1929 Olympic Missing Links, Part 2

Today Oldest Olympians is bringing you part two of its coverage of Olympic missing links with 1929 births. Today we are looking at three more Olympians 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.

(Screen capture of Zdravko Hlebanja from a 2016 interview)

Zdravko Hlebanja – Member of Yugoslavia’s cross-country skiing team at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Games

Zdravko Hlebanja, born October 15, 1929, was a well-known cross-country skier in Yugoslavia during the 1950s, but his most notable appearance came at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympics. There he finished 43rd and 42nd in the 15 and 30 km events respectively and was 13th with the national team in the 4×10 kilometers relay. Hlebanja gave an interview as recently as 2016, but the only notice of his death comes from the Slovenian Wikipedia, which lists it as March 9, 2018. Despite his recent activity, we have been unable to uncover further confirmation of this.


U Sang-Gwon – Member of South Korea’s football team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

U Sang-Gwon, born December 22, 1929, also known as Woo Sang-kwon, was a regular player with the South Korean national football team during the 1950s and the 1960s, making an appearance at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, in which his country was eliminated in the preliminary round. He also played in the 1954 World Cup, won Asian Cups in 1956 and 1960, and took home silver from the football tournament at the 1958 Asian Games. He later had a coaching career, including a brief stint with the South Korean national team from 1970 through 1971. Both the Korean and English Wikipedias list him as having been born February 2, 1926 and dying December 13, 1975, but we have found no reliable sources to verify this information.


Javier Souza – Member of Mexico’s track and field delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Track and field athlete Javier Souza, born November 13, 1929, represented Mexico at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where he was eliminated in the opening rounds of both the 100 and 400 metres events. He had more success at other tournaments, however, winning bronze medals in the 4×100 metres relay at both the 1954 Central American and Caribbean Games and the 1955 Pan American Games. We know less about his post-sporting life, although we did find a public record entry that lists a man with the athlete’s full name, Javier Souza Díaz, born c. 1930, dying on January 7, 2005. Without any additional details or an obituary, however, we cannot confirm that this record is for the Olympian.


And that is it for our quick look into Olympic missing links from 1929! Now that we are caught up with our blogging, we will be moving back to the once-a-week format, so tune in next week as we continue exploring Olympic mysteries; we hope you will join us!

1929 Olympic Missing Links, Part 1

We here at Oldest Olympians are a bit behind in our blogging schedule, so we are going to rectify that by presenting a two-part post this weekend on the subject of 1929 missing links. Approximately two months ago, we concluded our long-running series on Olympic missing links, which looked 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. Upon completing our review of Olympians born in 1929, we discovered that there were more uncertainties to report, and 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.


Benik Amirian – Member of Iran’s alpine skiing delegation to the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Games

Alpine skiing, as one might imagine, is not a particular high-profile sport in Iran, and thus it is not surprising that we know little of Benik Amirian, born c. 1929, aside from his Olympic participation. At the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Games, he competed in all three events, placing 44th in the downhill and failing to finish either the slalom or the giant slalom. He had been a member of the national team since 1950 and continued competing at least through 1957. We located an entry in the Social Security Death Index for a Benik Amirians, born May 22, 1928, who died in Los Angeles on November 13, 2009, but there are no corroborating details to confirm that this is the Olympian.


Julienne Boudewijns – Member of Belgium’s women’s gymnastics team at the 1948 London Olympics

Julienne Boudewijns, born August 11, 1929, was a member of the Belgian women’s team that placed 11th and last in the all-around at the 1948 London Olympics. Like alpine skiing in Iran, gymnastics in Belgium is not a high-profile sport (the nation, for example, has not reached the Olympic podium in gymnastics since 1920) and thus her Olympic participation is the extent of what we know about Boudewijns. An individual by that name died March 12, 2014, but as the Olympian celebrated her 19th birthday during the Games, it is very much possible that she later married and changed her surname and thus, without additional details, we cannot confirm that the individual in the obituary is the same person as the Olympian.


(The Italian 1956 Olympic 4×100 metres relay squad)

Milena Greppi – Member of Italy’s track and field athletics delegation to the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics

Unlike many of the other Olympians we profile here, the career of Italian track and field athlete Milena Greppi, born July 8, 1929, is well-known. At the Olympics, she competed in both the 80 metres hurdles and the 4×100 metres relay at both the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics, but did not reach the podium. In-between, however, she took home a bronze medal as part of the Italian women’s 4×100 metres relay squad at the 1954 European Championships. She represented Italy abroad until 1958. Nationally, she won five consecutive 80 metres hurdles titles from 1952 through 1956, and also won 4×100 metres relay titles in 1953 and 1954. The Italian Wikipedia lists her as dying December 13, 2016 in Milano, but the cited obituary does not list any details connecting this individual to the Olympian, so we await further confirmation.



