Updates to Swiss Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to highlight some great recent research from Connor Mah, who has expanded our biographical data on Swiss and Austrian Olympians significantly. While there are far too many names to cover in a single post, we wanted to highlight some of the updates that involve past Olympic mysteries that were featured on this blog.

(Original Caption) Jesse Renick, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, captain of the U.S. Olympic basketball team (left) is congratulated by Maurice Chollet, captain of the Swiss team, after the Americans had whipped their opponents 86-21 at Harringay Stadium on July 30th. The American boys have since bettered a Czech five, 53-28.

(Maurice Chollet, pictured on the right at Getty Images)

Starting with Switzerland, back in June Mah was able to confirm that the Hugo Vonlanthen who was listed as dying on April 28, 2009 was in fact the Olympic field hockey player. Then, earlier this month, he verified that the obituary for a Maurice Chollet who died February 22, 2017 was for the two-time Olympic basketball player. Most recently, he was able to confirm that the Kurt Bryner who died in Cape Verde in February 1984 was the two-time Olympic sailor.

(Adolf Müller, with the moustache in the background)

In-between, Mah was also able to solve several other Swiss Olympic mysteries. Firstly, 1936 Olympic canoeist Rudolf Vilim did die in February 1959. The Wikipedia date of death of August 28, 2005 for field hockey player Roland Annen was also confirmed as correct. He also proved that the January 2017 obituary for a René Wohler was for the 1952 Olympic basketball player. Finally, he discovered that Adolf Müller, a wrestler who was one of our Olympic medal mysteries, died July 7, 2005.

(John O’Connor, pictured in the Northern Whig, June 18, 1951)

We also have a handful of non-Swiss updates. From Austria, Mah was able to confirm that water polo player Sebastian Ploner, born May 27, 1907, did die in December 1981 as suggested by the Vienna cemetery index. From Ireland, with some help from Emma Edwards, we learned that athlete John O’Connor died October 10, 1977. From Italy, Adriano Brunelli verified that Wikipedia’s date of death for Amedeo Banci, December 24, 2013, is correct. From El Salvador, we learned that sport shooter Tomás Vilanova did die in July 2007.

(Rosella Thorne pictured in “A Sporting Chance: Achievements of African-Canadian Athletes” by William Humber)

Finally, a few days ago we featured Canadian track and field athlete Rosella Thorne, a previous Olympic mystery born December 11, 1930, as our Olympian of the day based on information that she was still alive. Sadly, it turns out that she died April 16 at the age of 91.

Update to the Historical List of the Oldest Living Olympians

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to correct a mistake that we made in a previous post, one that concerns our historical list of the Oldest Living Olympians. Originally, we listed sport shooter Giuseppe Rivabella of Italy as the oldest living Olympian from April 8, 1896, the start of the military rifle, 200 metres event, until May 20, 1900, when French sailor William Martin, born October 25, 1828, began his first competition.

(Giuseppe Rivabella)

We recently learned from Diego Rossetti, however, that Rivabella was 63 when he died on August 24, 1919, which means that he was born in 1855 or 1856. This leads to a chance that Rivabella was never the oldest living Olympian, as American Charles Waldstein, born March 30, 1856, also competed in the same event. If Rivabella was born between April 1 and August 24, 1856, then he was never the oldest living Olympian and thus we have updated our tables to reflect this possibility.

(Kevin Wilson)

In terms of other age mysteries, we recently noted that Australian sailor Kevin Wilson, whom we had listed as being born March 18, 1923, may actually have been a few years younger. With the death of Frank Prihoda, we learned that this was indeed the case: Wilson was born December 15, 1927, making another sailor, Gordon Ingate, born March 29, 1926, the oldest living Australian Olympian. We have also been able to confirm details on two of our other Olympic mystery sailors. Manuel Escobar of El Salvador, born August 6, 1924, died March 8, 1995, giving us a more precise date that we suspected in our original post. Connor Mah, meanwhile, was able to verify that Canadian Olympic sailing mystery Dick Townsend was born April 29, 1928 and died November 22, 1982.

Max Müller

Thanks to recent research from Connor Mah, we have learned about the existence of a new Olympic centenarian! Swiss cross-country skier Max Müller, born June 27, 1916, died November 22, 2019 at the age of 103 years and 148 days. Müller represented his country in three events at the 1948 St. Moritz Games, finishing 17th in the 50 kilometers and 25th in the 18 kilometers. He was also fifth with the 4×10 kilometers relay squad. Domestically, he was a three-time national champion and later ran a sports store.

(Max Müller, pictured in a 2018 bulletin from Club Alpin Suisse)

While we are on the subject of potential centenarians, we also wanted to mention Australian sailor Kevin Wilson. Wilson represented his country in the Star class at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where he and his crewmate Bart Harvey placed 18th. Currently, we have Wilson as being born March 18, 1923, but travel documents suggest a year of birth of 1927 or 1928. We know that he was still alive in March 2021, but in the report he is mentioned as being 93 years old, which would align with the contemporary sources. While we are leaving him born in 1923 on our tables for now, it seems likely that he is several years younger, albeit still among the Oldest Olympians.