Walter Walsh – Oldest Ever Olympic Athlete Passes at 106

B. 4 May 1907; Union City, New Jersey, USA

D. 29 April 2014; at his home in Northern Virginia, USA




1948 Shooting,Free Pistol,12th



Walter Walsh’s Olympic participation in 1948 seems like a footnote to a life of experiences known by few men. Born in New Jersey, Walsh graduated from Rutgers Law School and then in 1934 joined the FBI. A year later he was on the stakeout team in Chicago that apprehended Doc Barker, one of the most wanted criminals in the United States. Acting on a tip that same year, he also discovered the body of Chicago gangster Baby Face Nelson. Two years later he was involved in a shoot-out in Bangor, Maine with Al Brady, who was at the time Public Enemy #1 and who was killed during the shoot-out. In World War II he joined the Marine Corps and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He was commander of the Marine Corps’ marksmanship unit for several years and competed in the 1948 Olympics while in the Marines. When the FBI celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007, Walsh was still around, by then 101-years-old, noting that he was older than the FBI, and he was the oldest living FBI agent. In March 2013 he surpassed Rudy Schrader to become the longest-lived Olympian of all-time.

The oldest living Olympian becomes Swiss artist Hans Erni, who was born 21 February 1909, who entered in the Art Competitions in 1948 at London, the last time they were held formally. The oldest living athlete is Chinese track & field Olympian Guo Jie from 1936.

For a more detailed story of Walsh’s life, see in American Rifleman, or USA Shooting’s story on him at, or Alan Abrahamson’s nice story at or our site at


Olympic Bio of the Day – Walther von Mumm

see also

Born 13 January 1887 in Frankfurt am Main, Hessen (GER)
Died 10 August 1959 in Göppingen, Baden-Württemberg (GER)

1932, Bobsleigh, Four man,7


A member of the family that founded the Mumm champagne business, Walther von Mumm was known as a horseman, a pioneer aviator and especially as a balloonist. Before the First World War he regularly took part in long distance balloon races all over North America including major races at St. Louis and Kansas City. The second son of Baron von Mumm, Walther was given control of the H.G. Mumm Extra Dry Company and with clever advertising turned the brand into a major name, notably in the American market. When his brother, Henri, unexpectedly died he took over as head of the entire Mumm Company and inherited the estimated $20,000,000 family fortune. In 1912 he became engaged to Frances Scoville, an American heiress, but before this had been made public he travelled from St. Moritz to Paris to break this news to his former mistress, Marie von Rensimer. A former waitress from Philadelphia, von Rensimer was considered one of the world’s great beauties and had a string of wealthy lovers and admirers. This meeting ended disastrously for von Mumm, the precise details of incident were hushed up but what is clear is that Walther ended with two bullets in his left lung after Marie had pulled a gun on him.

Although the von Mumm family had resided in France for over a hundred years, Walther had himself been born in Germany and on the outbreak of World War I was considered an enemy subject. Instead of internment in France for the period of the war he chose to return to Germany. Walther refused to fight on the Western Front out of a loyalty to his French upbringing and instead served against the Russians on the Eastern front. He was wounded, again in the lung, by Russian gunfire.

The years immediately after the war were disastrous; the French government claimed the entire Mumm business empire as part of the reparation process against Germany, he was estranged from his wife, who later died following an appendectomy, and was involved in a lengthy custody battle over his daughter. His remaining business interests in Germany, still valued in millions of dollars, were lost after the collapse of the reichsmark and German hyper-inflation. He still had the rights to the Mumm brand in the United States but the introduction of prohibition meant this was rendered worthless overnight. With what remained of his fortune he invested in Wall Street and again amassed a substantial fortune before the Wall Street crash of 1929 left him penniless.

Von Mumm took a job in a brokerage firm and rented a $10 dollar a month room in a New York boarding house whilst concealing his financial plight from his friends. In October 1931, whilst staying at a friend’s house, he attempted suicide. Leaving a note with the words, “Bury me as I am and keep this out of the newspapers”, he attempted to shoot himself in the heart, but he missed and for a fourth time suffered a bullet wound to the same lung. Although the initial prognosis was poor, he rallied and eventually made a recovery. The Winter Olympics were held four months later in Lake Placid and the German bobsleigh team suffered a number of serious crashes which left them very short of personnel. Walther von Mumm had some previous bobsleigh experience in St. Moritz and remarkably was called to drive the Germany II bob with a completely inexperienced team, they finished in seventh place.

