1948 Swiss Olympic Mysteries

On Oldest Olympians, we have often mentioned that Switzerland is a nation missing lots of biographical data despite its extensive participation in the Games. This is particularly true of their delegation to the 1948 London Olympics, where nearly four dozen competitors are missing even a year of birth. While of course we cannot cover them all, we did want to highlight several cases raised by researcher and frequent contributor Connor Mah as being potentially alive.

The one about whom we know the most is Maria-Anna Erismann, who was eliminated in round one of the 100 metres freestyle swimming competition. Even then, we are uncertain about the spelling of her first name, which is seen as Marianna, Marianne and Maria. Regardless, we do know that she was active primarily in the 1950s and won at least one national championship in that decade, which suggests that she was relatively young at the 1948 London Games. Unfortunately, the trail ends after the 1950s.

(Walter Kunz)

There are at least two more swimmers in London who went on to win Swiss national championships in the 1950s. Walter Kunz was the Swiss champion in the 100 metres butterfly in 1954, but at the 1948 Olympics he competed in the 200 metres backstroke, where he was eliminated in round one. Also competing in that event, with the same result, was Hans Widmer, who seems to have begun his career shortly after World War II. He too was a Swiss national champion in the mid-1950s.

(Vera Hagemann)

In other sports, fencer Vera Hagemann was a national fencing champion in 1947 before representing Switzerland in the individual foil in London, where she was eliminated in round one. She was still active two years later when she became the first female fencer at a club in Lucerne. In rowing, Maurice Matthey was eliminated in the round one repêchage of the double sculls event at the 1948 Games. He was very successful later in life, becoming the president of the Swiss Rowing Federation in the 1960s. (His Olympic partner, Maurice Gueissaz, is also missing all of his Olympic biographical data, although he seems to have been a bit older).

(Walter Keller)

Finally, for some Olympians, we have very little information at all, but based on their names not appearing in Swiss papers until after World War II, we speculate that they may have been young enough at the Games to still be alive. Athlete Walter Keller, who was eliminated in the first round of both the 400 metres and the 4×400 metres relay, is one example. One runner in that relay, Karl Volkmer, born March 20, 1922, was still alive as recently as 2015. Another, Max Trepp, born June 30, 1924, is on our possibly living list. A second example is water polo player Heinrich Keller, who may be the only survivor of the Swiss team that was eliminated in round one.

Mah also sent us an update on Swiss bronze medal-winning fencer Willy Fitting, born January 25, 1925, whom we profiled previously as an Olympic medal mystery. As it turns out, based on research by Patrick Houda, Fitting died April 26, 2017 at the age of 92. We also want to send our appreciation to Deborah Chai, who confirmed that her father, Olympic field hockey player for Singapore Chai Hon Yam, whom we profiled previously on this blog, was born in 1927 and did die on December 7, 2017.

Missing Data on Burmese Olympians

Myanmar/Burma is a country for which we have much missing data and, according to the OlyMADMen database, there are six competitors for whom we lack even a complete date of birth. We have covered one of them, 1948 boxer Saw Hardy, in a previous post, so today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to take a brief look at the remaining participants so that we can highlight their Olympic contributions and perhaps uncover more information about who these individuals were. Unfortunately, we have very little to say about most of these athletes.

Chow Park Wing – Member of Myanmar’s sailing delegations to the 1956 and 1960 Summer Olympics

Chow Park Wing, born c. 1924, represented Myanmar in two editions of the Olympic Flying Dutchman sailing tournaments, in 1956 and 1960, finishing 13th and 29th respectively. Both times, he competed alongside Gyi Khin Pe. Chow is the only Burmese competitor for whom we lack even a year of birth, although his approximate age at the time of competition suggests that he could still be alive.

Aw Chu Kee – Member of Myanmar’s weightlifting delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Aw Chu Kee, born in 1926, represented Myanmar in weightlifting’s bantamweight division at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where he placed 11th out of 16 entrants. As far as we are aware, this is the only major international tournament in which he participated, and thus we have been unable to uncover more information about his life.

