1928 Swiss Olympic Wrestling Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to cover some Swiss Olympic mysteries from the 1928 Amsterdam Games that we have not yet addressed and for whom we cannot prove definitively that they are deceased (although, given their age, all of them almost certainly are). As we have mentioned in the past, Switzerland is unusual in that it is a European nation for whom biographical data is somewhat limited, particularly in the early years. Thus we have more names than usual to cover and must split them up. Today, we are going to focus on the wrestling delegation.

(Ernst Kyburz)

Switzerland was relatively successful in the wrestling tournaments at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Of its 11 wrestlers, three won medals, although even among the medalists we do not have complete data. For Olympic champion Ernst Kyburz, who won the middleweight, freestyle competition, we are missing his place of birth. For the runner-up in the light-heavyweight division, Arnold Bögli, we know only that he was born on May 30, 1897 and nothing about his later life. Similarly, for Hans Minder, a featherweight, freestyle bronze medalist, we have a date of birth of August 28, 1908 and nothing else. In fact, the only 1928 Swiss wrestler for whom we have complete data is Henri Wernli, who was fifth in the heavyweight, freestyle competition, but had won a silver medal in that event in 1924.

We know nothing about the remaining wrestlers and for only one of them, Fritz Käsermann, who was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the welterweight, freestyle event, do we have certain confirmation that they are deceased. Of the rest, Amedée Piguet of Le Brassus, who took part in the bantamweight, freestyle competition, was arguably the most successful, as he placed sixth, although this is due primarily to the limited number of competitors in his division. Hans Mollet of Biel, who placed seventh in the lightweight, freestyle tournament, might be considered more successful, as he was eliminated in the semi-finals of a much larger pool.

Otto Frei of Schaffhausen, in the middleweight, Greco-Roman competition, was the only other Swiss wrestler to win a bout, ultimately being eliminated in round three. Isidor Bieri (featherweight), Ernst Mumenthaler of Zürich (lightweight), and Max Studer of Tablat (light-heavyweight) were all eliminated after losing two Greco-Roman bouts.

These are enough names to consider for now, but we will raise the remainder of the Swiss cases in a forthcoming post. We do, however, have an update on a Swiss case that we have covered in the past, as we were able to confirm that equestrian Hermann Dür, born June 23, 1925, did die on August 25, 2015.

Henri Niemegeerts

Today on Oldest Olympians we have a quick blog entry, one that concerns an Olympian who may be alive at the age of 100, but we have yet to be able to prove it. The information that we do have comes courtesy of Connor Mah.

Belgian field hockey player Henri Niemegeerts, born February 15, 1922, represented his country in the tournament at the 1948 London Games, where Belgium was eliminated in the preliminary round after losing its matches against the Netherlands and Pakistan, but defeating Denmark and France. Outside of this, we do not know much about him, but he was definitely alive in 2013 according to this report.

After that, the information becomes less clear. There was an individual by this name living in Waterloo, Belgium as recently as 2015 whose biographical details align with the Olympic hockey player. When the Olympian’s wife died in September 2020, her obituary did not designate her as a widow, which is done commonly on the site where her death was announced. Beyond that, we do not have any additional clues, and there has been no announcement of a 100th birthday.

That is all that we have for today, but we did want to point out two recent removals from our lists that we have not yet addressed, as we learned about their deaths a considerable time after they occurred. Danish handballer Poul Winge, born September 13, 1927, who took part in the demonstration tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, died March 2, 2020 at the age of 92. Indian water polo player David Sopher, born February 1, 1929, who took part in that sport’s tournament at that same edition of the Olympics, died February 14, 2019, shortly after his 90th birthday.

1928 Chilean Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to cover some Chilean Olympic mysteries from the 1928 Amsterdam Games that we have not yet addressed and for whom we cannot prove definitively that they are deceased (although, given their age, all of them almost certainly are). Chile may be one of the more unexpected nations to have participated in such an early edition and, as such, they have been understudied in the field of Olympic history.

Germán Schüler – Member of Chile’s swimming delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Chile nominated five swimmers to the 1928 Amsterdam Games, but Germán Schüler is the only one for whom we neither have clues to his identity nor have covered in the past. Schüler was eliminated in round one of the 100 metres freestyle event and was also part of the 4×200 metres freestyle relay team that did not start the competition. A student at Universidad de Chile, he is likely too old to be alive (one of his teammates, Faelo Zúñiga, was born in 1909, for example), but we have no additional information on him or the dates of death for any of his teammates. For one, Mario Astaburuaga, we suspect that he may be the Mario Astaburuaga Ariztia, born July 4, 1904, who died in 1951, but we cannot be certain.

