The 1932 Northern Ontario Curling Team

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to share a different kind of mystery from 1932, one focusing on the winter edition, held in Lake Placid, rather than the summer. It concerns the curling demonstration event, the “Northern Ontario” team that won two of its games and lost another two, and one mystery competitor.

(Coverage of the 1932 curling demonstration event from Vancouver’s The Province, February 5, 1932, pg. 18)

We place “Northern Ontario” in quotations because while that was the team’s official designation, research by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore has demonstrated that none of the members were actually from that region of the province. Cecil George was a member of the Orillia Curling Club, while Johnny Walker and Peter Lyall were from Montreal. It is with the fourth competitor, therefore, listed as W. W. Thompson, that the mystery lies.

(W.W. Thompson of Winnipeg, as pictured in the Annual Bonspiel of the Manitoba Curling Association – Vol 61 – 1949)

If his name were accurate, as listed in the Olympic Report, William Winfred “Wynn/Winn” Thompson of Winnipeg, born January 19, 1885 in Bethany, Ontario and died in 1957, would be the likely candidate. This Thompson was well-known in curling circles as a player and executive and became an honorary life member of the Manitoba Curling Association for his services in 1948. Given that none of the other players on the team were from Northern Ontario, his home base of Manitoba does not present too many concerns. Some sources, however, leave ambiguity to other important questions: did Thompson play in all four of the team’s matches? Did he even play at all?

(Clip about W. G. Allen from the February 5, 1932 edition of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, pg. 17)

Winnipeg sportswriter William George Allen would have answered at least the first question as a “no”. Allen, born April 5, 1880 and died January 9, 1939, was well-known as a local sportswriter who claimed in a 1932 article that he had played in one of the Northern Ontario team’s matches in Lake Placid. This is supported by at least one contemporary report, from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, which notes that Allen and Lyall “filled in the gap” on the squad and competed in a match against a New York rink.

One additional source complicates matters even further. It suggests that the original lineup of the Northern Ontario team was a no-show, and that Cecil George and another Orillia curler, E. E. Webb, attended the Games as visitors, only to answer the call to help replace the Northern Ontario squad and actually compete in the event. With all of this, it seems that all we can say for certain at this point is that Lyall and George certainly competed, Walker (mentioned briefly in reports) almost certainly did, and Thompson and Webb may have taken part in at least one match each. To go back to the second question, however, it is possible that Thompson never actually took part, and that the Olympic Report was merely reflecting an outdated entry list.

That is what we have for today, but we intend to continue our look into the depression-era Olympics by returning to the absent Egyptian national delegation. We hope that you enjoyed today’s post and that you will join us next time as well!

The 1932 Egyptian Athletics Delegation

After last week’s blog post on a theoretical Egyptian football squad at the 1932 Los Angeles, we got to thinking – what if Egypt had sent a full delegation to those Games? Unlike with football, other sports held national championships that year that would give a strong indication as to who might have represented the country in various events. Thus, we have decided to spend a little bit of time writing about each sport and who might have been an Olympian had Egypt not boycotted the Games.

(Part one of the results of the 1932 Egyptian national athletics championships, from the April 11, 1932 edition of Al-Ahram)

Today we are looking into track and field athletics, arguably the highlight of any edition of the Summer Olympics. Egypt, however, has never been a powerhouse in this sport; its best result in the history of the Games came when Hassan Badra placed 11th in the triple jump at the 1984 Los Angles Olympics. This, however, provides us with an opportunity to delve into the ostensible focus of this blog, Olympic mysteries, since those Egyptians who did compete in track and field in the earliest editions of the Games tend to be relatively obscure.

(Part two of the results of the 1932 Egyptian national athletics championships)

The task is complicated slightly by the fact that Greek clubs tended to dominate this sport prior to World War II. From 1920 on, however, Egypt’s delegations to the Olympics were composed almost exclusively of indigenous Egyptians. As we mentioned in the previous post, Egypt boycotted the 1932 Los Angeles Games precisely because they were represented by a Greek, rather than an Egyptian, on the IOC, and thus it seems highly unlikely that they would have sent any individuals of Greek ancestry to the Games if they had participated.

