Olympic Missing Links, Part 9

Today, we are continuing our look into Olympians for whom we believe to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we are unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. Last week, when we looked into Canadians who fall into this category, we also hit upon the only mysteries from the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Today, therefore, we felt it fitting to look into the next oldest cohort: those who participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics:


Guillermo Chirichigno – Member of Peru’s track and field athletics delegation to the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Guillermo Chirichigno represented Peru in the pole vault at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he finished joint-29th and last in the qualifying round and did not advance to the final. He had had more luck at the previous year’s South American Championships, where he won the gold medal, and would later take silver at the 1938 Bolivarian Games. Traces of his activities disappear after World War II, although an entry in the Lima Death Index lists a Guillermo Chirichigno, born 1904, who died June 3, 1970. Despite the rarity of the name, however, without knowing the birth date, or even the age, of the Olympian, we cannot confirm that the individual in the registration and the athlete are one and the same.


Karl Lutz – Member of Austria’s boxing delegation to the 1936 Berlin Olympics

After winning the Austrian National Championship in the heavyweight division, boxer Karl Lutz, born February 23, 1914, was chosen to represent his country at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he was defeated in round two by Ernest Toussaint of Luxembourg. We do not know much else about him, although an anonymous user added a date of death of June 20, 1990 and a place of death Braunau am Inn to his Wikipedia page. We have, however, been unable to verify this information in any other source.


Roland Annen – Member of Switzerland’s field hockey squad at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

We known less about Roland Annen, born September 22, 1916, than we do about our other Olympians today. All we can be certain about is that, as a member of Stade-Lausanne, he helped represent Switzerland in the field hockey tournament at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where his nation was eliminated after winning one and losing two of its matches in the preliminary round. Once again, we turn to Wikipedia, where an anonymous user added a date of death of August 28, 2005 but, without further confirmation, we cannot consider this information a verified fact.


That is our final blog entry for the year, but we will be back in 2019 to continue our look into Olympic missing links and all other manner of Olympic mysteries. We hope you will join us, after a pleasurable New Year’s of course!

Olympic Missing Links, Part 8

Today, we are continuing our look into Olympians for whom we believe to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we are unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. Last week we took a look into the Middle East; today, we are focusing on our other area of expertise: Canada.

Dick Wyndham – Member of Canada’s swimming delegation to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics

Dick Wyndham’s swimming career peaked in the early 1930s and, although funded privately, he was selected to represented Canada in the 200 metres breaststroke at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. There, he was eliminated in the opening round. Originally from British Columbia, Wyndham headed east after the Games to compete and train in Ottawa, but his career soon floundered and he disappeared from the headlines. By scanning the British Columbia Death Index, we found the registration of a Richard David Hayward Wyndham who died on December 12, 1991 at the age of 80, but the obituary we located for him in the Vancouver Sun was inconclusive. Since we do not know the swimmer Wyndham’s year of birth or full name, we cannot prove conclusively that this is the Olympian, particularly as he is known to have moved away from British Columbia at a young age.

Johnny Keller – Member of Canada’s boxing delegation to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics

After winning a bronze medal in the bantamweight division of the boxing tournament at the 1930 British Empire Games, Montreal native Johnny Keller’s next major stop was the 1932 Los Angles Olympics, where he served as the team’s captain. There, he fought as a featherweight, but lost his first bout and was eliminated. He embarked upon a brief professional career after the Games, but it was not particularly successful and petered out relatively quickly. It was the Quebec Death Index that gave us a lead in this case, with the only Johnny Keller of appropriate age being born August 9, 1903 and dying December 15, 1985. His obituary in the Montreal Gazette, however, described him as a “[w]ell known interior decorator for the past forty-eight years” and made no mention of a boxing career, and thus we are able only to speculate on an Olympic connection, since we do not know Keller’s year of birth, let alone the exact date.