(Óscar Alvarado)

Óscar Alvarado and Rodolfo Wagner – Members of Chile’s track athletics delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

On the other hand, we know much more about Chile’s track and field athletics delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Games, but some names still elude us. Both Óscar Alvarado and Rodolfo Wagner were eliminated in round one of the 100 metres and were members of the 4×100 metres relay that did not start the event. Wagner was also a non-starter in the 200 metres, while Alvarado was eliminated in the qualifying round of the long jump. Wagner was still competing in 1930 but, aside from this, we know nothing about either of their lives.

Jorge Gamboa – Member of Chile’s cycling delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Jorge Gamboa represented Chile in the team pursuit, 4,000 metres event at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, where he was eliminated in round one. He is the only member of the four-man team about whom we know nothing. While we have full biographical data on Edmond Maillard, we know only that Alejandro Vidal was born in 1897 and that Carlos Rocuant died in October 1966.

José Turra – Member of Chile’s boxing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Finally, we have José Turra, who represented Chile in the flyweight boxing division at the 1928 Amsterdam Games and was eliminated in round one. While he did go on to have a professional boxing career, we have been unable to uncover any of his biographical details.

While we are on the topic of boxers from Latin America, we also wanted to raise the case of Olver Silva, a reserve boxer from Argentina in the bantamweight competition. The man who actually competed in that tournament, 15 year-old Carmelo Robledo, would go on to win a gold medal as a featherweight at the 1932 Los Angeles Games, but we know nothing about Silva.

Three April 18 Birthdays!

Today on Oldest Olympians, we had three important birthdays to celebrate and, since we could not decide on who to feature, we have decided to mention all three on the blog!

(Anna Van Marcke, pictured at Kortrijk)

First is Belgian canoeist Anna Van Marcke, who turns 98 today! Van Marcke represented her country in the K-1 500 metres event at the 1948 London Olympics, where she finished seventh among ten entrants. This was her most significant international appearance, and she later married her trainer and fellow Olympian Jozef Massy, who lived to be 96 himself. It is Van Marcke, however, who is currently Belgium’s oldest living Olympian.

Next is American ice hockey player Arnie Oss, who turns 94 today! Oss represented his country in the tournament at the 1952 Oslo Games, where the United States won the silver medal. Although this was his only international appearance, domestically he played for Dartmouth College. He is now the oldest living Olympic ice hockey medalist.

Finally, we have Swedish biathlete Klas Lestander, who turns 91 today! Lestander represented his country in the biathlon at the 1960 Squaw Valley Games, where he won the gold medal. Despite this success, his only other major international appearance came at the 1961 World Championships, where he was ninth individually but took bronze with the team, and he never won a national championship. He is now the oldest living Olympic biathlon champion.

1928 French Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to briefly cover some French Olympic mysteries from the 1928 Amsterdam Games that we have not yet addressed. There is a lot of missing data on French Olympians from these Games, but over the years we have covered many of them on this blog, or at least mentioned them in passing. Today we wanted to bring up those names that we have not addressed and for whom we cannot prove definitively that they are deceased (although, given their age, all of them almost certainly are). As we have very little information on these individuals outside of their Olympic participation, we will touch upon each athlete only briefly.

(From left to right, Joseph Berthet, Marius Berthet, and Joseph Vuillard)

Beginning with France’s coxed eights rowing squad, there are three members about whom we know nothing: Joseph Vuillard and Marius and Joseph Berthet. All three were members of Rowing Club d’Aix-les-Bains, like the rest of their teammates and we presume that there is some relationship between the Berthets, but we do not know what it is. One suggestion for Vuillard’s identity is Lucien Joseph Vuillard, born August 9, 1907 in Germagnat and died February 4, 1977 in Chambéry, but we have no proof that this individual is the Olympian.

The field hockey team is missing even more biographical details on its members, with many individuals having only their clubs as potential identifying information: Pierre de Lévaque, Jacques Rivière (Racing CF), Maurice Lanet (Golfer’s Club), Jacques Simon (Stade français), and Charles Six (Lille MHC). For some of the alternates on that squad, we do not even have their full names: A. Bié (UAI Paris), M. L. Guirard, and J. Rémusat (Stade français).

