Oldest Olympians End of Year Fast Facts

With the end of 2019 approaching, we wanted to share some fast facts about the oldest Olympians in the world, partially to continue our commitment to transparency in our research but mostly just for fun and to share some statistics – after all, this is the Olympstats blog!

(The oldest living Olympian, John Lysak, born August 16, 1914, pictured in a July 27, 2008 edition of The Mercury News)

As of today, our full list contains the names of 2647 participants, non-starters, demonstration athletes, and art competitors born between 1910 and 1929 that could be living, 595 of whom we believe to be living for certain. Both of those numbers are up from 2596 and 526 around roughly the same time last year.

We also have 460 Olympians (down from 558 last year) who competed in the 1928, 1932, or 1936 Games, Winter and Summer, who have no date of birth but could be still living. It is worth reminding everyone that the vast majority of athletes that could be living are likely deceased.

We believe that we will have six living Olympic centenarians by the end of the year, up from three at the end of last year, as we do not know of any Olympic centenarians who died in 2019. We also know of seven survivors from the oldest editions of the Olympics with living participants, the 1936 Berlin Games, and no known survivors of this edition died this year.

We’ll try to send out a small update like this at the end of every year and, if you have any suggestions of statistics or information that you would like to see added, please send us a message and we’ll be happy to include it in the next round! Happy New Year to all!

Leo Sylvestre, Part II

As we continue to wrap up loose ends and draw 2019 to a close, we wanted to follow up on a post that we made back in April regarding Canadian speed skater Leo Sylvestre, born December 14, 1912. Sylvestre represented his country at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics where, despite being entered in four events, he only competed in one, the 500 metres, and was eliminated in round one. We had a possible lead on his date of death being in October 1952, but further research determined that this was just a coincidence, as the individual who died in 1952 was too young, while another report showed that the Olympian was still alive in 1962.

(December 28, 1962 report from The Gazette)

Such coincidences are rare, but they do happen. While going through our list of 1930-born Olympians, we looked into the case of British fencer Theresa Offredy, born May 4, 1930, who was part of the British women’s foil team at the 1964 Tokyo Games. We located the record of a Theresa Offredy born May 4, 1929, whose death was recorded in the England and Wales Death Index during the first quarter of 1991. Since it is not uncommon for years of birth to be off by a year (or more), and given the rarity of the name, we assumed that this was the Olympian.

It turned out, however, just to be a substantial coincidence. The woman born in 1929 was Barbara Theresa Offredy, while the Olympian born in 1930 is Theresa Mary Offredy. Research by Olympic historian Ian Morrison demonstrated that Theresa Mary was still alive in at least 2010, confirming that she was not the individual who died c. 1991.

With the knowledge that such coincidences can occur, we turn back to Leo Sylvestre, whose name is much more common than Offredy’s. Thanks to a contribution from Marc Durand, we learned that Sylvestre was deceased in 1981 when his widow received a trophy on his behalf. This narrows his date of death to a period between 1962 and 1981. The best match we could find in the Quebec Death Index was for a Leo Sylvestre born December 13, 1911 who died December 11, 1972.

This individual was born one year and one day off the data that we have for the Olympian, so the most likely answer is that this is the Olympian and that either our data or the index’s data is slightly off. Given what we just posted about coincidences, however, we cannot conclude definitively that this was the Olympian, because we were unable to locate an obituary. Most likely, however, Sylvestre’s date of death being December 11, 1972 is the solution to the mystery.

End of the Year Olympic Missing Links

As the year wraps up, we want to dedicate some blog space to the last few Olympic missing links that we came up with during the year: 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. As always, 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.

