The 1948 Iraqi Olympic Delegation

Iraq made its début as a country at the 1948 London Olympics and 10 out of its 11 athletes were members of the national basketball delegation. Of these individuals, we have full biographical data for only one, George Hallaq, who later moved to the United States and taught business. For most, we have no information at all, and thus we have decided to dedicate a blog post to this pioneering team.

(Labib Hasso, pictured at الاطباء العراقيون)

The odd man out in this delegation was track athlete Labib Hasso, who was born in 1925 and died prior to 2008. He was eliminated in the first round of the 400 metres and later became a well-known physician in Iraq. He was not the only Iraqi to compete in track and field that year, however, as Dallah Ali Salman, a member of the basketball squad, also ran in the 100 and 200 metres, but was eliminated in the first round of both. Unfortunately, we know nothing else about him.

(Wadud Khalil)

We also know a fair amount about Wadud Khalil, who was a multi-sport athlete and captained Iraq’s first football team in addition to his international appearances in basketball. He had a football career in Europe and eventually returned to Baghdad, after which local sources have been unable to trace the details of his life. Born in 1927, he could still be alive, but there are some suggestions that he died after 2006.

(Kanan Awni, top, and Salih Faraj, bottom)

The only other individual we know anything about is Kanan Awni who, thanks to research from Connor Mah, we have a picture for and know that he was born c. 1928. We also have a picture for Salih Faraj and are aware that he was footballer alongside Wadud Khalil, but otherwise were have no biographical details. For the remaining members, Jalil Hashim, Kadir Irfan, Hamid Ahmed, Mahdi Salman, and Yonan Emile, we know nothing at all – it is possible that we have even their names wrong.

Iraq would not make an appearance at the Olympics again until 1960, although they did intend to send a track athlete, Ghanim Mahmoud, to the 1956 edition, but he did not ultimately compete. Mahmoud, another Olympic mystery for whom we have no biographical details, did eventually take part in the Games as a member of the 4×100 metres relay in 1960.

Japan’s Delegation to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics

A few weeks ago we covered the Japanese rowing delegation at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Today on the Oldest Olympians blog, we wanted to expand our look and raise a few additional cases of Japanese Olympians who remain somewhat mysterious.

(Hwang Eul-Su, pictured at

The individual that we know the most about is Hwang Eul-Su, who represented Japan in the lightweight boxing tournament under the name of Otsu Shuko while Korea was under occupation. Although he was eliminated in the first round of that competition, he was more successful domestically, winning three consecutive Japanese national championships from 1929 through 1931. After his retirement, he worked as a coach for Japan and, after World War II, for both what was to become South and North Korea. He was last heard of in 1963, after which there seems to be no additional information on his life.

Japan also sent a substantial wrestling delegation to the Los Angeles Olympics, about whom we have very uneven information. For example, we know almost nothing about two members of the team: Yoshio Kono, who was eliminated in round two of the welterweight, freestyle event, and Shuichi Yoshida, who met the same fate in the Greco-Roman division. Two others, Kiyoshi Kase of the featherweight, Greco-Roman category and Eitaro Suzuki of the lightweight, freestyle event, are also lacking biographical details, but we at least know that they were active early enough to certainly be deceased.

(Boxing Postcard by Tomotari Sakurai)

If we were to expand our examination even further, we could mention Kiyoshi Murai, a reserve with the water polo squad about whom we know nothing. It might be more fruitful, however, to bring up the Olympic art competitors, of whom Japan sent many. For example, Toru Arai was active during the 1930s and competed in the painting competitions in 1932 and 1936, likely by submitting woodblock prints, but we lack biographical details. Tomotari Sakurai, meanwhile, competed in an unknown painting event, and while we have an example of his work, we otherwise know very little about his career or life. There is also Eiichi Kawasaki, who took part in sculpturing, about whom we also know nothing.

Historical Oldest Living Olympians

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to use our blog post to highlight an update to the Oldest Olympians site, specifically the historical list of the oldest living Olympian. Thanks to a little additional research, we have been able to complete the table to the beginning of the Games!

(Emily Rushton)

Previously, we knew that Emily Rushton, an archer in the Double National Round tournament at the 1908 London Games, had been the oldest Olympian at some point in her life, as she was born in the first quarter of 1850 and died June 30, 1939 at the age of 89. What we were not certain about, however, was if John Butt had ever held the title. Butt, a two-time Olympic trap shooting medalist, was born October 30, 1850, meaning he was definitely younger than Rushton, and died at some point in 1939. If he had died after June 30, then he would have been the oldest living Olympian until his death, but we finally discovered that he died in the first quarter of 1939, meaning that he was never the titleholder.

