Nancy Mackay

Oldest Olympians is saddened to learn that Canadian track athlete Nancy Mackay, born April 6, 1922, died January 4 at the age of 101. Mackay represented her country in the 4×100 metres relay at the 1948 London Games, where she took home a bronze medal. Domestically, she won six national titles between 1936 and 1941 and was invited to the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were ultimately cancelled. From 1944 through 1947 she took three national titles in the United States and made the London Olympics her final international competition.

What makes this worth mentioning in a blog entry is that we were informed in 2018 that an author had contacted a nursing home in Whitby, Ontario where she had been a resident and was informed that she had died back in 2016 and that no public notice had been given. Thus, we had listed her as deceased previously and wanted to clear up any confusion from our previous posts, which seemed to be based in solid information. Additionally, at the time of her death, she would have been the oldest living Canadian Olympic medalist, meaning that gold medal-winning equestrian Tom Gayford, born November 21, 1928, has only held that title since the beginning of the month, despite earlier posts.

(William de Rham)

Additionally, we mentioned two days ago that track athlete Karl Volkmer, born March 20, 1922, died December 19, 2023 at the age of 101, coincidentally living one day longer than Mackay, as the oldest living Swiss Olympian. As an update, that distinction now goes to equestrian William de Rham, born August 22, 1922.

Even More Changes to Oldest Olympian Titleholders

Oldest Olympians is saddened to learn that two more of the oldest Olympian titleholders have died, meaning that we need to update our tables once again. Earlier this month, we featured field hockey player Ajit Singh Gill, born March 21, 1928, who died January 16 at the age of 95. Most news sources listed him as Singapore’s oldest Olympian, but we believed that weightlifter Thong Saw Pak, born July 20, 1924, held that title, as well as that of the oldest living Olympic weightlifter.

(Thong Saw Pak)

Thong represented Singapore in the lightweight division at the 1952 Helsinki Games because his home country of Malaya did not yet have a recognized national Olympic committee. He had to withdraw due to a back strain, but had earlier taken silver at the 1950 British Empire Games. He retired from active competition after the Olympics and received a scholarship to study physics in the United Kingdom. After earning his PhD, he returned to teach at the University of Malaya.

(Carlos Caballero, pictured at El Heraldo)

Research by Connor Mah, however, has determined that he died in the second half of the 2010s, possibly in the United Kingdom, although we have yet to confirm that. Regardless, as he is definitely deceased, this means that Singh Gill was the oldest living Olympian to have represented Singapore at the time of his death. That title now goes to another member of Singh Gill’s hockey squad, Richard Schoon, born June 23, 1928. We believe that the oldest living weightlifter, meanwhile, is Carlos Caballero, born February 15, 1927, who represented Colombia in the middleweight division in 1956 and 1960.

(Georgios Darivas, pictured in his obituary at Sport24)

More recently, Oldest Olympians was saddened to learn that Greek footballer Georgios Darivas, born March 12, 1926, died January 15 at the age of 97. Darivas represented his country in the tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where Greece was eliminated in the qualifying round. He had better luck at the 1951 Mediterranean Games, where he took home a gold medal. He had a successful domestic career with Olympiacos from 1946 through 1958 and later coached them to two Greek Cups and a Greek top-league title in the 1970s.

(Kees Rijvers)

At the time of his death, Darivas was both the oldest living Greek Olympian and the oldest living Olympic footballer. The holder of the former title is now Stelios Bonas, born July 1, 1929, who represented Greece in the Sharpie class sailing tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Games and was still competing as of 2023. The latter distinction now goes to Kees Rijvers, born May 27, 1926, who represented the Netherlands in the football tournament at the 1948 London Games.

Finally, as an update, we had listed German fencer Günter Stratmann, born January 8, 1931, as among the Olympians that we had last heard being alive in 2012. Unfortunately, we have learned from his son Jörg, also a fencing Olympian, that we were incorrect in this: Günter actually died September 9, 2010 at the age of 79.