Kim Gyu-Hwan – Member of the South Korean football team at the 1948 London Olympics

Kim Gyu-Hwan, born July 16, 1921, also known as Kim Kyu-hwan, got his start in football at Kwangseong High School and went on to play for Pyongyang FC before Korea split into North and South. By the time of the 1948 London Olympics, however, the national Olympic committee was only representing the South and Kim was among those selected to take part in the football tournament at the Games. There, the country defeated Mexico in round one, before losing to upcoming gold medalists Sweden in the quarterfinals; Kim appeared in both matches. He later went on to have some prominence in the coaching and administration of the sport, serving as assistant manager to the national squad in the early 1960s and later working with the team known now as Busan IPark. Both the English and Korean Wikipedias list Kim as dying on October 5, 2007, but we have been unable to locate any source to verify this claim.

Josef Matěásko – Member of the Czechoslovakian military ski patrol team at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics

All we know for certain about Josef Matěásko was that he was a member of the Czechoslovakian military ski patrol team that finished eighth at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics. Since this was a demonstration event that year, like Eisstockschießen, data for many of the competitors, especially those who did not take part in official Olympic events is lacking, and we have been unable to find much else on Matěásko, despite it being a relatively uncommon name. We did locate a record for a Czech Josef Matěásko born in 1912 who died in 1991, which would be about the right age for someone to have competed at the 1936 Games. Without further verification, however, we can only speculate.

Just a brief post for today as we wrap up the year. Things get busy in December, particularly as we prepare our lists of 1930-born Olympians, and we already have a handful of Olympic mysteries from that cohort. We hope that you will join us in the future as we share our research and try to solve some of these mysteries!

THE PHELPSIES

OK, its near the end of the year when end of year lists always come out. Its also near the end of the decade although so some would demur that that will not occur until the end of 2020. Nevertheless, its time for some recounting of the Olympians of the 21st Century.

We often provide all-time lists of top Olympians in terms of medals won, gold medals won, etc. But here we are restricting ourselves only to a series of lists for the 21st century, and then some lists for the 2010s – to see who the top Olympians have been since the turn of the millennium and for the last decade.

And yes, its virtually always Michael Phelps, of course, who won 28 medals and 23 gold medals in his Olympic career from 2000-2016. So in his honor, we will leave him off the lists and because its also getting close to that time when there are all sorts of awards show, we present to your “The Phelpsies” – the 15 top Olympians (and ties) of the 21st Century and the 2010s, other than that swimming guy from Baltimore.

We will give out The Phelpsies for men and women, but also will list separate categories for women and for Winter Olympians, because there are fewer events at the Winter Olympics, and because, until recently, women have had fewer Olympic events than man in which they could compete.

Note also that for the 2010s many of The Phelpsies are given to Winter Olympians. That’s because there have been 5 Olympics in each decade of the 21st Century, but in the 2000s there were 3 Summer Olympics (2000, 2004, 2008), while in the 2010s there were 3 Winter Olympics (2010, 2014, 2018).

