Christmas Greetings From Olympstats

At the end of the year it’s been a tradition for Olympstats to post something to mark the holidays. This time we’ll focus on sportspeople and people who have other Olympic connections who were born at this time of year.

December 24 – Christmas Eve.

King George of Greece

The first person to mention was no Olympian in the standard sense but instead an important figure in the revival of the Games and whose family connections with Olympism span over three centuries.

Christian Wilhelm Ferdinand Adolf Georg  von Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg was a prince of Denmark who was offered the Greek throne as a 17-year-old after the overthrow of the unpopular King Otto. As King George he offered his royal patronage to the 1896 Olympic Games and, later, the 1906 Intercalated Games, both of which increased his stature with the Greek public. In the fiftieth year of his reign, despite Greek successes in the first Balkan War, he lost his life to a gunman’s bullet. The assassin was variously described as an anarchist or mentally disturbed.

by Unknown photographer, bromide print, published 1912

George’s son Constantine (Konstantinos) served as president of the Olympic Organizing Committees in 1896 and 1906 and his grandson, also George, served as president of the Greek Olympic Committee.

Another grandson, Prince Phillip of Great Britain, emulated his grandfather by officially opening the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne while a great-grandson, Prince Crown Prince Konstantinos (Constantine) was an Olympic champion in sailing. If you add in his links to the British and Spanish royal families, his bloodline links the first Olympic Games to the present day of 2022.

Anton Heida

In contrast, Anton Heida was not born into an aristocratic family. In fact after his competitive gymnastics career was over he performed in vaudeville as part of an acrobatic act called “The Olympic Trio”.

His unusual Olympic claim to fame is that he could be credited to have competed at the same Olympic Games for two different nations.  He was an Austrian native and when he won the team and individual all-around gold medal in the July turnverein competition, he was still an Austrian citizen. But he became a US citizen (which required that he renounce Austrian nationality) on 17 October 1904, so he was an American at the time of the late October gymnastics events

Alexis McAllister

Moving forward by more than a decade, Alexis McAllister was perhaps the outstanding performer in the 2022 FIFA football World Cup final. Unfortunately for him, Argentina were knocked out of the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games in the group stage after a surprise loss to Australia

December 25 – Christmas Day

Freydoun Malcolm Khan

It’s an odd thought that the first Olympian produced by Iran was actually born on the holiest of Christianity’s holy days. Freydoun Malcolm Khan was born into Armenian-Persian aristocracy in London where his father was serving in London as minister plenipotentiary and later as ambassador.  His Olympic career saw him qualify for the second round of the Épée competition in 1900 but progress no further.

Noël Delberghe

An Olympic champion born on Christmas Day and with the given name Noël probably  fits the criteria to be mentioned in this post as well as anybody ever could be. Previously Great Britain had won all four Olympic water polo tournaments they had competed in but in 1924 they were defeated by the Hungarians by the odd goal in thirteen in their first round match. The Hungarians themselves were routed by Belgium in their next match and this led to a France versus Belgium final.

The French team, which included Delberghe from the Belgian border town of Tourcoing as one of their defenders, shut out their opponents for a memorable gold medal win.

Emanoul Aghasi

The second Iranian Olympian we mention to have been born on Christmas Day was also an ethnic Armenian. Better known as father to tennis superstar Andre Agassi, Emanoul competed at the London Olympics of 1948 and also four years later in Helsinki but lost his first boxing bout on both occasions. Aghasi retired from active competition after the 1952 Games and moved to Chicago to join his brother, renaming himself “Mike”.

Christ Noël Yarafa

To move things up a notch, it seems Christ Noël Yarafa of the Central African Republic is the ultimate in aptly named Olympians.  His Olympic performance was not outstanding as his national team finished 29th of 30 teams in the teams time trial in 1992, one team did not complete the course, but as president of his country’s national cycling federation he is credited with almost single-handedly keeping the sport alive amid all the violence in the country, coaching and inspiring many young cyclists in Central Africa despite a chronic lack of funding for the sport.

Oleksiy Sereda

Oleksiy Sereda was born in 2005 and, as such, is still only 15 at the time of me writing this.

Already the Ukrainian has proved to be a stellar talent in the world of diving and has won medals in both the World and European championships and finished in the top six at the Olympic  Games on Tokyo. He has the potential to be a leading light for both his sport and trouble torn country for many years to come.

1920 British Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to cover a few British mysteries from the 1920 Antwerp Olympics that were forwarded to us by Connor Mah. As you can imagine, there is not much information on these cases, but we wanted to share them in the hopes that perhaps someone out there can identify these individuals.

(The 1920 British Olympic gymnastics squad: Harris is third from the left in the back row, Page is first on the left on the second row down, and Taylor is second from the left in the front, seated row)

Three of the individuals were members of the gymnastic team that came fifth and last in the tournament: A. E. Page, H. W. Taylor, and J. Harris. A possibly candidate for Page is Alfred Elliot Page, born January 20, 1892 and died in January 1980, as he was from Ipswich, which would align with his club of the East Anglian Amateur Gymnastics Association, but we cannot verify this. Unfortunately, Taylor and Harris have names that are far too common to have even suggested candidates, although we do know that Taylor was a reserve with the Northampton Polytechnic Institute that won the Adams Shield in 1925.