Olympic Bio of the Day – Hélène, Countess de Pourtalès

The first female Olympic champion

See also

28 April 1868 in New York, New York (USA)
2 November 1945 in Genève (Geneva) (SUI)

Helene de Pourtales
Helene de Pourtales

1900, Sailing, Open class,AC
,,1-2 ton class Race 1,Gold
,,1-2 ton class Race 2,Silver


On 22 May 1900 she was part of the crew of the yacht Lérina which won the first of the two regattas in the 1-2 ton class, and three days later the same crew placed second in the second race of that class. This made her the first woman to compete at the Olympics and the first female Olympic medalist.

She was born Helen Barbey, to parents Henry Barbey and Mary Lorillard Barbey – the latter from a very wealthy family, in which Pierre Lorillard had founded a tobacco empire. Her father was an affluent banker. In 1891, in the American church of Saint-Trinité in Paris, she married Hermann Alexandre, Count de Pourtalès, the son of Alexandre and Augusta Saladin, from an old Huguenot family. He was a captain in the Cuirassiers de la Garde regiment in the Prussian Army. They had three daughters. She inherited a passion for horses from her mother’s side of the family (Pierre Lorillard was the first American owner to win the British Derby in 1881, with the horse Iroquois), and a love for sailing. The Lorillards were central figures in the Newport community, where America’s Cup regattas were held in that era. In one of her diaries, later sold by auction, Hélène provides a vivid description of watching the 1887 America’s Cup. Hélène de Pourtalès lived in Paris and Géneve, and in 1900, she watched the Olympic golf tournament, in which her husband’s cousin Jacques was a course referee. Hélène had a dual passport, Swiss and American, while her husband had dual Swiss-German nationality.

Olympic Bio of the Day – Dorothy Dermody

Born 26 April 1909 in Cloughjordan (IRL)
Died 10 April 2012 in Killiney (IRL)

1948, Fencing, individual foil,7 p1 r1/4



Dorothy Dermody, the daughter of a ship’s captain, spent her youth traveling aboard her father’s vessels. In order to circumvent rules that permitted the captain only one female companion, her father would cut her hair short and dress her as a young boy so that both mother and daughter could accompany him on his journeys. While sailing she was referred to as “Tommy”, a name that she retained in her athletic endeavors. She played lacrosse and squash at the national level, but was most accomplished in the fields of diving and fencing. She captured Irish championships in both sports, but it was for her skills in the former that she was offered the chance to compete at the 1948 Summer Olympics. When the time came, however, she requested to be entered into the fencing tournament instead. Her wish was granted, but she failed to advance beyond the opening round of the individual foil after losing all of her bouts.

Even outside of active competition, Dermody’s life revolved around athletics and she served as a teacher of physical education in several different capacities, most notably at Alexandra College from 1943 through 1958. She also took her love of sport public, heading campaigns to get playgrounds in every school in the country and to get children more involved in aquatic activities. At her death in 2012 she was Ireland’s oldest living Olympic competitor and the longest-lived Olympic fencer of all time.

Olympic Bio of the Day – Jose Barthel

Born 24 April 1927 in Mamer (LUX)
Died 7 July 1992 in Luxembourg (LUX)

1948, Athletics,800m,6h1 r2/3
1952,,1500m, Gold
1956,,1500m, 10 h1 r1/2


Josy Barthel’s abilities as a middle-distance runner were discovered during World War II. He first came to fameby winning the 800 metres at the 1947 Military World Championships. In 1948 he won both 800 and 1,500 metre events at the Military World Championships. At the 1948 London Olympics Barthel finished ninth in the 1,500 metre final. He then won Student World Championships in 1949 (1,500 m) and 1951 (800 m and 1,500 m). The absolute high point of Barthel’s career was the 1952 Summer Olympics, where he surprised the crowd and himself by winning the 1,500 with a strong finish. He participated at the 1956 Olympics, after which he retired. He was Luxembourg champion in the 800 and 1,500 from 1946-56. From 1962-72 Barthel was president of the Luxembourg Athletics Federation and then from 1973-77 was the president of the Luxembourgish Olympic and Sporting Committee. He was also in the Luxembourg government, serving as Minister for Transport, Minister for Energy and Minister for the Environment from 1977-84.