Last Updates to Olympic Mysteries from 2023

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover the last updates on Olympic mysteries from 2023. Before that, however, we should mention a final 2023 Olympic missing link: Victor Denis, born October 23, 1900, who represented Belgium in two editions of the Olympic rowing tournament. In 1924, he was eliminated in the round one repêchage of the coxed fours and was also a reserve with the eights, although he did not compete in that event. In 1928, however, he did take part in the eights, although he again exited after the round one repêchage. He had much better luck at the European Rowing Championships, taking bronze in the double sculls in 1920 and the coxed fours in 1924. A year of death of 1989 was added to his English Wikipedia page, but with no source.

(Pierre Clergerie)

Returning to the main topic, we first wanted to address two rowers with the French eights from the 1928 Amsterdam Games: Marius and Joseph Berthet. At the time that we last covered them, we did not even know how (or if) they were related, let alone any other biographical data. Thanks to research by Rob Gilmore, however, we now know that they were brothers: Joseph was born June 24, 1900 and died July 14, 1980, while Marius was born December 29, 1903 and died February 22, 1987. Gilmore also helped Connor Mah research another rower, Pierre Clergerie, who took part in the eights at the 1948 London Games. Clergerie was born April 1, 1919, but remains somewhat of an Olympic mystery as we do not know when (or even if) he died.

Turning to Japan, in an earlier post we mentioned three Japanese wrestlers who took part in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics about whom we knew nothing: Yoshio Kono, Eitaro Suzuki, and Shuichi Yoshida. Now, thanks to Gilmore and Mah, we know that Suzuki was born on April 20, 1899 and died in May 1979. Yoshida and Kono, meanwhile, were born c. 1906 and c. 1909 respectively, although we still do not have exact dates.

(Alfons Oswald)

Finally, there are two individuals that we discussed more recently about whom we have more information. First we have Svatopluk Skýva, who represented Czechoslovakia in sabre fencing as both an individual and with the team at the 1948 London Olympics. In both events, he was eliminated in the quarter-finals. He was a national sabre champion, a professor at the Prague Conservatory, a theatre producer, and an author, but now thanks to Mah and Gilmore we know that he was born January 13, 1910 and died in December 1979. Secondly, Alfons Oswald, who represented Switzerland in the Firefly sailing class at the London Games and placed 10th, was born May 4, 1914, giving us a date of birth that we were lacking previously.

Two More Changes to Oldest Olympian Titleholders

(Jack Whitford)

Earlier this month, we were planning on featuring British gymnast Jack Whitford, born January 3, 1924, on his 100th birthday. Whitford competed in the gymnastics tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where he finished 21st with the British team and had a best individual finish of joint-39th in the pommeled horse. This was the only Olympic appearance for the four-time British champion, but his half-brother Arthur competed in the same sport in 1928 and his wife Pat Evans (also among the oldest living Olympians prior to her death in 2020) was part of the British women’s team in 1948.

(Domini Lawrence)

In addition to turning 100, we also believed that Whitford was the oldest living British Olympian. We discovered, however, that he actually died on June 5, 2023, at the age of 99. Thus we now believe that equestrian Domini Lawrence, born May 8, 1925, who was already the oldest living Olympian to have competed at the 1972 Munich Games, is now the holder of that title. Lawrence represented Great Britain in two Olympic dressage tournaments: in 1968 she was fifth with the team and 11th individually, while in 1972 she was 10th with the team and 33rd individually. She later became a distinguished judge with the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, serving until her retirement in 1998.

(Carl-Erik Asplund)

Additionally, oldest Olympians is saddened to learn that Swedish speed skater Carl-Erik Asplund, born September 14, 1923, died January 8 at the age of 100. Asplund took part in three events at the 1952 Oslo Games, winning bronze in the 10,000 metres, just missing the podium at fourth in the 1,500 metres, and coming in sixth in the 5,000 metres. Although he had some success at the European and World Championships, in addition to his nine national titles, his career was limited to the first half of the 1950s.