This leaves us with only five Egyptians who earned individual medals at the national championships in 1932, thus limiting the pool of who might have been on the team. This is not surprising: Egypt had two athletics competitors in 1920, one in 1924, and none in 1928. What is a little more unexpected is that the 1924 competitor, Mohamed El-Sayed of Alexandria, was still in good form in 1932. El-Sayed had represented Egypt in the 1500 and 5000 metres events at the 1924 Paris Games, but was eliminated in the heats of each. Born in 1905, he was in his late-20s in 1932 and still performing well domestically: he won the 1500, 5000 and 10,000 metres and was runner-up in the 800 metres.

Thus we suspect that El-Sayed would have represented Egypt in at least the former three events in Los Angeles. His 1932 winning time of 15:45 in the 5000 would not have allowed him to exit the qualification round, while even his best time of 15:23.4, set in 1928, would have left him well outside the medal range. As for the 10,000 metres, he won the nationals with 35:57, far off of podium time. His best event was the 1500, and he has a personal best set that year of 4:12.4. Even this, however, although perhaps qualifying him for the final in Los Angeles, would not have been sufficient for a podium finish. Unfortunately, given how common his name was, and the limited attention given to athletics in Egypt during this era, we have no further biographical details about him and know nothing about his later life.

At the 1932 national championships, the runner-up in the 1500 and the winner of the 800 metres was Abu Al-Yazid El-Halawani, born in 1907, who represented Haras Galalat Al-Malik (King’s Guard). His winning time at the nationals, 2:04.4, would have been the slowest time in the event in Los Angeles. El-Halawani, however, would hit the peak of his career a few years later, when on May 16, 1936, he set an Egyptian record of 1:52 in the 800 and was selected to represent his country in that event, as well as the 400 metres hurdles, at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His 800 time would have put him in contention for gold at the Games (which makes us suspicious that this result was a misprint or error), but he was, per the August 4, 1936 edition of the Egyptian Gazette, “unfit” in Berlin and did not start either competition. Nonetheless, he continued to compete and was the Egyptian runner-up in the 400 metres and the 400 metres hurdles in 1939. Unfortunately, we were unable to discover what happened to him after World War II.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Abu Sobea of Cairo, born in 1907, was the runner-up in the 5000 and 10,000 metres events at the 1932 national championships. Like El-Halawani, he was a member of Haras Galalat Al-Malik and reached his peak a few later when he was selected to represent Egypt in the 1500 and 5000 meters in Berlin. While he did not start the 1500, he did compete in the 5000, but was eliminated in the heats. He set a personal best of 15:41.6 in 1938 and was runner-up in that event again in 1939, which led to his selection to represent Egypt at the 1940 Summer Olympics. That tournament’s subsequent cancellation meant that Abu Sobea likely missed out on two editions of the Games that he would otherwise have been eligible for. Unfortunately, details of his later life are also unknown.

The final competitors are more mysterious. An individual by the name of Sadiq Muhammad, of Haras Al-Hadud (Border Guards), was runner-up in the discus, with 35.19 metres, and javelin throw, with 49.385 metres, and third in the 400 metres. Neither of his field marks would have placed him in contention for the final. As his name is very common and he never participated in the Olympics, we know nothing else about him. Finally, ‘Id ‘Abd Al-Saadiq, of the Cairo Club, came in third in the 10,000 metres. He also competed into the late 1930s, but does not appear to have been a contender for the Berlin Games.

We suspect, therefore, that the first three on this list certainly would have taken part in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics if given the chance. Perhaps if they had, we would know more about them today, although it is equally possible that they would have remained just as forgotten due to the lack of attention paid to Egyptian track and field athletics at the time. Regardless, we hope that you found this post at least a little interesting and hope that you will join us when we look at other possibly make-ups for the 1932 Egyptian sports!

WHAT WILL KATIE DO?

So Katie Ledecky will swim at her third US Olympic Trials tomorrow, starting her Olympic campaign in the 400 metre freestyle. What can she accomplish at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in terms of her Olympic legacy?

Ledecky will swim 4 individual events at the Trials – the 200, 400, 800, and 1500 metre freestyles – and is almost a lock to make the US team in all 4 events. Making the team in the 200 freestyle will put her on the 4×200 freestyle relay team, and she may also be placed on the team as a prelim swimmer for the 4×100 freestyle relay. That would be 6 events in an ideal scenario.

