fencing delegation to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Julían Velásquez, born December 7, 1920, was a member of Argentina’s sabre fencing team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which was eliminated in round one of the tournament. He had better luck at the 1963 Pan American Games, where he took home a silver medal with the sabre team. This is the extent of what we know about him, but a user on Wikipedia added a date of death of November 12, 2010 and a place of death of Buenos Aires to his article. Unfortunately, we have been unable to confirm this in other sources.

Herman Kunnen – Member of Belgium’s track and field delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Herman Kunnen, born March 28, 1925, was a three-time Belgian national champion in the 400 metres, from 1946 through 1948. During that time, he was sixth in that event at the 1946 European Championships and did not reach the final at the 1948 London Olympics. He was also sixth in the 4×100 metres at the 1946 Europeans. As with the Velásquez, our only clue about his later life comes from a Wikipedia user, who claimed that Kunnen died in August 2001 in Gent, but we have been unable to find additional evidence to back this up.

Masood Ahmed – Member of Pakistan’s field hockey squad at the 1948 London Olympics

One thing that can be said for certain about Masood Ahmed, born June 1918, is that he represented Pakistan in its fourth-place finish in the field hockey tournament at the 1948 London Olympics. Other information about him is difficult to ascertain, as his name is seen as both Masood Mirza Ahmed and Masood Ahmed Khan, and thus it is possible that two individuals are being conflated in our search for more information. One anonymous Wikipedia user, however, asserted that the Olympian in question died January 19, 2003, but unfortunately this has proven impossible for us to verify.

That is it for today, but we will continue this series next week as we explore even more Olympic Mysteries that we have uncovered. We hope that you will join us!

All the Olympic Stats You'll Ever Need