THE PHELPSIES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

Marit Bjoergen

Most Medals – 21st Century

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

15

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

12

Ryan Lochte M S USA SWI

12

Natalie Coughlin F S USA SWI

11

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

11

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

9

Ian Thorpe M S AUS SWI

9

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

9

Leisel Jones F S AUS SWI

8

Usain Bolt M S JAM ATH

8

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

8

Bradley Wiggins M S GBR CYC

8

Nathan Adrian M S USA SWI

8

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

8

Inge de Bruijn F S NED SWI

8

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

8

Jason Lezak M S USA SWI

8

Katalin Kovács F S HUN CAN

8

Veronica Campbell-Brown F S JAM ATH

8

Dara Torres F S USA SWI

8

Apolo Anton Ohno M W USA STK

8

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

Embed from Getty Images

Most Gold Medals – 21st Century

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

8

Usain Bolt M S JAM ATH

7

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

6

Ryan Lochte M S USA SWI

6

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

6

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

6

Chris Hoy M S GBR CYC

6

Jason Kenny M S GBR CYC

5

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

5

Ian Thorpe M S AUS SWI

5

Bradley Wiggins M S GBR CYC

5

Nathan Adrian M S USA SWI

5

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

5

Aaron Peirsol M S USA SWI

5

Wu Minxia F S CHN DIV

5

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

5

Valentina Vezzali F S ITA FEN

5

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

5

Zou Kai M S CHN GYM

5

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

5

Georgeta Damian-Andrunache F S ROU ROW

5

Chen Ruolin F S CHN DIV

5

Anastasiya Davydova F S RUS SYN

5

Nataliya Ishchenko F S RUS SYN

5

Svetlana Romashina F S RUS SYN

Most Medals – 21st Century – Women

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

15

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

12

Natalie Coughlin F S USA SWI

11

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

9

Leisel Jones F S AUS SWI

8

Inge de Bruijn F S NED SWI

8

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

8

Katalin Kovács F S HUN CAN

8

Veronica Campbell-Brown F S JAM ATH

8

Dara Torres F S USA SWI

8

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

7

Wu Minxia F S CHN DIV

7

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

7

Valentina Vezzali F S ITA FEN

7

Libby Lenton-Trickett F S AUS SWI

7

Kati Wilhelm F W GER BIA

7

Petria Thomas F S AUS SWI

7

Kirsty Coventry F S ZIM SWI

7

Aliya Mustafina F S RUS GYM

Most Gold Medals – 21st Century – Women

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

6

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

5

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

5

Wu Minxia F S CHN DIV

5

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

5

Valentina Vezzali F S ITA FEN

5

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

5

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

5

Georgeta Damian-Andrunache F S ROU ROW

5

Chen Ruolin F S CHN DIV

5

Anastasiya Davydova F S RUS SYN

5

Nataliya Ishchenko F S RUS SYN

5

Svetlana Romashina F S RUS SYN

Most Medals – 21st Century – Winter Olympics

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

15

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

11

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

11

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

8

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

8

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

8

Apolo Anton Ohno M W USA STK

8

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

7

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

7

Kati Wilhelm F W GER BIA

7

Felix Gottwald M W AUT NCO

6

Janica Kostelić F W CRO ASK

6

Kevin Kuske M W GER BOB

6

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

6

Wang MenGold F W CHN STK

6

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

6

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

6

Eric Frenzel M W GER NCO

6

Claudia Künzel-Nystad F W GER CCS

6

Johan Olsson M W SWE CCS

6

Bode Miller M W USA ASK

6

Cindy Klassen F W CAN SSK

6

Anja Pärson F W SWE ASK

Most Gold Medals – 21st Century – Winter Olympics

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

7

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

6

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

5

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

5

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

4

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

4

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

4

Janica Kostelić F W CRO ASK

4

Kevin Kuske M W GER BOB

4

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

4

Wang MenGold F W CHN STK

4

André Lange M W GER BOB

4

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

4

Simon Ammann M W SUI SKJ

4

Dario Cologna M W SUI CCS

4

Tobias Arlt M W GER LUG

4

Jayna Hefford F W CAN ICH

4

Caroline Ouellette F W CAN ICH

4

Tobias Wendl M W GER LUG

4

Hayley Wickenheiser F W CAN ICH

THE PHELPSIES FOR THE 2010s

Most Medals – 2010s

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

13

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

12

Michael Phelps M S USA SWI

9

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

8

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

7

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

7

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

7

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

7

Nathan Adrian M S USA SWI

