Recently on the Oldest Olympians blog, we have been highlighting Olympic competitors whose full names are not known. We concentrated on the 1948 London Games partially because there are so few of them from this edition, but also because 1948 is somewhat of an anomaly given that there are no competitors from the 1932 and 1936 Olympics for whom we do not have at least a full name. On the other hand, there are 17 such participants (not counting art competitors) from the 1928 Amsterdam Games: eight from Belgium, three from Switzerland, three from India, two from France, and one from Turkey. Today, we wanted to highlight the latter three cases.
(The 1928 Turkish team, pictured in the document mentioned below)
A. Şefik – Member of Turkey’s wrestling delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics
A. Şefik represented Turkey in wrestling’s light-heavyweight, Greco-Roman tournament at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, where he lost his first two bouts and was eliminated from the competition. He was known in contemporary reports as “Şefik Bey”, but since “Bey” is just an honorific from that era, and there were many individuals who held it, this does not help us identify him. We do know from a very detailed report in Turkish that Şefik was a member of the Haliç Wrestling Club of Istanbul but, unfortunately, he is the only competitor not named in full from the 1928 Turkish wrestling delegation. There was a founding member of that club by the name of Bahriyeli Şefik, who was active during that era, but we cannot confirm that he is the Olympian, even though it is possible that the “A.” stands for a rarely used part of his name, or even a military rank such as Albay (colonel).
(L. le Cornu, fourth from the left, pictured at the Bibliothèque nationale de France)
L. le Cornu – Member of France’s rowing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics
L. le Cornu (or Lecornu) represented France in the coxed fours rowing event at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, where his squad was eliminated in round two. We know that he was a member of Rowing-Club Paris, and that he was the namesake of the “Le Cornu” coxed fours squad that won the French national championships in 1929. Unfortunately, this has been all we have been able to learn about him, despite him being referenced several times in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
(S. de Lanfranchi, pictured as the rightmost wrestler, at the Bibliothèque nationale de France)
S. de Lanfranchi – Member of France’s wrestling delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics
Similarly, the Bibliothèque nationale de France provides us with a picture of wrestler S. de Lanfranchi, but does not provide enough information for us to identify him. De Lanfranchi represented his country in the heavyweight, Greco-Roman event at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, but lost his first two bouts and was eliminated from the competition. We know that he was active in the years surrounding the Olympics, but we have been unable to discover anything more than that.
We wanted to raise these cases not only to publicize our research in the hopes of finding some new leads, but also because it highlights a fact about much of the missing information in the database: we lack the names of these individuals because we cannot access the resources necessary to track them down, not because they are particularly mysterious. By 1928, most athletes had to truly earn their way to the Olympics, and all three of these competitors had notable accomplishments outside of the Games that were reported in the press. Unfortunately, the press of this era often left out full names of individuals to save printing space, meaning that the further back one goes, the more difficult it becomes to recreate the history. This problem is not limited to the countries mentioned in this post; although American newspapers are perhaps the most accessible digitally, there are still many American Olympians from earlier Games who remain unidentified. All this is to say is that research into sporting history is not always a binary switch, where one simply needs to locate the correct document in order to solve the puzzle (although this can certainly be helpful!). Often times, it requires piecing together enough evidence to finally crack the riddle, so we hope that you will share any tip, big or small, that might help us shed some light on these sportsmen and we thank you as always for spending some of your time with us!