For the other three, we at least have full names, although featherweight boxer Fred Adams was generally referred to only as “F Adams” or “F. T. Adams”, so we cannot be certain that his name is accurate. He competed in the national championships for the entirety of the 1920s, although he never won a title. At the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, he was eliminated in round two. Non-finishing road cyclist Edward Newell, meanwhile, might have been Edward Albert Newell, born September 28, 1901 and died in 1978, although we cannot be certain because the only other information that we have on his career is that he was a reserve with the English team at the inaugural 1921 World Championships. Finally, George F. Piper, who was 29th in the marathon, had an extensive career that lasted over two decades, and he might have been George Frederick Piper, born September 5, 1883 and died December 1966 in London. We have not, however, been able to confirm this.

Updates to Austrian Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to continue highlighting Connor Mah’s excellent recent research, as he has expanded our biographical data on Swiss, Austrian, and Belgian Olympians significantly. Just as in a previous entry on this subject, we wanted to note some of those updates that involve past Olympic mysteries that were featured on this blog.

(Fritz Weinzinger)

Three of these updates involve confirmation of Austrian data that we suspected previously, but could not prove. First, track athlete Emil Hübscher, born September 3, 1912, who competed in two events in 1936, did die on February 25, 1958. Another athlete, Fritz Weinzinger, born July 14, 1890, who competed in two events in 1912, has been confirmed as the individual who died May 22, 1963. Finally, Mah was able not only to demonstrate that 1948 sport shooter Andreas Krapf died in 2000, as claimed on Wikipedia, but to provide a full date of death of February 7, 2000.

(Grete Neumann)

Not all of his updates were confirmatory, however. We suspected that another 1936 athlete, Grete Neumann, might have been the individual of the same name who died February 8, 1996, although we admitted that it was unlikely due to differences in the month of birth between the two. We were right to be skeptical, as the Olympian actually died nearly a half century earlier on September 14, 1946. Mah also discovered, however, that her listed year of birth was incorrect, and that she was born June 19, 1912. Moving to Switzerland, he also found that we knew nothing about 1928 Swiss Olympic cyclist Erich Fäs because we had the wrong name – the competitor was actually Ernst Fäs, born 1909, who died in August 1980.

(Ivan Jacob, pictured at The Hindu)

Finally, as might be considered fitting for an end-of-the-year type blog post, Mah was able to provide an update on one of the Olympians that was last known to be alive in 2011: Indian athlete Ivan Jacob, who we believed was born January 1, 1928. It turns out that this was a placeholder date, as he was actually born July 15, 1925, and died February 5, 2009.

Recent Ice Stock Sport Updates

Today on Oldest Olympians we want to return to eisstockschießen, or “ice stock sport”, at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics. Since we last posted on this topic, Ralf Regnitter has uncovered some of the biographical details of these unknown players, beginning with Therese Ryhiner. Ryhiner was one of the few that we had a full date of birth for, April 3, 1887, because we had a picture of her Olympic ID card. From this, Regnitter was able to find her date of death: September 30, 1947.

He did not stop there, however, and was able to locate biographical data for some of the individuals that we had mentioned previously on this blog: Maria Clausing, Gertrud Großberger, and Mathilde Seyffarth. Additionally, he solved a few cases that we had not yet gotten to: Ludwig Fruth, Alois Kneitinger, Lorenz Kollmannsberger, and Korbinian Witting. All the new data is viewable from the pages at Olympedia’s coverage of ice stock sport in 1936.

In that spirit, we wanted to throw out a few additional names from the tournament that we have yet to cover. Kollmannsberger competed exclusively in individual events, but the other three took part in the team event as members of Eisstock-Club Partenkirchen, where they placed seventh. We are still missing data on two of their teammates: Sebastian Groeß and Josef Neuner.

Kollmannsberger, meanwhile, came in second in the distance shooting event that was limited to Germans. The winner of that event was Hans Hacker of Eisschützen-Verein Gotteszell, while third place went to Josef Wirt of Eissportverein Bad Aibling. The Bad Aibling club also came second in the German team event, with Wirt, Ludwig Retzer, Martin Geisenhofer, Josef Kreitmeier, and Josef Lechner. Gotteszell, with Hacker, Hans Hackl, August Brunner, Anton Bilmeier, and Karl Weber, settled for fourth.

(Anton Bielmeier, pictured at Bayerischer Landtag)

Anton Bilmeier might have been Anton Bielmeier, born September 1, 1901 and died January 6, 1958, who was a politician from the same region as Gotteszell, but we have no proof. We also do not know if he is any relation to Hans Bielmeier, who represented Straubing in the international team event. For the rest of those that we have mentioned, we have no leads at all. For now, we do not want to overwhelm, so we will stop here, but we will certainly pick up this tournament again in the future!