1928 British Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to return to a more traditional type of post by looking at more competitors from the 1928 Olympics, both winter and summer. In particular, we wanted to raise the case of four representatives of Great Britain whom research has thus far been unable to identify with much certainty.

Thomas Skinner – Member of Great Britain’s sailing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Thomas Skinner was a crew member of the ship Feo, which competed in the 8 metres sailing class at the 1928 Amsterdam Games and placed seventh out of the eight teams in the regatta. All we know for certain is that he was a ship owner, and thus we suspect he may have been Sir Thomas Gordon Skinner, born December 29, 1899 in London and died November 22, 1972 in Cape Town, South Africa. Unfortunately, we have been unable to connect this individual to the Olympics for certain.

John Rogers – Member of Great Britain’s ice hockey team at the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics

Goalkeeper John Rogers, born August 22, 1910, represented Great Britain in the ice hockey tournament at the 1928 St. Moritz Games, where the nation placed fourth. He also played with the national team at the 1929 World Championships and was probably a reserve on the 1930 and 1931 squads as well. Domestically, he played with the University of Oxford and the London Lions. We know more about him than the other three, as he was the son of a Liverpool cotton-broker who lived in South Africa. He married Mary Bailey, daughter of diamond tycoon Abe Bailey, and settled in South Africa. The couple’s divorce in 1958 is the last trace we have of Rogers, and thus his subsequent fate is unknown.

(C. D. Griffiths, with his head turned, in a 1927 photograph)

David Griffiths – Member of Great Britain’s bobsled delegation to the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics

David Griffiths was a member of the Great Britain I bobsled team that placed 10th among 23 starters in the four/five man bobsled event at the 1928 St. Moritz Games. Newspapers occasionally listed him as C. D. Griffiths, which may mean that he was Charles David Griffiths, who was born March 29, 1898 and died January 16, 1963. Without further information, however, we cannot be sure.

John Gee – Member of Great Britain’s bobsled delegation to the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics

John Gee was a member of the other British bobsled team at the 1928 St. Moritz Games, which placed slightly higher in ninth. The most mysterious competitor of the four, it seems that newspaper clippings about the event do not even mention him, and thus we have no clues to his possible identity.

On the subject of the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics, there are a few more mystery competitors that we have not yet covered on this blog, primarily because we know almost nothing about them. Rafael and Horacio Iglesias represented Argentina with the bobsled teams that placed fourth and fifth respectively in the four/five man. In that same event, Frenchman Michel Baur was on the 14th-placed French team and Ferdinand Langer was disqualified with the Austria 1 squad for having an incomplete team at a finish line. Finally, Frenchman Marcel Beraud competed in the Nordic combined event, but did not complete the 18 kilometer course.

That is all that we have for today, although we did want to share a link from Bill Shander, who used data from Olympedia to demonstrate some interesting results about age and the Olympics. You can check out his article here: https://billshander.com/dataviz/oldlympics

Růžena Košťálová

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to celebrate the birthday of Růžena Košťálová of Czechoslovakia, who we believed to be turning 98 as the oldest living Olympic canoeist. There is, however, some discrepancy as to whether or not that is the case.

First, a brief biography. Košťálová was one half of the silver medal-winning Czechoslovakian team in the Kayak Doubles, 500 metres event at the 1948 World Championships, which led to her selection to represent the country at that year’s Olympic Games in the Kayak Singles, 500 metres. Although she won her heat in the opening round, she finished fifth in the final. Having already won 12 national titles in the sport, she retired from active competition shortly thereafter and eventually moved to Switzerland with her family in 1968.

We based our belief that she is still alive on this 2020 document from the Czech Olympic Committee. A comprehensive 2021 work by František Kolář, however, Encyklopedie olympioniků. Čeští a českoslovenští sportovci na olympijských hrác, lists her, on page 178, as having died in January 2013. Both sources seem very reliable, and thus it is plausible that either are mistaken, so we have continued to list her as alive, although we cannot be entirely certain. Were Košťálová deceased, however, then Belgium’s Anna Van Marcke, born April 18, 1924, would be the oldest living Olympic canoeist.