Ledecky currently has 6 Olympic medals – 5 gold and 1 silver. If she were to win 6 gold medals, which I think is an extreme long shot, she would equal the Olympic record for women set by East German swimmer Kristen Otto at the 1988 Seoul Olympics who had, shall we say, some assistance.

Just winning 6 medals would put Ledecky in elite company, giving her 12 Olympic medals. That would be equal 3rd all-time among female Olympians, trailing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina (18) and Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen (15). She would then tie 3 American swimmers – Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres, and Natalie Coughlin – and East German canoeist Birgit Fischer-Schmidt.

I think its more reasonable to think Ledecky could win 4 Olympic medals, as a medal in the 200 free or the 4×100 free relay are by no means guarantees. That would give her 10 medals and bring her to equal 9th on the list for female Olympians.

However, Ledecky has a better chance to assault the Olympic record book for most gold medals among women. She has 5 gold medals, and the record for women is 9 by Latynina, with Bjørgen, Thompson, and Fischer-Schmidt next with 8 gold medals.

Ledecky could win 5 gold medals in the 4 freestyle races and the 4×200 free relay, but that is a long shot. She will be favored in the 800 and 1,500, and the USA will likely be favored in that relay, but she is not expected to win the 200 free. In the 400 free, she has been dominant but Australia’s Ariarne Titmus swam the 2nd fastest time ever yesterday at the Australian Olympic trials, and is the world leader for 2021. Titmus defeated Ledecky at the 2019 World Championships, although Ledecky was sick there, but Titmus and Ledecky will battle it out in the 400 free.

If Ledecky could win 5 gold medals, she would become the all-time leader among Olympic women with 10 gold medals. She would also become the second female Olympian, after Otto, to win more than 4 gold medals at a single Games. Even if she wins 4 gold medals she would tie Larisa Latynina for the most Olympic gold medals won by a woman.

The 1932 Egyptian Olympic Football Squad

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to engage in some speculation: in an alternate timeline, who might have been on Egypt’s football squad had they played at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics? The question is problematic for two reasons, the first being that there was no football tournament at these Games, as FIFA wanted to promote the World Cup instead. Even if there had been, however, Egypt would not have been there as they boycotted these Olympics due to their lack of proper representation at the International Olympic Committee, where their member was Angelos Bolonaki, a Greek in all but residence, rather than an Egyptian. So why bother to even ask this question? Speculative history can be fun, and we have seen this very inquiry pursued for other teams that might have made the Games. Since Egypt is our area of expertise, we felt that it might be worthwhile in engaging in a little bit of “what if?”

The logical place to search for answers in this regard would be to look at the surrounding international tournaments and see who would have been in their prime in 1932. Thankfully, we have three of the four major data points in this regard, as Egypt took part in the 1928 and 1936 Olympic tournaments, as well as the 1934 World Cup. What about the 1930 World Cup? Egypt was definitely invited, even though they ultimately did not attend, so it stands to reason that there may have been a squad prepared that would give us more clues.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case. According to Yasser Ayoub’s excellent and detailed Arabic-language work “Egypt and Football”, no confirmed account of why Egypt did not participate in 1930 has survived, leaving three common explanations: that the distance to Uruguay was too far, that a squad was prepared but missed their boat, and that the British blocked Egypt’s participation. Ayoub ultimately rejects all of these answers, speculating instead that there simply was not enough interest in Egypt to send a team to the first World Cup, outside of a small faction of diehard football fans. Thus, there was no 1930 lineup from which we can draw more information.

(Mokhtar El-Tetsh)

One obvious inclusion would be Mokhtar El-Tetsh, one of Egypt’s most famous footballers of the era and a powerful striker. El-Tetsh attended all three of the aforementioned tournaments (as well as the 1924 Paris Olympics) and would almost certainly have been on the 1930 World Cup squad had such a team existed. It was during a review of his career, however, that we came across an interesting series of matches, ones that did not involve him.

