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.