Oldest Living Olympians – Part 2

From our group of OlyMADMen, the following has been produced by Paul Tchir, aka Canadian Paul, our resident expert on oldest living Olympians.


The death at the age of 106 of Swiss artist Hans Erni, believed to be the oldest living former Olympian, raises the issue of who has succeeded him in this title. Erni was the second-longest-lived Olympian of all time, behind his predecessor to the title American Walter Walsh, as well of one of very few remaining individuals who competed in the Olympic Art Competitions, which were last held in 1948. Although there were are a handful of Olympians older than Erni whose death has not been confirmed, it seems unlikely that someone would have reached 106 years of age in the era of the internet and escaped any notice whatsoever.

Poster for a documentary of the life of Hans Erni
Poster for a documentary of the life of Hans Erni

Erni was born in 1909 and was the last known living Olympian to have been born that year. His longevity meant that he outlived the final known survivors from 1910 (Italian Attilio Pavesi, a double Olympic champion from the 1932 cycling tournament, who died August 2, 2011) and 1911 (Chilean Juan Reccius, a competitor in the 1936 triple jump, who died June 29, 2012), although Mien Klaver, an alternate on the Dutch women’s 4×100 metre relay team, turned 104 on February 26 of this year. Olympians born in 1912, however, have fared far better, with four of the five Olympians who reached their centenary in 2012 still with us as of this posting (the fifth, French skiing legend and 1936 Olympic bronze medalist Émile Allais died several months after his 100th birthday). They are:

Guo Jie of China, who took part in the men’s discus throw at the 1936 Summer Olympics. Guo, born January 16, 1912 in Dalian, is his nation’s longest-lived competitor, the last member of its delegation to the 1936 Games, and was still physically active at his 102nd birthday. To the best of our knowledge, he now takes the title of the oldest living Olympic competitor.

Swedish diver Ingeborg Sjöqvist, born April 19, 1912, who took part in the 1932 and 1936 Summer Olympics and was runner-up in platform diving at the 1931 and 1934 European Championships.

American athlete Simone Schaller, born August 22, 1912, who participated in the 80 m hurdles tournament in 1932 and 1936 and is the longest-lived American female Olympian.

Baron Eduard von Falz-Fein, born September 14, 1912, who represented Liechtenstein in bobsled at the 1936 Winter Olympics and is the longest-lived Winter Olympian.

Additionally, there are three other known living Olympic centenarians:

Sándor Tarics, born September 23, 1913, who was a member of Hungary’s gold medal-winning water polo team in 1936 and is confirmed as the oldest living Olympic champion and the second- longest-lived Olympic champion, behind American James Stillman Rockefeller, who died in August 2004 at the age of 102 years, 63 days.

Evelyn Furtsch, born April 17, 1914, who earned a gold medal with the United States’ 4x100m relay team in 1932 and is the longest-lived Olympic track and field gold medalist.

Evelyn Furtsch

American John Lysak (born August 16, 1914), who competed in the Men’s Folding Kayak, 10 km canoeing event at the 1936 Summer Games.

Outside of centenarians, Carla Marangoni (born November 13, 1915) is notable as the last known survivor of the 1928 Summer Olympics: she won a silver medal for Italy in the team gymnastics competition that year. Moreover, it is also possible to produce a definitive list of the six oldest Olympic champions:

Sándor Tarics, born September 23, 1913, M HUN WAP 1936

Evelyn Furtsch, born April 17, 1914, F USA ATH 1932

Durward Knowles, born November 2, 1917, M BAH SAI 1964 (also bronze in 1956 and competed in 1948, 1952, 1960, 1968, 1972, and 1988)

Martin Lundström, born May 30, 1918, M SWE CCS 1948 (twice, also bronze in 1952)

Adolph Kiefer, born June 27, 1918, M USA SWI 1936

Jack Günthard, born January 8, 1920, M SUI GYM 1952 (also silver)