Today on Oldest Olympians we are presenting a relatively straightforward mystery regarding a single Olympian: Lebanese wrestler Zakaria Chihab. Chihab was born March 5, 1926, but there is no question as to whether he is alive or if he became one of the oldest Olympians. Our hope, as with the last blog about Maurice Lefèbvre, is simply to find out when he died despite the conflicting information.
(Chihab, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)
As a prominent international wrestler of the 1950s, most of the details of Chihab’s life are not in question. Always competing as a bantamweight, he took silver in the Greco-Roman division and bronze in freestyle at the 1951 and 1955 Mediterranean Games respectively. Undoubtedly his greatest achievement, however, was in becoming Lebanon’s first Olympic medalist by winning silver in the Greco-Roman competition at the 1952 Helsinki Games (his wrestling compatriot Khalil Taha earned bronze as a welterweight later that day). He also attended the 1953 World Championships, placing sixth, and ran a fitness club after his retirement. At some point in the 1970s, he moved to Kuwait to work as a coach with the army.
He lived out the rest of his days in Kuwait, so it is known that he died there, but sources differ on when exactly that was. The Arabic-language Wikipedia lists 1996 but, predictably, without a source. With that said, we were able to locate an old article (since removed but archived) from July 8, 1996 that mentioned he died “years ago”.
Thus Wikipedia’s date of 1996 was incorrect, but an understandable error. With that, for many years we simply had a best guess of “sometime in the 1990s” for his date of death. Then, in December of last year, an anonymous user from Kuwait added a more precise date of December 1983 to his English Wikipedia article. Of course, if a source had been included, we would not be writing this entry. Thus, while we have no reason to doubt this date, we have been unable to verify it either. Perhaps, much as with our review of Egypt’s earliest Olympic medalists when we first began this blog, our mystery is only half mystery, and half a sad tale of a forgotten prominent sportsman.