(Myo Thant, seated in the center, pictured on Flickr)

Myo Thant – Member of Myanmar’s boxing delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Myo Thant, born in 1922, represented Myanmar in boxing’s flyweight division at the 1948 London Games, where he was eliminated in round two. He was a well-known boxer in his home country, active in the 1940s, and we have seen his name presented in several variations, but we have been able to uncover nothing about his life following his retirement from active competition.

Maung Win Maung – Member of Myanmar’s weightlifting delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Maung Win Maung, born in 1921, represented Myanmar in weightlifting’s bantamweight division at the 1948 London Games, where he placed 15th out of 19 entrants. Like many Burmese athletes, there is uncertainty surrounding his name and very little information in general that we could find about his life.

Maung Sein Pe – Sole track athlete in Myanmar’s delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Maung Sein Pe, born in 1920, represented Myanmar in both the 100 and 200 metres track event at the 1948 London Games, and was eliminated in the first round of both. Once again, we know very little else about him, but we hope that by highlighting his participation, we can learn more.

Finally, we wanted to provide an update on a recent post, where we mentioned that Romanian rower Ladislau Lovrenschi was potentially the oldest survivor of the 1988 Seoul Olympics. A commenter pointed out, however, that the Romanian Olympic Committee lists Lovrenschi as deceased, albeit without a precise date of death. This makes Austrian sport shooter Hermann Sailer, born November 1, 1933, the oldest survivor of the Seoul Olympics. We greatly appreciate having this pointed out and hope to include more updates in our next post!

Missing Data on Lebanese Olympians

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover a topic that we have hit upon eclectically, but never really devoted our full attention to: missing information on Lebanese Olympians. There are a lot of gaps in our data, but today we wanted to focus on four individuals who competed between 1948 and 1964 and may still be living, although we do not know enough about them to be sure either way.

Salem Salam – Member of Lebanon’s sport shooting delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

We know very little about Salem Salam, who represented Lebanon in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres competition at the 1948 London Games. His result of 70th, among 71 competitors, is essentially the sum of this knowledge; even the picture we have seen of the 1948 Lebanese team cuts off some of the names (including his) leaving us unable to identify exactly who he is in the photograph. While sport shooters tend to be older than the average Olympian, it is certainly in the realm of possibility that he may still be alive.

(Michel Ghawi, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)

Michel Ghawi – Sole boxer in Lebanon’s delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Michel Ghawi took up boxing at 15 years old and won the Lebanese national bantamweight title in 1947. At the 1948 London Games, however, he represented his country as a flyweight, where he lost in round one to Chile’s Manuel Videla. We know that he founded a club in 1944, so the absolute latest he could be born is roughly 1929. He was, however, likely much older by then, although it remains a possibility that he is still living.

Sami Beyroun – Member of Lebanon’s alpine skiing delegation to the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics

Of all the Olympians on this list, we know the least about Sami Beyroun. Even his name is uncertain, as one Arabic-language site lists him as “Samir Bayrouni”. All we can be certain of is that someone with this name or similar competed in three alpine skiing events at the 1964 Innsbruck Games, placing 80th and last among the finishers in the giant slalom and also competing in the slalom and downhill. Without any further information, we are limited in our ability to research his later life.

(Michel Rahme, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)

Michel Rahme – Member of Lebanon’s alpine skiing delegation to the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics

Like Sami Beyroun, Michel Rahme represented Lebanon in all three events at the 1964 Innsbruck Games, placing 75th in the both the downhill and giant slalom and 53rd in the slalom. While this was his only major competitive tournament, he spent many years with the Lebanese national team as an administrator. We have, however, unfortunately been unable to find more details about his more recent life, or if he is even still alive.

Finally, while on the subject of Lebanon, we wanted to publicly thank Zakaria Chihab’s son Bassam for confirm that his father, at 1952 Olympic bronze medalist and subject of an Olympic Mysteries post from last year, died in November 1984. We are not sure just yet what topic we will cover next, but we hope that you will join us!