Olympic Bio of the Day – Philip Noel-Baker

Philip Noel-Baker, Baron Noel-Baker.jpg



1912 Athletics,800 metres,AC h5 r1/3,

1912 Athletics,1500 metres,6,

1920 Athletics,800 metres,1 h3 r1/3,

1920 Athletics,1500 metres,2,Silver


Philip John Baker was born in London on 1 November 1889, one of seven children of Canadian-born parents. He was raised in a Quaker home. His parents moved to England when his father, Joseph Allen Baker, was asked to establish a British branch of his father’s engineering business. In London, Joseph Baker became a member of the London County Council and later served in the House of Commons on the Liberal ticket, beginning in 1905. Thus, his upbringing gave him exposure to both politics and peaceful ways.

Philip Baker attended the Bootham School in York, after which he spent several years at a Quaker school in Philadelphia, Haverford College. He returned to England to earn his degrees from King’s College, Cambridge, earning honors in history (1910) and economics (1912). He received an M.A. with honors from Cambridge in 1913.

Baker ran for Cambridge and joined the Cambridge Athletic Club. He represented Haverford in the IC4A championships in 1907, finishing fifth in the 880 yards. For Cambridge he won the 880 yards against Oxford in 1910, 1911, and 1912, and the mile in 1909 and 1911. At the Cambridge University AC sports days, he won the mile in 1910 and both the half-mile and mile in 1911 and 1912. He ran three times at the AAA Championships, finishing fifth in the 1910 mile, fourth in the 1911 mile, and participating on the winning medley relay team in 1920.

Baker eventually ran for Great Britain at the 1912 and 1920 Olympic Games. At Stockholm, he failed to survive the first round of the 800 metres. In the 1,500 metres, he qualified for the final, but sacrificed his own chances to pace his teammate, Arnold Jackson. Jackson won the gold medal, and Baker finished sixth. At Antwerp in 1920, Baker again ran in the 800 metres. He qualified for the semi-finals, but did not start in that round. In the 1,500 metres, he ran well, but was narrowly beaten by his teammate, Albert Hill, and earned a silver medal.

P Baker

Baker’s fame came from his career after sports. As a Quaker pacifist, he rejected combat service in World War I, but commanded the Friends’ Ambulance Corps, serving at the front in France, and earning decorations for valor. He was later an adjutant in a British ambulance unit in Italy, and earned the British Silver Medal for Military Valor, and the Italian War Cross. In 1915, Philip Baker married Irene Noel, and would eventually take her name, being known as Philip Noel-Baker from the late thirties onward. They eventually had one child, Francis, a son born in 1920.

After the war, Noel-Baker was an assistant to Robert Cecil at the Paris Peace Conference and he helped draft the Covenant of the League of Nations. He was later named chief assistant to the secretary-general of the League, Eric Drummond, until 1922. During this time, he became associated with Fridtjof Nansen, the Norwegian explorer and humanitarian, who became known for his work on behalf of war refugees.

In 1924, Noel-Baker became Sir Ernest Cassell Professor of international relations at the University of London. He was elected to Parliament from Coventry in 1929, serving two years. In 1926 he wrote two books, The League of Nations at Work, and Disarmament, which earned him a reputation as an expert on disarmament. He was later (1932) appointed the parliamentary private secretary to Arthur Henderson, chairman of the World Disarmament Conference convened in Geneva in 1932. He was re-elected to Parliament in 1936 and held a seat representing Derby until 1970.

During World War II, Noel-Baker served as official spokesman for the War Ministry in the House of Commons. In 1945, when the Labour Party returned to power, he was made minister of state, a non-cabinet position under the foreign secretary. In that capacity, he headed the British delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission, and later served on the subcommittee that drew up the preliminary agenda for the United Nations General Assembly. He served as Secretary of State for Air from 1946-1947, and Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations from 1947-1950.

Noel-Baker was a forceful advocate of arms control, and later served on the U.N. Economic and Social Council. His final book was published in 1958, The Arms Race: A Programme for World Disarmament. It was a comprehensive analysis of the history of disarmament with practical suggestions for the future course of the policy, and in 1960 was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Book Prize.