7

Aliya Mustafina F S RUS GYM

7

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

6

Usain Bolt M S JAM ATH

6

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

6

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

6

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

6

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

6

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

6

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

6

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

6

Sun Yang M S CHN SWI

6

Aly Raisman F S USA GYM

6

Ryan Lochte M S USA SWI

6

Eric Frenzel M W GER NCO

Most Gold Medals – 2010s

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

9

Michael Phelps M S USA SWI

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

6

Usain Bolt M S JAM ATH

5

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

5

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

5

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

5

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

5

Jason Kenny M S GBR CYC

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

4

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

4

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

4

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

4

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

4

Nathan Adrian M S USA SWI

4

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

4

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

4

Simone Biles F S USA GYM

4

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

4

Dario Cologna M W SUI CCS

4

Mo Farah M S GBR ATH

4

Laura Trott F S GBR CYC

4

Tobias Arlt M W GER LUG

4

Nataliya Ishchenko F S RUS SYN

4

Svetlana Romashina F S RUS SYN

4

Tobias Wendl M W GER LUG

Most Medals – 2010s – Women

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

13

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

9

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

7

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

7

Aliya Mustafina F S RUS GYM

7

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

6

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

6

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

6

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

6

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

6

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

6

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

6

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

6

Aly Raisman F S USA GYM

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

5

Simone Biles F S USA GYM

5

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

5

Tessa Virtue F W CAN FSK

5

Brittany Elmslie F S AUS SWI

5

Park Seung-Hui F W KOR STK

5

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce F S JAM ATH

5

Alicia Coutts F S AUS SWI

5

Stina Nilsson F W SWE CCS

5

Tiril Eckhoff F W NOR BIA

Most Gold Medals – 2010s – Women

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

5

Katie Ledecky F S USA SWI

5

Allyson Felix F S USA ATH

5

Missy Franklin F S USA SWI

5

Danuta Kozák F S HUN CAN

4

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

4

Allison Schmitt F S USA SWI

4

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

4

Dana Vollmer F S USA SWI

4

Simone Biles F S USA GYM

4

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

4

Laura Trott F S GBR CYC

4

Nataliya Ishchenko F S RUS SYN

4

Svetlana Romashina F S RUS SYN

Most Medals – 2010s – Winter Olympics

Medals

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

13

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

9

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

9

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

8

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

7

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

7

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

7

Arianna Fontana F W ITA STK

6

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

6

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

6

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

6

Eric Frenzel M W GER NCO

5

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

5

Scott Moir M W CAN FSK

5

Tessa Virtue F W CAN FSK

5

Lee Seung-Hun M W KOR SSK

5

Martin Johnsrud Sundby M W NOR CCS

5

Johan Olsson M W SWE CCS

5

Park Seung-Hui F W KOR STK

5

Kjetil Jansrud M W NOR ASK

5

Stina Nilsson F W SWE CCS

5

Tiril Eckhoff F W NOR BIA

Most Gold Medals – 2010s – Winter Olympics

Golds

Name Gender Season NOC Sport

8

Marit Bjørgen F W NOR CCS

5

Martin Fourcade M W FRA BIA

4

Ireen Wüst F W NED SSK

4

Emil Hegle Svendsen M W NOR BIA

4

Sven Kramer M W NED SSK

4

Darya Domracheva F W BLR BIA

4

Natalie Geisenberger F W GER LUG

4

Dario Cologna M W SUI CCS

4

Tobias Arlt M W GER LUG

4

Tobias Wendl M W GER LUG

3

Charlotte Kalla F W SWE CCS

3

Anastasia Kuzmina F W SVK BIA

3

Martina Sáblíková F W CZE SSK

3

Eric Frenzel M W GER NCO

3

Scott Moir M W CAN FSK

3

Tessa Virtue F W CAN FSK

3

Maria Höfl-Riesch F W GER ASK

3

Ole Einar Bjørndalen M W NOR BIA

3

Marcus Hellner M W SWE CCS

3

Kamil Stoch M W POL SKJ

3

Viktor (Hyeon-Su-) An (Ahn-) M W RUS STK

3

Charles Hamelin M W CAN STK

3

Jorien ter Mors F W NED SSK

3

Felix Loch M W GER LUG

3

Wang Meng F W CHN STK

3

Zhou Yang F W CHN STK

3

Johannes Høsflot Klæbo M W NOR CCS

1956 Pakistan Olympic Field Hockey Team

Today Oldest Olympians is taking a look into the Pakistani field hockey team that won the silver medal at the 1956 Melbourne Games, because this case contains elements of the different types of mysteries that we face while building our tables. While most of the players are either known to be deceased, or are too young to be among the Oldest Olympians, a few are right at home on the (digital) pages of this blog.

