Jaroslav Volak

In our last blog entry, we mentioned that our discovery that Egyptian Olympic wrestling medalist Ibrahim Orabi died July 2, 1957, in his mid-40s. Prior to our uncovering of this information, Orabi was the oldest living Olympic medalist who we could not classify definitively as either alive or deceased, although we assumed, correctly as it turned out, that he had died. This got us thinking: who has become the oldest Olympic medalist whose fate remains unknown to us?

The answer to that question is Jaroslav Volak, born July 7, 1915. We have covered him as part of our earlier series on Olympic silver medal mysteries, and unfortunately we know no more now than we did when last wrote about him. Competing out of the Wiener Athletiksport Club, Vienna-born Jaroslav Volak was a member of the Austrian national handball team that won silver at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, behind the German squad. According to the book “1936, Die Olympischen Spiele und Der Nationalsozialismus: Eine Dokumentation” by Reinhard Rürup, five members of that squad, and nine members of the national team overall, died fighting the Soviet Union during World War II. Volak, however, is not listed as being among them.

(Willy Hufschmid, pictured in Turnen und Handball: 100 Jahre RTV Basel 1879)

Since we could find no later confirmation of his death, Volak remains the oldest Olympic medalist whose living status remains unclear. We assume, of course, that he is deceased, given that he would be 105 if still alive, but we cannot say for certain. We are missing information on only one other medalist from that competition: Willy Hufschmid, born October 9, 1918, who was a member of the bronze medal-winning Swiss team. We know that Hufschmid continued to play through 1943, but we lose track of his activities after World War II. At 101, it is not impossible that he is still alive, although it seems unlikely.

(Saleh Mohamed Soliman)

After Volak, the next individual on our list of medalists missing information is Salah Mohamed Soliman, born June 24, 1916, who won a silver medal for Egypt in featherweight weightlifting at the 1936 Berlin Games. We are continuing to conduct research on him in Al-Ahram, but he seems to have stopped competing shortly after his victory, despite being only 20, and we have found no record as of yet of him being alive past 1938, although we are continuing to search.