In 1959, for his work with the League of Nations, the United Nations, his lifetime commitment to peace, his work on behalf of war refugees, and his vast knowledge of disarmament, Philip John Noel-Baker was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. During his Nobel Prize lecture, he spoke of the threat posed by nuclear weapons and the arms race. He declared that the solution lay, not in partial measures, but in a comprehensive and complete program of disarmament under the United Nations. “Disarmament is … for every nation,” he stated, “the safest and most practicable system of defense.”

Noel-Baker retired from the House of Commons at age 80, declaring, “While I have the health and strength, I shall give all my time to the work of breaking the dogmatic sleep of those who allow the nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional arms race to go on.” In 1977, Philip John Noel-Baker was made a life peer as Baron Noel-Baker of Derby. He died in London on 9 October 1982.

Personal Bests: 800 – 1:55.9y (1912); 1500 – 4:01.0 (1912).

Olympic Bio of the Day – Fons, Marquis de Portago



Born,11 October 1928,London-Greater London (GBR)

Died,12 May 1957,near Guidizzolo-Mantova (ITA)




1956 Bobsleigh,Two,with Vicente Sartorius,4


de portago
Fon de Portago was born in London, on 11 October 1928, to a wealthy aristocratic father and an Irish nurse. While his father engaged in the Spanish Civil War, Alfonso grew up in the French city of Biarritz. Playboy Alfonso de Portago excelled in many sports. Besides being a good swimmer, polo player and fencer, he was a very good steeplechaser (on horse), winning the French title and participating in the Grand National at Aintree. He achieved his biggest successes, however, in auto racing.

He got interested in the sport through his American friend Edmond Nelson, who he had met as an elevator operator in the New York Plaza Hotel. His first race was the Carrera Panamericana of 1953, which he entered together with Luigi Chinetti (ITA) in a Ferrari 375. They did not complete the race, but it was the start of de Portago’s racing career. The following year, he took part in several sports car races, including the 12 hours of Sebring, and the 24 hours of Le Mans. His success in sports car races, driving Ferraris, earned him the attention of the Ferrari team, and he was signed for the team for the 1956 Formula 1 season.

Before his first race in 1956 (the 12 hours of Sebring), De Portago engaged in a different sport, although it also involved steering. Together with three of his cousins – Vicente Sartorius, Gonzalo Taboada and Luis Muñoz – he formed the very first Spanish Olympic bobsleigh team to take part in the Winter Olympics held in Cortina d’Ampezzo. With the Sartorius, the Marquis de Mariño as his brakeman, De Portago steered the two-man bob to a fourth place finish, just 0.16 seconds from the bronze, and clocked the second-best time in the third run. The four-man bobsleigh ended up in ninth position.
De Portago drove his first Formula 1 World Championship race at the French GP, and scored his first points in the next race at Silverstone, although it was Peter Collins (GBR) who took over de Portago’s car halfway through the race and drove it to a second place-finish. He failed to finish his other Grand Prix races that season, but scored a few victories in minor races.

He again scored points in the first race of the 1957 season, although he had to share them again, this time with Froilán González (ARG). A week before the Monaco GP, Alfonso de Portago entered the Mille Miglia, with his friend Nelson, in a Ferrari 335S. At a straightaway near the town of Giudizzolo, one of their tires blew, and their car swerved into the audience, killing at least 10 spectators, injuring many more, and killing de Portago and Nelson. This accident also meant the end of the Mille Miglia race.

Portago was also known for his winning ways with women, first marrying model Carroll McDaniel. They separated and he began an affair with another model, Dorian Leigh, sister of the first super-model Suzy Parker. At the time of his death, however, he was having another affair with Linda Christian, the ex-wife of actor Tyrone Power. On the day of his final race, at Mille Miglia, she ran out to kiss him prior to the race, which was captured by many of the paparazzi present, and which became known as “The Kiss of Death.”


As each of us has done the bio of our favorite Olympians, this bio is the special favorite of Jeroen Heijmans, our webmaster and Dutch Olympic expert.

They Too Had Their Olympic Moments

Not everybody with connections to the Olympic Games was an athlete who competed in the Olympics. Here are a number of famous people, in various fields, who had Olympic connections often not well known.