(José Pérez)

There are several other Olympians on our living list that have had dates of death posted for them on Wikipedia. Dutch gymnast Klara Post, born July 5, 1926, is alleged to have died on January 12 of this year in Alkmaar. American wrestler Bill Borders, born March 3, 1930, is claimed to have died on January 27 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mexican modern pentathlete José Pérez, born October 10, 1928, is said to have died at some point before the 18th of January. Finally, Romanian athlete Emma Konrad, born November 21, 1929, purportedly died May 16, 2021. In none of these cases have we been able to verify this information, and we do not trust additions to Wikipedia out of hand, so if anyone has any confirmation one way or the other, it would be greatly appreciated.

Finally, we wanted to thank the contributor who located an obituary for Swiss rower Kurt Schmid, born February 11, 1932, who we discussed in our last post, and was able to confirm that he did die on December 2, 2000.

Mirza Khan and Edward Shaske

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to briefly cover the recent deaths of two Olympic nonagenarians who were not on our main lists, but require a little more explanation as to why they were not. Thus we wanted to ensure that we had sufficient space to expand upon their circumstances.

(Mirza Khan, pictured at the Athletics Federation of Pakistan)

Mirza Khan, born December 15, 1924, was a soldier in the Pakistan Army when he represented his country at the 1952 Helsinki Games. He was eliminated in the opening round of both the 400 metres hurdles and the 4×400 metres relay, but had more success at the 1954 Asian Games, where he won gold in the 400 metres hurdles.

In 2013, someone edited Wikipedia to claim that he was still alive in living in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada as Akram Baig Mirza. While this was not the most reliable of sources, we listed him among as the oldest living Olympian from Pakistan, because we believe that the editor was acting in good faith. At the end of 2020, however, we were forwarded information that Akram Baig Mirza may have died in 2014, so we removed him for our list.

As it turned out, however, earlier this month an announcement was made that Khan died January 26 at the age of 97. As this is the most official news we have heard, we assume that our earlier information was incorrect and that he remained the oldest living Olympian from Pakistan until his death.

(Edward Shaske, pictured in his obituary)

Edward Shaske, born December 20, 1927, represented Canada in the trap shooting event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where he placed 16th. He also competed at the World Championships in 1969 and 1979 and helped organize them in 1983 when they came to Edmonton. He also worked as a coach for the national team, first at the boycotted 1980 Moscow Olympics, then officially in 1984, 1988, and 1992. By career, he was in real estate.

Shaske died December 28, 2021, at the age of 94, but he was never on our lists because he was originally in the Olympedia database with a date of death in 1982. We were able to clarify this error as stemming from his son, Edward Shaske, Jr., also a sport shooter, who was on the Olympic team of 1980 that did not travel and was a much-touted prospect for the 1984 edition, but died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1982.

Finally, while we are on the topic of Olympic mysteries, we wanted to raise the case of Swiss rower Kurt Schmid, born February 11, 1932, who would have turned 90 recently if still alive. Schmid represented his country in the coxless pairs at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, winning a bronze medal, and also competed in the coxless fours in 1960, placing sixth. German Wikipedia lists him as dying on December 2, 2000, but sourced to his rowing club, and thus we have been unable to verify the accuracy of this information.

2022 Fast Facts

One month into 2022 and with the Beijing Winter Olympics now upon us, we wanted to share our yearly fast facts about the Oldest Olympians in the world, partially to continue our commitment to transparency in our research but mostly just for fun and to share some statistics!

(The oldest living Olympian, Félix Sienra, born January 21, 1916, pictured with the cane in 2019 at the website of Yacht Club Uruguayo)

As of today our full list contains 2387 participants, non-starters, demonstration athletes, and art competitors born between 1912 and 1931 that could be living, 635 of which we believe to be living for certain. The former number is down from 2453 and the latter from 641 from the beginning of last year.

(Austrian middleweight weightlifter Franz Nitterl, who competed at the 1928 Amsterdam Games and about whom we know nothing)

We also have 373 Olympians (down from 422 last year) who competed in the 1928, 1932, or 1936 Games, Winter and Summer, who have no date of birth but could be still living. It is worth reminding everyone that the vast majority of athletes that could be living are likely deceased.

We had 13 living Olympic centenarians at the end of 2021, as we know of only two who died last year. We also know of two survivors from the oldest editions of the Olympics with living participants, the 1936 Berlin Games. If you have any suggestions of statistics or information that you would like to see added, please send us a message and we will be happy to include it in the next round!