(Luc Alessandri)

From there, our journey back in time was a little easier. Before Rushton, George Barnes, born sometime in 1849 and died January 25, 1934, was the oldest living Olympian. He won bronze in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 and 100 yards competition at the 1908 London Games and, although we do not know the exact date of his birth, no one else could have held the title since the death of his predecessor, British art competitor Jacob Rees. Rees, born October 15, 1844, represented Great Britain in the architecture competition at the 1912 Stockholm Games, and died one day after his 89th birthday. He in turn was preceded by 1904 American roque silver medalist Smith Streeter, who died December 17, 1930. Although Streeter’s date of birth is sometimes seen as July 1, 1851, records indicate that he was actually born July 14, 1844. Before him was French fencer Luc Alessandri, born May 31, 1842, who competed in the masters sabre event at the 1900 Paris Games and died August 18, 1926.

(David McGowan)

Prior to Alessandri, the oldest living Olympian was American archer David McGowan, born January 10, 1838 and died September 22, 1924. He competed in the double York round in 1904 and placed 11th. He had been the oldest Olympian for over a decade, since the death of French equestrian Louis, Count du Douet de Graville on October 12, 1912. Graville, who was born February 27, 1831, took part in the four-in-hand equestrian driving competition in 1900. Before Graville, French sailor William Martin was the oldest living Olympian, someone we have covered in the past because he is the Olympian with the earliest known date of birth: October 25, 1828.

(Eugen Schmidt)

Since Martin competed in 1900, however, we still needed to know who was the oldest living Olympian prior to his competition. Thankfully, working forwards from the 1896 Athens Games was not a difficult task. The first “oldest Olympian” was Eugen Schmidt of Denmark, born February 17, 1862, who competed in the very first Olympic event, the 100 metres dash. He held the title for two days, until Italian sport shooter Giuseppe Rivabella, born sometime in 1840, competed on April 8. An individual born as late as Schmidt would not hold the title again for six decades. Rivabella then held the title until Martin competed in 1900.

And that completes the list! Of course, we are missing lots of data on early competitors at the Games, so it seems likely that this will change at some point in the future. For example, since we last posted about Olympians who competed for an unknown country, Olympedia has added one more to its database: an unknown rider who competed in the equestrian jumping competition at the 1900 Paris Games. On the other end of the spectrum, we learned that Italian gymnast Bianca Ambrosetti, who is usually cited as the shortest-lived Olympian after having died in 1929 from tuberculosis at the age of 15, actually lived a few years longer according to research by Diego Rossetti, dying March 27, 1933 at the age of 19. For now, however, we have the most complete list we can get with our current data!

1932 Japanese Rowing Delegation

A while back on Oldest Olympians, we covered the Japanese rowing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Games, and today we wanted to briefly cover a squad that is equally mysterious to us: the 1932 delegation. Japan entered two crews into the tournament in Los Angeles, one each for the coxed fours and the eights, and we know very little about both delegations.

(Umetaro Shibata, pictured on the left, at a ceremony of the Olympians Association of Japan)

We do know the biographical details of one member of the coxed fours crew that was eliminated in the round one repêchage: Shokichi Nanba, born September 26, 1911 in Tokyo and died January 24, 1995. Like the other members of his crew, Nanba represented Keio University, but Nanba later had a prominent career in business, which is why we know more about him. We have learned at least the date of birth of two others: Rokuro Takahashi and Umetaro Shibata were both born in 1909, and we covered Shibata in an earlier blog post because he was still alive in 2006 at the age of 97. About the other two members, Daikichi Suzuki and Norio Ban, we have no information.

(Hidemitsu Tanaka)

As for the eights crew, from Waseda University, we know full biographical details for two of the rowers: Setsuji Tanaka and Hidemitsu Tanaka, the latter of whom later became a well-known novelist. For another two, Kenzo Ikeda and Setsuo Matsura, we are aware that they were born in Hiroshima Prefecture. For the others, Taro Nishidono, Shigeo Fujiwara, Yoshio Enomoto, Saburo Hara, and Toshi Sano, we have no biographical details, although we have learned that Enomoto is definitely deceased.