Sissel – the Norwegian classical cross-over soprano with the Angelic pipes was well-known in Norway since she was a young teenager. But it was her appearance singing the Olympic Hymn at the Opening and Closing Ceremony of the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics that helped her become known to an international audience.

Sissel at Lillehammer Closing Ceremony

Gordon Lightfoot – Canada’s best known folk singer was past his popular prime in 1988 but was still chosen to sing at the Opening Ceremony of the Calgary Winter Olympics, performing one of his old standards, “Alberta Bound,” as the world’s athletes came to Alberta.

Placido Domingo – Placido Domingo, the well-known Spanish tenor, performed at the Closing Ceremony of two Olympic Games. In 1992 at Barcelona, Domingo sang the Olympic Hymn. In 2008 at Beijing, Domingo performed a duet with Song Zuying, singing The Flame of Love.

Oddjob – In the very popular James Bond movie, “Goldfinger,” the villain was Auric Goldfinger, who was trying to take over the world’s gold supply. Goldfinger’s lead henchman and enforcer was a stocky Oriental-appearing muscleman named Oddjob. Oddjob was played by Harold Sakata, a Hawaiian-American of Japanese ethnicity, who won a silver medal in weightlifting at the 1948 Olympics for the United States.

José Carreras – At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Closing Ceremony, José Carreras, the famed Spanish tenor, sang _Amigos Para Siempre_ with Britain’s classical cross-over lyric soprano Sarah Brightman. Brightman would also sing at another Olympics, performing You and Me with Chinese tenor Liu Huan at the Beijing Opening Ceremony in 2008.

Gore Vidal – Eugene “Gene” Vidal competed in the decathlon for the United States at the 1920 Olympic in Antwerp. Vidal was a West Point graduate who also starred in football at the US Military Academy. His son was Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, who became much better known as Gore Vidal. Gore Vidal was a writer, screenwriter, and political analyst in the United States, once described as “the best all-around American man of letters since Edmund Wilson.”

Dr. Seuss – American shooter Theodore Geisel competed in two shooting events, both variants of free rifle at 200 metres, at the 1900 Paris Exhibition. The events are not considered Olympic events at this time, but would be considered demonstration events. Geisel’s grandson, Theodor Seuss Geisel, later became much better known under his nom-de-plume of Dr. Seuss, popular author of children’s books.

Charlotte Rampling – Charlotte Rampling is a well-known actress, appearing on over 100 films in the United States, Great Britain, Italy, and France. She was the daughter of Godfrey Rampling, who won two medals with British 4×400 metre relay teams – a silver in 1932 and a gold in 1936.

Swoosie Kurtz – An American actress, Swoosie Kurtz has won one Emmy Award (American television) and two Tony Awards (Broadway). Her father was Frank Kurtz, bronze medalist in platform diving at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Frank Kurtz later became a highly decorated military pilot, having received the Croix de Guerre, 3 Silver Stars, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 3 Air Medals, and 5 Presidential Citations for his aviation heroics. During World War II he piloted the Boeing B17-D Flying Fortress bomber, which was nicknamed “The Swoose” because it resembled a half-swan, half-goose. The Swoose is the source of the unusual name for his daughter, as Swoosie is her real given name.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Conan Doyle was on-hand to watch the 1908 Olympic Marathon, having been asked to write a story about it for The Daily Mail. His story on the Dorando Pietri tragic ending appeared in that newspaper on the next day. He also started a financial fund which was given to Pietri, violating all contemporary amateur rules. Conan Doyle is often considered to have been one of the officials assisting Pietri across the line in the famous photo seen below, but that is incorrect, as those two officials were Jack Andrew, the Clerk of Course, and Dr. Michael Bulger, the Chief Medical Officer.

James Foulis – Jim Foulis was a Scottish golf professional who won the 2nd US Open ever played, in 1896. His Olympic connection came because, after moving to the United States, and settling in the midwest, he became a well-known golf course architect, and designed the Glen Echo Country Club course, the site of the 1904 Olympic golf tournament, the last time golf was contested at the Olympics.

Walt Disney – known for Disney World, Disneyland, multiple movie and television productions, Walt Disney was also the man responsible for choreographing the Opening Ceremony of the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics.