These are the three names that we are covering today, but tune in tomorrow when we will post part two and feature three more missing links from 1929 (unless we happen to solve them in the meantime!). We hope that you will join us!

Matthew Best

It is a busy week here at Oldest Olympians, but we did not want to miss out on a quick blog post, so we decided to go a little outside of our usual field to bring you a rather unusual case. We always try to keep an eye on upcoming oldest Olympians, and in this instance something odd caught our attention. Our database indicated that Matthew Robert Best, a non-starter with the New Zealand field hockey team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics had recently turned 80… on February 29, 2019. As February 29, 2019 does not exist, and therefore neither does February 29, 1939, we figured that this must be a simple error and followed up with the Official Report… which also listed his date of birth as February 29, 1939.

(The 1964 New Zealand field hockey team in a match against Kenya, as pictured in the Official Report).

So too do the official entry lists for the Games list him with that date of birth, which leaves us with the question of what his actual birthday is. We did some searching, but unfortunately his name is so common that we were unable to find any information on him at all. Thus, while this is somewhat outside of our normal purview, we felt it to be a quirky little Olympic mystery, as well as reminder that no source, no matter how official, is infallible.

Bob Lymburne

Today on Olympic Mysteries, we are looking at an Olympian whose circumstances are truly deserving of the word “mystery”. Our subject for the day is Robert Samuel “Bob” Lymburne, who represented Canada in the ski jumping tournament at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics. There, he placed 19th out of 34 starters in the normal hill.

Lymburne had begun competing at the national level in 1927, but he did not attract widespread attention until after his Olympic appearance. On March 13, 1932, a month after competing at the Games, he set a world ski jumping record of 82 metres (269 feet) with a jump in Revelstoke, British Columbia. Lymburne lost his record in less than a year, but regained it in March 1933 with a jump of 87.5 metres (287 feet), and this one lasted until March 25, 1934, when it was bested by Norwegian Olympic champion Birger Ruud.

Lymburne thus appeared to be a strong prospect for the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics, but it was not to be. Although some sources claimed that he qualified for these Games, in actuality he suffered a severe head injury while skiing in 1935 and never competed again. Although he returned to his career as a fireman, he never truly recovered and, according to the book Powder Pioneers:

“He is reported to have wandered off into the woods many years later and his body was never found.”

Thus, unlike all of our other Olympic Mysteries, precise information about Lymburne’s death is not just unknown to us, but it appears to be unknown to anyone. We do not know the origins of this story – the earliest version we could locate was in Powder Pioneers, written in 2005, and thus we do not even know when his disappearance is alleged to have occurred (some sources state 1936, although he seems to have been still alive after that) or which woods he vanished in (as he worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, it cannot even be assumed that it was in British Columbia). We have been waiting to regain our access to Newspapers.com, but it has not been forthcoming, and we wanted to get this blog post out today. We may, therefore, have an update on this story later this week if we are able to uncover more through a search of their news archives. For the time being, however, it remains a true Olympic Mystery.

Yevgeny Saltsyn

Today on Oldest Olympians we have another mystery concerning an Olympic medalist: Yevgeny Saltsyn. Saltsyn, born February 26, 1929, was a member of the Soviet water polo team that won a silver medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Saltsyn, however, played in only one of the team’s seven matches, their 8-2 victory over Brazil in the preliminary round. Although born in Crimea, Ukraine, he played for Caspian Flotilla’s Sports Club Baku, in what is today Azerbaijan, and, with them, won a bronze medal at the 1957 Soviet Championships. Beyond that, we do not know much about him, including whether or not he is still alive. This is likely a result of the limited time in which he actually played at the Games, as well as our own language barriers. Thus, we are reaching out to our readers with the intent of discovering more about this athlete.

(the 1960 Soviet water polo team, pictured at Water Polo Legends)

Hopefully this brief profile will be as fruitful as last week’s blog entry as, thanks to a comment we received on that post, we have learned that 1952 Olympic gymnastics medalist for Czechoslovakia Hana Bobková, born February 19, 1929, died in 2017.


We want to extend our appreciation to Jack, who forwarded this link to us!