At the time of his death, Asplund was both the oldest living Swedish Olympian and the oldest living Olympic speed skater. The former title now goes to equestrian Maud von Rosen, born December 24, 1925, who won a bronze medal in team dressage at the 1972 Munich Games. The latter is now held by Yury Sergeyev, born July 16, 1925, who represented the Soviet Union in the 500 metres event at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympics and placed fourth. The only other Olympian over the age of 90 to have won a speed skating medal is Norwegian Knut Johannesen, born November 6, 1933, who has five of them – two gold, two silver, and one bronze – across three editions, 1956-1964.

Final 2023 Updates to Oldest Olympian Titleholders

As 2023 has come to end we have, as usual, several blog posts to wrap the year up. Today we wanted to focus on the last few Oldest Olympian titleholders who died in the previous year and their successors.

(Franz Zigon, pictured at OÖLSV)

First, we learned that Austrian water polo player Franz Zigon, born March 9, 1924, died back in July at the age of 99. Zigon represented Austria as a member of its water polo delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Games, where the nation was eliminated in the preliminary round. Zigon had also qualified for the 1948 London Olympics, but Austria did not ultimately send its team. At home he was a multiple national champion, despite having had his career interrupted by World War II, where he was injured serving in the infantry. He retired in 1960, but eventually returned to the pool to compete at the masters’ level, which continued to do into his 90s. By career he was a radio technician and, at the time of his death, he was the oldest living Austrian Olympian and Olympic water polo player. His successor in the former category is Egon Schöpf, born October 16, 1925, who competed in three alpine skiing events across two editions of the Games: 1948 and 1952. For the latter title, the new holder is Edson Perri, born June 5, 1928, who represented Brazil in the tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

(Ingrid Wigernæs)

Next, Norwegian cross-country skier Ingrid Wigernæs, born February 22, 1928, died December 2 at the age of 95. Wigernæs took part in three cross-country skiing events across two editions of the Winter Olympics, finishing 27th in the 10 km in 1956 and joint-15th and 12th in the 5 and 10 km events respectively in 1964. She won several national titles over the course of her career, but her biggest international success came at the 1966 World Championships, where she was a member of the 3×5 km relay squad that took silver. She later turned to coaching, with her most notable success in that realm coming from her mentorship over the 3×5 km relay team that took gold at the 1968 Grenoble Games. Wigernæs was the oldest living Norwegian Olympian and Olympian to have competed at the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics at the time of her death. The oldest living Norwegian Olympian is now Dagny Jørgensen, born March 22, 1929, who took part in two alpine skiing events at the 1952 Oslo Games. The oldest survivor of the 1964 Innsbruck Games, meanwhile, is Argentina’s Héctor Tomasi, born July 5, 1928, who also competed in 1948 and 1952.

(Jo Bernardo)

Then, French swimmer Jo Bernardo, born May 31, 1929, died December 6 at the age of 94. Bernardo represented his country at two editions of the Games, in 1948 and 1952, winning bronze medals in the 4×200 metres relay both times. He also set a world record in this event in 1951, and captured a gold and silver medal in it at the 1951 Mediterranean Games and 1950 European Championships respectively. Moreover, he earned bronze in the 1,500 metres competition at the latter tournament. He retired after the 1954 season and later worked as a sports administrator. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Olympic swimming medalist, a title that now goes to Australian Nancy Lyons, born April 12, 1930, who won a silver medal in the 200 metres breaststroke at the 1948 London Games and also competed in that event in 1952.

(Norman Shutt, from a video at Youtube)

Finally, we were informed by a family member that British biathlete and cross-country skier Norman Shutt, born November 9, 1929, died back on February 12, 2022 at the age of 92. Shutt was 20th in the 20 kilometers biathlon and 52nd in the 15 kilometers cross-country skiing event at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics. By career, he served in both the military and the police force and, at the time of his death, he was the oldest living Olympic biathlete. Only recently did we have another biathlete turn 90: Larry Damon, born December 8, 1933, who represented the United States in that sport in 1960, and in cross-country skiing in 1956, 1964, and 1968.