(Georges Leroux)

Modern pentathlon is another sport with an unidentified non-starter: G. H. Bellut. One of the actual competitors from France, meanwhile, also remains a mystery: Lieutenant Pierre Coche, who placed 29th. Similarly, gymnastics has two French mysteries: André Chatelaine (listed previously as Antoine Chatelaine) and Eugène Schmitt (listed previously as Étienne Schmitt). For a third member, Georges Leroux, we know only that he was born in 1907 in Pirmasens, Rheinland-Pfalz, and was a member of SGS Union Haguenau.

(Henri Rivère, pictured at france bleu)

Finally, we have four individuals from other sports who remain mysterious. Henri Deniel was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the middleweight, freestyle wrestling tournament, but later won bronze and silver in that division in 1929 and 1933 respectively at the European Championships. Hubert Guyard was eliminated in round one of the tandem sprint, 2000 metres cycling competition and was a member of the Vélo Club de Levallois. Henri Rivère placed 10th in the featherweight weightlifting category, but had a much more successful domestic career with US Tours. Jean Pierre Rouanet was a member of the 6 metres-class crew that sailed the Cupidon Viking to an eighth-place finish in Amsterdam and is the only one from that boat for whom we lack biographical details.

Fernando Rojas

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to take a quick look at an Olympian whom we are missing just a little bit of information on: Mexican basketball player Fernando Rojas. Rojas, along with his brother José, was a member of Mexico’s basketball squads at the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics, with his country losing the bronze medal match in the former tournament and being eliminated in round one in the latter tournament. The duo also won gold medals at the 1946 and 1950 Central American and Caribbean Games.

(Rojas, pictured at Gobierno De Tehuacán Puebla)

We originally listed Fernando with a date of birth of August 2, 1923, but this seemed likely to be an error, as José is listed with a date of birth of November 9, 1923. Research by Connor Mah demonstrated that José had the correct date of birth, with Fernando having been born 1921 instead. For the most part, however, this is where the trail on both Olympians ends.

Mah was, however, able to locate a Facebook post demonstrating the Fernando was still alive in 2012 but, since then, we have not seen any updates. Normally, 2012 would still be within the realm (barely) of when we list someone as alive, but since Rojas would be almost 102 now, and we have seen no mention of his 100th birthday, we have not added him to our lists. Thus, it is possible that he is still alive and over the age of 100, but we do not know for certain.

Finally, in an update from a previous post, we were able to confirm that Mexican water polo player Juan Trejo, born May 12, 1927, coincidentally in the same city as the Rojas brothers, did die on November 6, 2012 in Mexico City.

1928 Japanese Rowing Delegation

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to continue our examination into the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics by looking into Japan’s rowing delegation to those Games. While we know a fair bit about the team as a whole that attended this edition, the rowers are mysterious to the point that, aside from their affiliation, we do not know anything about any of them! As you might suspect, therefore, this will be a relatively short blog entry.

All but one of the six Japanese rowers at the Games competed in the coxed fours. The lone exception was Kinichiro Ishii of the Tokyo Rowing Club. He competed in the single sculls, but was unable to complete his round one heat and was therefore eliminated from the competition.

The coxed fours squad fared little better, losing its round one heat to upcoming bronze medalist Poland and its repêchage to the United States. Of the five members, all we know is that Isamu Takashima of Waseda University is definitely deceased and the other four almost certainly are. All were affiliated with Universities: Makoto Tsushida and Tsukasa Sonobe with the University of Tokyo, Hachiro Sato with Nihon University, and Kazuo Nose with Meiji University. There were also two alternates with the team, Yioshiaki Hamada of Tokyo Higher Normal School and H. Sugawara of Tokyo Tech. Sugawara’s full name in Japanese is 菅原 兵衞, but we are uncertain as to the proper transliteration.

(Geoff Heskett)

We would be remiss not to mention one more rower from the 1928 coxed fours tournament that is somewhat of a mystery: Monaco’s Louis Giobergia. While we know all the biographical data for the rest of his squad, his has eluded us. Finally, we wanted to thank David Clark, who forwarded us confirmation that Australian basketball player Geoff Heskett, born August 3, 1929, whom we had last heard from in 2011, is still alive.

1924 British Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to return to the subject of British Olympic mysteries. Once again, thanks to the help of Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore, we have some good information on those Britons who competed at the 1924 Paris Games. There are, however, a few cases to highlight where we are uncertain as to the precise identity of the athlete.