(Pictured on page 32 of the May 7, 1979 edition of the Montreal Gazette)

Larry McGuinness – Member of Canada’s equestrian delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Larry McGuinness, born June 5, 1921, represented Canada in equestrian’s three-day event at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and placed 29th individually. Although this was his only Olympic appearance, he had a long and distinguished international equestrian career and was also a businessman who ran the family distillery. In 1977, however, he went bankrupt and after that we had a difficult time tracing him with any certainty. We did uncover obituaries and records of a Lawrence Joseph McGuinness (which matches the Olympian’s full name) who died on December 27, 2017 in Florida. This Larry McGuinness, however, was born June 24, 1920, which would align with his age in many of the reports about him, but unfortunately the obituaries do not give any details that would help confirm that he was the equestrian.

Alfred Stefani – Member of Canada’s coxed eights squad at the 1948 London Olympics

Unlike the other three Olympians we have discussed today, we know relatively little about Alfred Stefani, born c. 1922, who represented Canada in the coxed eights tournament at the 1948 London Olympics and was eliminated in the semifinals. We could not uncover anything else about the Olympian, but we did find the relatively sparse obituary of an Alfred Stefani of Valencia, California, who died October 2, 1992. Death records indicate that this Alfred Stefani was born on August 28, 1926 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, but otherwise offer no other evidence. Shipping lists for the journey to the 1948 London Games do indicate that Stefani was born in 1926, rather than 1922, and while we have contacted a relative of the Alfred Stefani listed in the obituary, we have yet to receive definitive confirmation that the two are connected.

That is our entry for the day! We will continue our exploration of this topic next week but, in the meantime, we wish all our readers a Happy Holidays and hope that you will join us once again!

Olympic Missing Links, Part 7

Today, we are continuing our look into Olympians for whom we believe to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we are unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. Today we are going to focus on three athletes from one of our areas of expertise: The Middle East.


Jacques Ben Gualid – Member of Morocco’s fencing delegation to the 1960 Rome Olympics

Jacques Ben Gualid, born May 3, 1918, was a member of the Jewish community in Morocco who represented his country in three events at the 1960 Rome Olympics – the team foil, team sabre, and individual sabre – but was eliminated in all three. As one might expect, we know very little else about him, but an anonymous user on Wikipedia claimed that he later moved to Canada and died in Toronto on May 3, 1976. A search of the obituary pages of major Toronto-area newspapers around that time yielded no results, suggesting that, if the edit were true, then perhaps he changed his name or his death was not published. Either way, we have been thus far unable to confirm these details.


Joseph Mesmar – Member of Syria’s sport shooting delegating to the 1972 Munich Olympics

Joseph Mesmar, born November 25, 1921, seems to have had a limited sport shooting career that was confined primarily to a single event at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the trap competition, where he placed 50th. One internet source lists a Joseph Mesmar as having died in September 1992 in London, England; according to the England and Wales Death Index, however, that Joseph Mesmar was born on October 29, 1921. While it seems like this is very likely to be the same individual, without a source to resolve the discrepancy in the birth date, we cannot be certain.

(Picture from Abdo Gedeon)

Tanios Harb – Member of Lebanon’s sport shooting delegation to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics

Tanios Harb, born in 1925, had a similarly limited international sporting career, with his career coming to a head at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where he was 41st in the skeet event. Outside of the fact that he was still alive in the early 1980s, we know little else about him, although a now-removed genealogical site claimed that a Tanios Harb died August 3, 2014. A related obituary suggested that it was actually a relative of that Tanios who died on that date, but also listed Tanios as deceased. Given the uncertainties present, we cannot make a definitive determination.


As the holidays roll on, it’s another short blog entry for today, but we hope to continue bringing you more Olympic Mysteries in the weeks to come. We hope you’ll join us again!

Olympic Missing Links, Part 6

Today, we are continuing our look into Olympians for whom we believe to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we are unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As we were deciding on a theme for this week, we noticed that there were three remaining Winter Olympians yet to be discussed who fall under these criteria, and decided that they would be good subjects to focus on for today’s blog entry, particularly as the holidays are approaching.


Walter Heinzl – Member of Czechoslovakia’s bobsleigh delegation to the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics

Like many bobsledders of his era, there is very little that we can say for certain about Walter Heinzl, not even his year of birth, as many of these individuals did not have lengthy and dedicated careers in the sport. The only information that we know is that he represented Czechoslovakia as a member of one of its four-man bobsleigh teams at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics and came in 12th. An anonymous user on Wikipedia suggested that he was shot down over Japan during World War II, but we cannot even confirm that this was not vandalism, let alone whether or not it was accurate and refers to the Olympian.