(Announcement of the squad to face the Hungarians from Al-Ahram, January 31, 1932)

In February 1932, a Hungarian team visited Egypt for a series of matches to test the mettle of the two national squads. A little archival research helped us locate the Egyptian lineup for those games, the first squad of which is listed as follows:

Goalkeeper: Mukhtar Amin

Backs: Kamel Masoud, Ahmed Salem

Other Defense: Amin Sabry, Hassan Raghab, Hassan Al-Swifi

Attackers: Latif, Mansour, Ramzi, Mustafa Kamel, Mahran

(Mohamed Latif)

Ahmed Salem is probably Ahmed Mohamed Salem, who represented Egypt at both the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics. Latif is almost certainly Mohammed Latif, who debuted on the national side in 1932 and would go on to play at the Olympics in 1936, while Mansour is likely the Ahmed Mansour who was a reserve for Egypt at both the 1924 and 1928 editions. Mustafa Kamel must be Mustafa Kamel Taha, a well-known player who also appeared at the 1936 Berlin Games. Four of the listed individuals represented Egypt at the 1934 World Cup: Latif, Mustafa Kamel, Kamel Masoud and Hassan Raghab. Additionally, Amin Sabry was part of the team that helped qualify Egypt for the World Cup, although he had no playing time in the tournament itself.

As for the others, Mukhtar Amin never appeared at the Olympics or the World Cup, but he had a lengthy career that stretched back to the first half of the 1920s and extended to at least 1935, so he certainly could have been on the 1932 squad (he may be the same individual as Ahmed Mokhtar, a non-starter on Egypt’s 1928 Olympic team, but this is not confirmed). Hassan Al-Swifi had a lesser-known career, but he did earn domestic titles at the end of the 1920s and first half of the 1930s. “Mahran” is most likely Mahmud Mahran, another domestic title holder of the late 1920s and early 1930s, and all would certainly be candidates for a theoretical 1932 squad. The only individual we were not able to identify was “Ramzi”; although there was a player with the name active at the time, we have not been able to uncover any details about his life or career.

This list gives us a good window into what a potential 1932 squad may have looked like, but there are too many variables to know for certain, especially since the same article lists a “second” and “third” team that includes many more players who were well-known at the time. We feel, however, that this has gone on for long enough without looking into these additional lineups, so we will stop here. We hope, however, that you found this to be at least a little interesting, and that you will join us next time for another Olympic blog post!

1948 British Olympians with Missing Dates of Birth

Today on Oldest Olympians we have decided to delve into a rather specific topic: British Olympians who competed at the 1948 London Games, but for whom we lack a date of birth. Thanks to some great work by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore, this is a relatively small list, containing only three entries, and they have been able to uncover some good potential leads. Thus, without further ado, let us present what we know.

The British Basketball team. (Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images)

(#9 Frank Cole and #8 Colin Hunt pictured with the 1948 British Olympic basketball squad at Getty Images)

Two of these individuals were members of the basketball squad that placed 20th overall in the tournament, both of whom played domestically for Birmingham Dolobran at the time of the Olympics. The first, Frank “Tiny” Cole, had been active in the prewar era and was an international representative for Britain as early as 1938. He captained the squad during a 1939 trip to Germany and also competed in Switzerland in 1946. Unfortunately, due to the commonness of his name and the limited attention paid to basketball in Britain during this era, Cole is the only one of the three for whom we have no candidate for his identity.

Mah and Gilmore had a little more luck with the second basketball player, Colin L. Hunt. Like Cole, Hunt was active in the prewar era and also represented Great Britain internationally during the 1930s. One candidate is Lucian Colin Hunt, born 1914 and died 1958, who was a resident of Birmingham during this time, but for whom no concrete connection to the Olympian can be found. If his middle initial were incorrect, then he might also be Colin Marwood James Hunt, born June 7, 1912 and died July 25, 1994, but, again, there is no strong evidence connecting him to the basketball player outside of his place of residence and age being appropriate.

The third individual is sports shooter George A. J. Jones, who was 18th in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres event. Like Cole and Hunt, Jones was an international competitor for Great Britain prior to World War II and remained active through at least 1950, representing the Twickenham Rifle Club after the conflict. He may be George Arthur James Jones, born January 16, 1912 and died in late 1983, but, once again, research has been unable to prove that he and the shooter and one and the same.

That is what we have for today, but we have already got a few more topics in the queue for blog entries, so we hope that you will join us again soon for another post!