Walter Wilson – Member of Great Britain’s wrestling delegations to the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics

Walter Wilson, born in 1884, represented Great Britain in the light-heavyweight, freestyle wrestling events at the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics, being eliminated in the quarterfinals and round one respectively. He began his career as a middleweight, but went on to capture national titles in 1922 and 1923 as a light-heavyweight. Although he is typically known as Walter G. Wilson, he was sometimes referred to during his career as G. Wilson or G. W. Wilson. Given that the only well-known amateur/professional Walter Wilson wrestler of the era can be ruled out as the Olympian, even this competitor’s name is uncertain.

John Davis – Member of Great Britain’s wrestling delegation to the 1924 Paris Olympics

John Davis, born in 1893, represented Great Britain in the welterweight, freestyle wrestling event at the 1924 Paris Games, where he was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Davis had won the national middleweight, freestyle title in 1921, before switching to welterweight and capturing the British crown in 1922 and 1923. Due to the common nature of his name, however, we have been unable to learn more about him.

Sonny Darby – Member of Great Britain’s wrestling delegation to the 1924 Paris Olympics

Harry “Sonny: Darby, born in 1902, represented Great Britain in the bantamweight, freestyle wrestling event at the 1924 Paris Games, where he was eliminated in the quarterfinals. He won one national title in 1925, but remained active in the sport for many years. We suspect that he may have been Henry Darby, a cable layer from Bolton who was born September 22, 1902 and died in Q3 1971, but we have been unable to confirm this with certainty.

(A photograph of the 1924 British Olympic cycling delegation, which presumably includes Thomas Harvey)

Thomas Harvey – Member of Great Britain’s cycling delegation to the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics

Thomas Harvey, born in 1888, represented Great Britain in three track cycling events across two editions of the Games – 1920 and 1924 – but did not reach the podium. A World War I veteran, he was the British national tandem winner in 1921 and 1922 but unfortunately, due to his common name, we have been unable to identify him any further. One possibility is Thomas Henry Harvey, born July 3, 1888 in St. Martins, London and died March 20, 1965, but this is primarily a guess.

Joe Williams – Member of Great Britain’s track and field delegation to the 1924 Paris Olympics

Joe Williams, born in 1897, represented Great Britain in the cross-country running event at the 1924 Paris Games, but dropped out less than halfway through due to the heat. A member of the Hallhamshire Harriers of Sheffield, he became a coach with the club in the 1940s and served as its president from 1968 through 1975. While his common name makes him difficult to identity, he is possibly the Joseph Edward Williams who was born December 15, 1897 in Sheffield and died in Q2 1976 in the same city.

Finally, we wanted to end with some updates, beginning with a thank you to the contributor who pointed out that the date of death suggested for Mexican wrestler David Pimentel in our last post was likely an error, as it was the same date of death for Portuguese bishop David Dias Pimentel, who died on the same day. They also provided evidence that Imre Holényi did in fact die at some point in 2020, as noted in that same post.

Also from our last post, Horacio Macchiavello was able to confirm that Juan Martín Merbilháa did in fact die on May 28, 1972 and was born December 11, 1925. He also sent us news of two more recent Argentinian deaths among the oldest Olympians: Juan Caviglia, born November 28, 1929, who took part in the Olympic gymnastics tournaments in 1952 and 1960, died January 17, while León Genuth, born August 5, 1931, who represented Argentina in the middleweight, freestyle wrestling event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, died March 10. Finally, from a much older blog post, Diego Rossetti was able to prove that Italian wrestler Pietro Marascalchi did indeed die on April 16, 2019.

Recent Olympic Missing Links

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to raise the cases of some Olympic missing links that we have found since the beginning of the year. Unlike our last entry on this topic, these individuals were not born in 1932, but have come up as a result of recent research.

Lyuben Gurgushinov – Member of Bulgaria’s track and field athletics delegation to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Lyuben Gurgushinov, born November 2, 1931, represented Bulgaria in the triple jump at the 1964 Tokyo Games, where he finished 27th in the qualifying round and did not advance. He was also selected for the 1960 Rome Olympics, but did not start the event. Outside of this, we do not know much about him, but someone added a date of death of March 17, 2008 and a place of death of Sofia to English Wikipedia page. Unfortunately, we have been unable to verify this information.

David Pimentel – Member of Mexico’s weightlifting delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

David Pimentel, born December 2, 1927, represented Mexico in the middleweight weightlifting event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he failed to record a mark in the clean and jerk portion and thus did not place in the competition. He had better luck at the Central American and Caribbean Games, where he won a bronze medal in that category. Someone added a date of death of March 16, 2021 to his English Wikipedia page, but we have not seen an obituary that would support this.