Our original objective with this post was simply to cover a silver medal mystery that we had missed previously. Habibur Rehman, born August 15, 1925, is the only medalist on the team over 90 about whom we are uncertain as to whether or not he is still alive. In addition to his silver from 1956, he was also with the squads that finished fourth at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and won a gold medal at the 1958 Asian Games. Despite these accomplishments, we have been unable to ascertain if Rehman, who would be 94, is alive or deceased.

(Aziz Malik)

We then noticed that one of the alternates on the team, Aziz Malik, was actually an Olympian in his own right. Although he did not receive a medal in 1956, because he did not actually play in any of the matches, he was a starter for Pakistan at the last two editions, in 1948 in London and 1952 in Helsinki, both times of which his country finished just off the podium in fourth. His date of birth is usually listed as April 16, 1916, although some sources have the year as 1918 instead. Regardless, we could not find any confirmation of his living status, so he is also an Olympic mystery, just not officially a medal one.

Then there was the case of another alternate, Zafar Hayat, who was a non-playing reserve not only in 1956, but also in 1960 in Rome, when Pakistan finally earned its first field hockey gold medal. It was not until 1964 in Tokyo, when Pakistan was relegated back to silver, that Hayat earned an Olympic medal officially. Two years earlier, however, he had taken gold with the national team at the 1962 Asian Games. Complicating Hayat’s case is his uncertain year of birth: while some sources list him as being born on March 31, 1927, others have him as being born in 1937. Despite the decade-long gap, neither date would be outside of the realm of possibility for his career for a field hockey player of this era, and thus we cannot be certain if he even qualifies as among the Oldest Olympians yet. Regardless, we have no information on whether or not he is still alive.

Finally, in terms of alternates, there were two other reserves on the 1956 squad about whom we know nothing: Muhammad Amin and Muhammad Nasib. We know of no other results from them in any international tournaments, and do not have even a year of birth for either; given how little attention such reserves receive, we cannot even be certain that their names are correct. Our list of “possibly living” oldest Olympians only takes into consideration Olympians without a date of birth when they competed prior to World War II, because otherwise we cannot be certain that they would have even reached the age of 90 yet. The reality is, however, that many postwar alternates would now be well over 90 if still alive, especially in a sport such a field hockey. Amin and Nasib, therefore, add to the mystery surrounding the 1956 Pakistani Olympic field hockey squad.

Thus this case study highlights the many difficulties and caveats that plague our research here at Oldest Olympians. Still, it is work that we enjoy and such mysteries keep us on our toes, so we always enjoy sharing some of what goes on behind the scenes in order to add additional transparency and, we hope, credibility to our ultimate results.

Amit Singh Bakshi

Today on Oldest Olympians we are looking at a gold medal mystery of a different kind. The case of Indian field hockey player Amit Singh Bakshi is one where the mystery does not come from whether or not he is alive, as we have evidence that he was still living in 2012 and have no reason to believe that he has since died. Instead, our confusion comes from not being certain exactly how old he is.

(Photograph of the 1956 Indian Olympic hockey team from bharatiyahockey.org)

A member of New Delhi’s Services Sport Control Board, Bakshi was originally a backup player on the Indian field hockey squad that was chosen for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. After teammate Gursewak Singh was declared medically unfit, however, Bakshi was moved up to a starting player. He only appeared in one of India’s five games on their way to earning their sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal, however, a 16-0 blowout of the United States in the group stage. By career, he was a commercial airline pilot.

The mystery comes from conflicting sources regarding his age. The 1956 Olympic report gives a year of 1936, while the 2012 article confirming that he was alive lists him as 87 years old, making him born in either 1924 or 1925 and suggesting that the Olympic report was not simply a typo for 1926. Due to the fact that he was not a prominent international player, no other sources provide more depth or additional clarification. He may, therefore, be one of the oldest Indian Olympians, third only to water polo player Gora Seal and triple field hockey champion Balbir Singh Sr. On the other hand, he may not even be in his mid-80s. With so much uncertainty about Indian Olympians of this era, it may be difficult to ascertain exactly when he was born, but we felt it worth noting him as an important caveat to our lists.