Miloš Forman; Kon Ichikawa; John Schlesinger; Mai Zetterling – These four international directors, responsible for multiple popular movies, were four of the eight directors chosen to co-direct the Official Movie of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Because there were eight directors, the movie was entitled “Visions of Eight.”

Davis Cup – The Davis Cup was donated by Dwight Filley Davis as an international team tennis trophy in 1900, while Davis was still a student at Harvard. Dwight Davis later played in the 1904 Olympic tennis tournament, reaching the round of 16 in singles, and the quarter-finals in doubles. Davis would enter politics and serve as the United States’ 49th Secretary of War (later called Secretary of Defense) from 1925-29.

Wightman Cup – The Wightman Cup was an international team tennis trophy for women, which was contested between the United States and Great Britain from 1923-89. The trophy was donated by US tennis star Hazel Wightman, who won the US singles title four times from 1909-19, including three times in a row (1909-11). Wightman played in the Olympic tennis tournament in 1924, winning gold medals in both ladies’ doubles and mixed doubles.

Bobby Orr, Sophia Loren, John Glenn, Stephen Spielberg, Lech Wałeşa, Desmond Tutu – all of the above, famous in multiple fields, helped carry in the Olympic Flag at the Opening Ceremony of various Olympic Winter Games. Orr, considered by many the greatest ever ice hockey player, carried the Olympic Flag at Vancouver in 2010. Legendary actress Sophia Loren was an Olympic Flagbearer at Torino in 2006. John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, and was later a US Senator for many years. Stephen Spielberg is a movie director who has directed some of the most popular movies ever made, including Jaws, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and ET – the Extra-Terrestrial. Wałeşa and Tutu were were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and 1994 respectively, Wałeşa for his role in Solidarność, and his role in helping Poland break free from Soviet control; while Tutu was a South African bishop responsible for helping the break-up of apartheid in that nation. The last 4 all carried the Olympic Flag at Salt Lake City in 2002.

Olympian Bio of the Day – Evelyn Furtsch

Happy 100th Birthday

Evelyn Furtsch Ojeda (USA-ATH-1932)


B. 17 April 1914; San Diego, California, USA



1932 Athletics,4×100 m relay,1,Gold


Evelyn Furtsch won a gold medal in the 1932 4×100 relay, running the second leg. She had not qualified for the 100 metres because both Elizabeth Wilde and Louise Stokes finished ahead of her at the Final Trials, but were not selected for the Olympics, so Furtsch, representing the Los Angeles Athletic Club, was perhaps fortunate to have won a place on the relay team for the Los Angeles Games. The only time she placed in an AAU championship was in 1931, when she finished second in the 100 yards. After the Olympics she attended Santa Ana College for two years, but there was no track team and her opportunities for training in that era were limited, so she ended her track career, competing in field hockey and basketball and then got married after her second year of college. She was elected to the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame in California in 1985 and in 1984, received the Ralph Clark Distinguished Citizen Award in Santa Ana.

As of this date, 17 April 2014, Evelyn Furtsch is the 8th oldest living Olympian (see the page, by one of our compatriots, Paul Tchir). She is the 3rd oldest living American Olympian, after Walter Walsh (1948 SHO – *4 May 1907) and Simone Schaller (1932 ATH – *22 Aug 1912) (Walsh is the oldest living Olympian). She is the 2nd oldest living gold medalist, after Hungarian Sándor “Alex” Tarics (1936 WAP – *23 Sep 1913). She is the 3rd oldest living track & field Olympian – after China’s Guo Jie (1936 – *16 Jan 1912) and Schaller, and the oldest living track & field gold medalist and medalist.

Evelyn Furtsch becomes one of only two US Olympic gold medalists to have survived to 100, the other being James “Babe” Rockefeller, who won gold in 1924 rowing coxed eights (alongside Benjamin Spock). She becomes one of only two US Olympic track & field medalists, and one of only four Olympic track & field medalists (all nations) to have survived to 100, joining the following: Herman Brix (USA – 1928 shot put), Godfrey Rampling (GBR – 1932 and 1936 4×400), and Edvin Wide (SWE – 5 medals from 1920-28). She joins Godfrey Rampling as the only Olympic track & field gold medalists to survive to 100, Rampling winning gold in the 1936 4×400 relay.