Juan Martín Merbilháa – Member of Argentina’s equestrian delegation to the 1956 Stockholm Equestrian Olympics

Juan Martín Merbilháa, born in 1925, represented Argentina in equestrian eventing at the 1956 Stockholm Equestrian Games, placing eighth individual and sixth with the team. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Merbilháa was a career military man, and an individual of the same name and roughly the correct age, 46, died May 30, 1972 in La Plata. Without more information, however, we cannot make a definite connection to the Olympian.

(Imre Holényi, pictured at the Hungarian Olympic Committee website)

Imre Holényi – Member of Hungary’s sailing delegation to the 1960 Rome Olympics

Imre Holényi, born January 15, 1926, represented Hungary in Flying Dutchman class sailing at the at the 1960 Rome Games, where he placed 13th in a field of 31 entrants. He won several national championships and, by career, was a chemical engineer with a lengthy and distinguished tenure. We were able to confirm that he was living as of June 2020, at the age of 94, but an anonymous edit on the English Wikipedia claimed that he died later that year in Spain, where he was known to have retired. Despite being fairly well-known, we have yet to see an indication elsewhere that this is the case.

José Ferreira – Member of Portugal’s fencing delegations to the 1952 and 1960 Summer Olympics

José Ferreira, born May 7, 1923, represented Portugal in five fencing events across two editions of the Summer Games, 1952 and 1960, but only advanced beyond the first round once, in the individual épée in 1960. His name is fairly common, but an infantry colonel with his full name –José da Silva Pinto Ferreira – died July 1, 2013. While this seems to be a likely occupation for a fencer, the obituary does not contain an age, and thus we cannot confirm a connection to the Olympian.

Finally, we wanted to share some updates on previous cases. Patrick Secchi was able to find sufficient evidence that the main subject of last week’s post, M. Chapuis, was indeed Marcel Chapuis, who was born January 15, 1901 and died June 15, 1952. Connor Mah, meanwhile, was able to confirm that American wrestler Bill Borders did die on January 27 in Tulsa, per an estate notice. Finally, Diego Rossetti was able to confirm an Olympic medal mystery that we posted a long time ago: Italian water polo bronze medalist Renato Traiola died January 18, 1988.

M. Chapuis

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to share a brief mystery that seems pretty clear, but is missing a final piece of the puzzle. It concerns the French boxing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Games, a group for whom we have fairly uneven information. In particular, however, we wanted to focus on a reserve with the team that is listed as “M. Chapuis”.

M. Chapuis was France’s reserve boxer in the bantamweight tournament in Amsterdam. The nation’s starter in that category was Ernest Mignard, who received a bye in round one and then lost to Jack Garland of Great Britain in his first bout. Mignard turned professional before the year was out and had a career that lasted through 1937, when he retired with a record of 18-27-5.

(Marcel Chapuis, pictured at Boxer List)

So who was M. Chapuis and would he have fared any better? We believe that he was actually Marcel Chapuis, who embarked on his own professional bantamweight career beginning in September 1929. His career lasted until the beginning of 1935, and he retired with a 20-7-1 record. Even if we could make the connection for certain, however, he would still remain an Olympic mystery, as we have no birth and death information for Marcel, or even an age that could help guide our research.

As we mentioned, the information we have on the 1928 French boxing delegation is somewhat uneven. For example, we know that light-heavyweight Robert Forquet, who also competed in 1924, was born May 6, 1905, but we lack a date for his death. For his compatriots who also never turned professional, featherweight Georges Boireau and Michel Langlet (also a 1924 non-starter), we lack a date of birth or even an approximate age. Welterweight Robert Galataud, who lost the bronze medal match, did turn professional in 1929 and had a 13-12-5 career through 1932, although we do not have any information about his personal life either.

For the remaining reserves, with the exception of 1924 Olympic bronze medalist Jean Ces, we know even less, and have only two full names. Heavyweight Marcel Moret, possibly born c. 1909, had a 19-17-1 professional career that ended in a loss for the French heavyweight title in 1933. Lightweight Robert Frédéric, meanwhile, had no professional career that we know of. Flyweight A. Hummel might have been the professional boxer Hummele, whose 3-2-2 career lasted from 1929 through 1932, but we cannot say for certain. Of middleweight G. Genet and light-heavyweight G. Guillotin, we know nothing at all.

Finally, we wanted to thank Horacio Hernan Macchiavello, who confirmed that Argentine rower Juan Carlos Gómez, born May 9, 1932, who we thought may have died in 1982, actually died rather recently, on March 22, 2021, at the age of 88.

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