Emil and Herta Ratzenhofer – Representatives of Austria in pairs figure skating at the 1948 St. Moritz Winter Olympics

Emil and Herta Ratzenhofer had successful pair figure skating careers in their native Austria, winning the Austrian Championships every year from 1946 through 1949, as well as 1943, coming in third in 1950, and winning the German Championships in 1944. They also won bronze medals at the European Championships in 1948 and 1949 and came in 11th and 5th respectively in those years at the World Championships. In their sole Olympic appearance in 1948, they were ninth. Emil also won bronze in the singles championships in 1938 and 1939. Despite all of this, information on their later lives is scarce, with Emil, born August 2, 1914, listed as having died on December 17, 2005 by the German-language Wikipedia. As for Herta, born June 27, 1921, the Vienna grave index at http://www.friedhoefewien.at/ lists an Anna Ratzenhofer, born June 25, 1921, as dying on April 10, 2007, although it is unclear if Herta and Anna are the same individual. For both, we have been unable to locate additional sources to confirm this information.


We are a bit busier this time of year than we usually are, so that is all we have for today, but we hope that you will join us next week, as we continue to look into these Olympic missing links!

Olympic Missing Links, Part 5

Today, we are continuing our look into Olympians for whom we believe to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we are unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. Last week we began examining those who only turned 90 this year and thus today we intend to conclude our look into that group.


Robert Gausterer – Austria’s flyweight boxer at the 1948 London Olympics

Earning the title of Austrian flyweight boxing champion in 1948 led Robert Gausterer, born May 11, 1928, to be selected to represent his country in that event at the London Olympics, where he was defeated in the first round by upcoming bronze medalist Han Su-An of South Korea. We do not have any additional information about him, although we did find an Austrian grave memorial that listed a Robert Gausterer as having died in 1983. While the rarity of his name means that it is a distinct possibility that this is the Olympian, the memorial lacks even a year of birth, and thus we can only speculate.


Laurent Bernier – Member of Canada’s ski jumping delegation at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics

Laurent Bernier, born December 22, 1928, represented Canada in the ski jump at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics, finishing 46th and last among the jumpers who actually recorded a mark. His career nationally lasted through the 1940s and into 1950, when he competed at that year’s World Championships. As ski jumping, like cross-country skiing, is a lesser-followed sport in Canada, however, he faded from attention when he retired from active competition. Due to his common name, information on his later years is difficult to come by, and while we did locate a genealogical record for a Laurent Bernier born in 1928 who died April 27, 1998 in Quebec, without an exact date of birth, we cannot confirm that this is the Olympian.


As we managed to solve the remainder of the 1928 cases that we planned for today, here is one possibility from late December 1927 that recently came to our attention:

(Original Caption) Jesse Renick, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, captain of the U.S. Olympic basketball team (left) is congratulated by Maurice Chollet, captain of the Swiss team, after the Americans had whipped their opponents 86-21 at Harringay Stadium on July 30th. The American boys have since bettered a Czech five, 53-28.

(Pictured on the right at Getty Images)

Maurice Chollet – Member of Switzerland’s basketball squad at the 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Maurice Chollet, born December 23, 1927, represented Switzerland in the basketball tournaments at the 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where the nation finished 21st and joint-20th respectively. A user on Wikipedia pointed us to an obituary for a Maurice Chollet who died February 22, 2017 at the age of 89, which would be the correct age for the Olympian. As the obituary made no mention of a basketball career, and since his name is not so unusual as to be unique, we cannot verify that this obituary belongs to the athlete.


That is it for today but, as usual, we will continue to delve into this topic next week and hope that you will join us! We also want to thank the anonymous Wikipedia editor who uncovered an obituary for Austrian track and field athlete Ine Schäffer, born March 28, 1923, who won a bronze medal for her country in the shot put at the 1948 London Olympics and was covered as part of our “Bronze Medal Mysteries” series. Schäffer moved to Canada in 1952, married Karl Spreitz in 1953, and died in British Columbia in April 1999. More information can be found here: