Félix Sienra and Rhoda Wurtele

Today on Oldest Olympians we have two very exciting birthdays to celebrate and, since we could not choose which one to feature, we decided to feature them both in one quick blog post!

(Sienra, pictured after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination at Telenoche)

The first birthday is that of Uruguayan sailor Félix Sienra, the oldest living Olympian, who turns 106 today! Sienra represented his country in the Firefly class at the 1948 London Olympics, where he placed sixth. A lawyer by profession, he was much better known in Uruguay as a sports administrator, particularly with Yacht Club Uruguayo, where he served as Commodore from 1973 through 1975 and again from 2003 through 2005. He was also the Vice President of the Uruguayan Olympic Committee and worked with Panathlon Club Montevideo. He is the longest-lived Uruguayan Olympian and one of only three Olympians to have reached the age of 106!

(Rhoda Wurtele, pictured in a clip from My Canadian Moment)

The second is that of Canadian alpine skier Rhoda Wurtele, who turns 100 today! Both her and her twin sister Rhona, who died in 2020 at the age of 97, reached the top of the national skiing scene, with Rhona competing in the Olympics in 1948 and Rhoda in 1952. In 1948, the already injured Rhona broke her leg near the end of the course and placed last among the finishers, while Rhoda did not compete at all due to an ankle injury. Rhona, meanwhile, did not participate in 1952, while Rhoda had her best finish of ninth in the giant slalom. Both later had careers as ski instructors and were inaugurated into multiple Halls of Fame for their pioneering efforts in the field of Canadian women’s skiing. Rhoda is only the third Canadian Olympian to reach the age of 100!

1928 German Olympic Mysteries

Germany is a country for which we have very good data for the most part. As with any nation that has participated in the Games for such a long time, however, there are bound to be a handful of competitors about whom little is known, especially for those who participated in the earlier editions. Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to take a look at a few of those competitors from 1928 about whom we know so little that they could possibly (despite it being extremely unlikely) be alive.

Hermann Volz – Member of Germany’s weightlifting delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Hermann Volz represented Germany in the heavyweight weightlifting competition at the 1928 Summer Games where, despite setting a joint Olympic record in the snatch portion of the competition, he finished eighth out of 17 entrants. Aside from his affiliation, Turnerbund Cannstatt, we know nothing else about him.

Karl Max Reinhardt – Member of Germany’s bobsleigh delegation to the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics

Karl Max Reinhardt was on the German four/five-man bobsleigh team that finished 18th out of 23 entrants at the 1928 St. Moritz Games, while another German squad won the bronze medal. Relatively little is known about either of the teams, but Reinhardt is the only member with even a remote chance of being alive. He was a German champion in 1929, but otherwise we have been unable to uncover anything more about him.

Anton Huber – Member of Germany’s sailing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Anton Huber was a member of the German 6 metres sailing crew that placed 9th among 13 entrants in the tournament at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. He was also a reserve with the 12-foot dinghy crew that placed fifth in that event, but Huber did not end up taking part. Considering that all of his teammates were born in the 1800s, it seems very likely that he is deceased, although we do not have any additional information on him to be certain.

Theodor Fischer – Member of Germany’s fencing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Theodor Fischer represented Germany in both the individual and team épée events at the 1928 Amsterdam Games and was eliminated in the quarterfinals of both competitions. He was eighth at the national championships that same year, but otherwise we have no additional information about his career or life.

(Walter Müller)

As a footnote, there is also a German cyclist from the Amsterdam Games, P. Neymann, who was a reserve with the delegation but did not start. Without a first name, however, we have been unable to identify him further. Similarly, Fritz Lincke of Berliner SV 92 was a member of the German field hockey squad that won bronze in Amsterdam, but he did not see any playing time, and we know little else about him.

Finally, we wanted to take this time to update on a German-related topic. At the end of last year, we noted that gymnast Walter Müller, born December 31, 1930, was the oldest living Olympian to have represented Saar. We recently learned, however, that he unfortunately died on May 21, 2021, leaving his gymnastics teammate Heinz Ostheimer, born September 15, 1931, as the last surviving Olympian to have represented Saar.

Skijoring

As we try to catch up on our Olympic blog posts, we wanted to take a very brief look at one of the stranger Olympic demonstration events, at least in English-speaking countries: skijoring. At its most basic, skijoring is a skiing event where the competitors are being pulled across a racing course, traditionally by a reindeer and most popularly by horse, although often other pullers are used such as dogs, motorcycles, and snowmobiles.

(Skijoring at the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics)

Competitive skijoring has taken place in Scandinavian countries for well over a century and occasionally was contensted at the Nordic Games. This means that its appearance as a demonstration event at the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics was far from unprecedented. The race was held on a frozen lake with eight starters and was won by the Swiss Rudolf Wettstein, about whom we know nothing. The runner-up, however, was Bibi Torriani, much better known for his ice hockey career with Switzerland, as he appeared in three editions of the Olympic ice hockey tournament and won bronze in 1928 and 1948. The third-place finisher was Polish skier Henryk Mückenbrunn, who won numerous titles in more traditional skiing events, but had to withdraw from the 1924 Chamonix Olympics due to injury.

Having an unidentifiable winner of an Olympic demonstration event would probably be sufficient for an Olympic mysteries blog, but in fact Torriani and Mückenbrunn are the only two individuals that researchers have been able to identify with any certainty, and we are not even sure if the remainder are all Swiss. This is not helped by the fact that other five starters failed to complete the course. For two, we at least have full names – Peter Conrad and Fritz Kuhn – but these names are so common that, without any additional identifying information, we cannot connect anyone to the skijoring event.

From there, the information only gets sparser. For one, we at least know their first initial, F. Mordasini, while another we have only a surname: Brander. Then there is the final competitor, who rode the horse “Rival”, for whom we do not have any indication of their name whatsoever. The Olympic mysteries do not come much more mysterious than that!

Skijoring is still contested worldwide, in a variety of forms, but has never again appeared at the Olympics. There are other mysteries from the 1928 St. Moritz Games, such as the identities of French military ski patrol competitors R. Geindre and G. Périer, but skijoring seems to be the most enticing of them all. We hope you enjoyed reading briefly about the competition and that you will join us for another blog entry in the near future!

Mystery 1928 Olympic Art Competitors

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover a slightly more obscure topic: mystery art competitors from the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. The art competitions at the Olympic Games are a topic that is rarely touched upon, although it has been garnering more attention in recent years. There have been great strides made in connecting artists, writers, and musicians to their Olympic participation, but some remain elusive. As you might imagine, information on these individuals is scarce, if we know anything at all, and thus we will be covering these competitors only briefly and only those that are possibly (albeit extremely unlikely) to be alive.

Of the six individuals that we wish to mention today, only one was an architect: Pierre Souziff of France. Souziff entered his work “Une piscine” into the architectural competition, but as only medal winners were assigned to a specific category of the competition, he is listed among the “further entries” to the event. In searches, his name appears only in connection to the Olympics, suggesting that it was either a pseudonym or there is some error in spelling.

Of the remaining five competitors, we have full names for at least two of them. The first, Simon Frey of Switzerland, submitted the work “Sporting” into the Instrumental and Chamber Music event, a competition in which no medal was awarded. Unfortunately, Frey has the opposite problem of Souziff – his name is so common that we have been unable to identify an individual who can be linked to the Olympic submission. The second is Willy Favez, also of Switzerland, who submitted “Le Combat” (“The Fight”) to literature’s lyric works competition, but did not receive a medal. There is a Swiss Willy Favez born in 1898 who died in 1966, but we know of nothing that would tie him to the Olympian.

Two more of our mystery competitors also competed in the lyric works event. H. J. Ken of Austria submitted “Siegeskränze” (“Victory Wreaths”), but without more than initials, we have been unable to identify anything more about him. For the second, Voittout of Switzerland, we lack even initials and suspect that “Voittout” is a pseudonym. His submission for this competition was “La Défaite” (“The Defeat”), but he also competed in dramatic and epic works, with “Conflits Sportives” (“Sporting Conflicts”) and “Jarrets d’Acier” (“Ankle Joints of Steel”) respectively. The French director and cinematographer of educational shorts Edmond Floury (1887 – 1959) went by the pseudonym Voittout, but we have been unable to establish a definite connection between him and the Olympian.

The final individual on our list is B. Bosserdet of Switzerland, who submitted “Trilogie sur la Musique du Mouvement” (“Trilogy on the Music of Movement”) to music’s Compositions for Orchestra event. In this event, only one medal, bronze, was distributed, to Danish composer Rudolf Simonsen. Again, we know nothing about Bosserdet, and it is possible that his name is misspelled or a pseudonym.

That is all we have for today; an unfortunately undecorated blog entry for a post about art competitions! Nonetheless, we will return soon with a new topic and hope that you will join us!

Guyanese Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to take a look at Olympic mysteries from a country that does not get much attention often: Guyana. We were inspired to make this post partially by the fact that one of the nation’s weightlifters, Winston McArthur, would have turned 90 on January 1 if he were still alive, but we were unable to locate any additional information on him. Then, Connor Mah pointed out several more cases, and we decided to make a quick post showcasing some of the country’s athletes.

Laddie Lewis – Guyana’s lone cyclist at the 1948 London Olympics

Laddie Lewis, born in 1915, was the sole cyclist among Guyana’s four-man inaugural delegation to the Olympics in 1948. In track cycling, he placed 21st and last in the time trial and was eliminated in the round one repêchage of the sprint. He also competed in the road race, but did not finish. His real name was Lionel F. Lewis and we have confirmed that he is deceased; however, we have been able to uncover little else about him, aside from the fact that he was the stepfather of Guyanese politician Lindley Geborde.

21st July 1948: Charles Thompson from British Guiana practising his starts at Richmond Olympic Camp. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

(Charles Thompson, pictured at Getty Images)

Charles Thompson – Guyana’s lone track and field athlete at the 1948 London Olympics

Charles Thompson, born in 1921, represented Guyana in two events at the 1948 London Games, being eliminated in the first round of both the 100 metres and the long jump. He was also entered in the triple jump, but did not start. He may have lived in St. Lucia at some point, but unfortunately we know nothing else about his personal life or career.

Cecil Moore – Lone Olympian from Guyana at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Cecil Moore, born November 1, 1929, represented Guyana in the light-heavyweight weightlifting event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he placed 17th. Unfortunately, we know of no other results for him, nor any other details of his life.

Michael Swain – Member of Guyana’s weightlifting delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Michael Swain, born in 1933, represented Guyana in the bantamweight weightlifting tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where he placed joint-13th. He was also fourth in that event at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Connor Mah has found a potential missing link in an individual of this name who was born February 14, 1933 in Georgetown, Guyana and died October 15, 1978 in Alameda, California. Unfortunately, we have been unable to confirm if this was the Olympian.

That is all we have for today but, before we depart, we wanted to provide an update on two of the Olympians we listed as having last been heard from in 2011. We want to thank Vesa Tikander for confirming that Finnish marathoner Eino Oksanen is still alive at the age of 90. We also want to thank Ralf Regnitter who verified that Swiss sport shooter Erwin Vogt is also still at the age of 90.

Final Updates from 2021

Happy New Year everyone! For today’s blog, we have decided to do a quick wrap up of some of the outstanding issues from 2021 that we would like to address. Primarily, we wanted to update you on some excellent Canada-related research provided by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore that has solved some of our previous Olympic mysteries!

The first is a former Olympic rowing medal mystery, Al Taylor, who won bronze with Canada’s rowing eights at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Previously, all we knew about his private life was that he was born c. 1911 and was a member of the Leander Boat Club of Hamilton, Ontario. Thanks to some good research, however, we now know that he was born May 20, 1911 in Belleville, Ontario and died September 9, 1988 in Hamilton. By career, he was a police officer.

Mah and Gilmore were also able to solve some of Canada’s Olympic sport shooting medal mysteries. We knew a fair amount about George Beattie, born May 28, 1877, who won three silver medals in trap between 1908 and 1924, but we were missing his date of death, which we now know as April 6, 1953.

They were also able to verify that the 1908 bronze medal-winning military rifle shooter Bruce Williams, born December 1876, was indeed the Bertram Williams born December 18, 1876 in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia who died January 27, 1934 in Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Similarly, they were able to confirm the candidate for silver medal-winning trap shooter Mylie Fletcher: he was Miles Edwin Fletcher, a Hamilton firefighter, born August 23, 1868 in Binbrook, Ontario who died October 25, 1959 in Hamilton.

(Lotte Haidegger)

In a Canada-related matter, the duo was also able to confirm the information on Austrian athletes Lotte Haidegger and Felix Würth that was posted on Wikipedia. Haidegger did indeed die February 14, 2004 in Puslich, Ontario, while her husband Felix was never the oldest living Austrian Olympian, as he died February 25, 2014 in Guelph, Ontario.

Finally, we have one more death to acknowledge, that of American sailor Norman Freeman, born November 14, 1931, who died December 27 at the age of 90. Freeman represented his country in the Flying Dutchman event at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where he placed sixth with his teammate John Mathias. One year earlier, the duo had taken bronze in that class at the Pan American Games and in 1974 Freeman was a silver medalist in the Laser class at the World Championships. A lawyer by career, he was arrested in 2005 on charges of sexual molestation charges involving three minor girls. He pleaded no contest to one of the charges and was given a 6½ year prison term.