Personal Best: 100 – 12.2 (1932)

Titanic Olympians

The Titanic sank 102 years ago, on 15 April 1912. There were two Olympians on board – one who had already competed (in 1906), and one who would compete in 1924. The Titanic Olympians are described below:


Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff-Gordon, 5th Baronet of Halkin (GBR-FEN-1906)

B. 22 July 1862; London, Greater London, England, Great Britain

D. 20 April 1931; London, Greater London, England, Great Britain

1906 Fencing – Team Épée – Silver medal

Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon was the 5th Baronet of Halkin, a title he inherited because of the title of Baron being inferred on a great-uncle in 1813. He lived on his country estate, Maryculter, in Kincardineshire, near Aberdeen, Scotland, where he was a sheriff and magistrate. In addition to his skill as a fencer, Duff-Gordon practiced martial arts.

Duff-Gordon survived the sinking of the Titanic, along with his wife and her secretary. Duff-Gordon was one of many men in First Class who were allowed into lifeboats, while many women and children, mostly from Third Class, never reached the upper deck where the lifeboats were stowed. It was also rumored that the Duff-Gordons bribed the crew in their lifeboat to not rescue people in the water, but a later investigation by the British Board of Trade’s Inquiry cleared them of this alleged cowardice.

The inquiry concluded that if their lifeboat had rowed towards the people in the water, it may have been able to rescue some of them, but the conclusion regarding the bribery allegation noted, “The very gross charge against Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon that, having got into No. 1 boat he bribed the men in it to row away from the drowning people is unfounded.”

Per his family, Duff-Gordon spent much of the rest of his life as a recluse. Because of his wealth he did not have to work and little else is known of Cosmo Duff-Gordon after the Titanic incident.


Richard Norris “Dick” Williams (USA-TEN-1924)

B. 29 January 1891; Geneva, Switzerland

D. 2 June 1968; Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, USA

1924 Tennis – Mixed Doubles – Gold Medal; Singles – quarter-finalist; Doubles – quarter-finalist

The early years of Dick Williams’ life were spent in Lausanne where his father, a tennis enthusiast, was working; under his father’s tutelage he won the Swiss Junior title at the age of 12. In 1912, Mr. Williams accompanied his son to America when Dick was accepted for Harvard. Dick Williams was 21-years-old when he was travelling in first class aboard the Titanic with his father, Charles Duane Williams, when it struck the iceberg. His father perished in the disaster. Shortly after the collision, Dick Williams freed a trapped passenger from a cabin by breaking down a door, and Williams remained on the Titanic almost until the very end, when he was washed overboard by a wave that also took several others. He made his way to Collapsible A Lifeboat and held on to its side for awhile before getting in. The survivors in Collapsible A were then transferred to Lifeboat 14, but even after entering Lifeboat 14 Williams spent several hours waist-deep in freezing water, which left his legs frostbitten and so severely injured that the Carpathia’s doctor recommended amputation. Williams, who did not want his tennis career to be cut short, refused.

Dick Williams won the mixed doubles at the U.S. championships and the national clay court singles in his first American season (1912) and was ranked second nationally that year. In 1913, while still at Harvard, he began his Davis Cup career and in his eight single matches that year he lost only to James Parke, the Irish rugby football international, in the match against Great Britain. Williams was to remain a Davis Cup player until 1926 and in the intervening years he won the U.S. singles title twice and the men’s doubles on two occasions. Williams graduated from Harvard in 1916 and was soon with the armed forces. He saw active service as a captain of artillery and served as an aide to Major Gen. John Harbord, winning the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur in the second battle of the Marne. After the war, Williams played his tennis at the Longwood Cricket Club and started his career as a stockbroker.

In 1920 he teamed up with Charles Garland and they became the only Harvard-Yale combination to ever win the Wimbledon doubles. At the 1924 Olympics, Dick Williams went out to Henri Cochet in the quarter-finals of the singles; in the men’s doubles, playing with his former Harvard teammate, Watson Washburn, he again lost in the quarter-finals when the South Africans, Condon and Richardson, came back to win after trailing by two sets to one. However, in the mixed doubles, with Hazel Wightman as his partner, they scored a comfortable victory after disposing of the Wimbledon champions, Kitty McKane and Brian Gilbert of Great Britain, in the semi-finals.