All posts by Paul Tchir

William Jones

Today on Oldest Olympians we have an Olympic medal mystery of a different kind. It concerns William Jones, a bronze medal-winning rower from Uruguay about whom we have been able to uncover only limited information.

(William Jones, pictured second from the right, from the website of the Uruguayan President’s office)

At the 1948 London Games, Jones paired up with Juan Rodríguez in the double sculls, an Olympian who we covered on this site in the past because he lived to the age of 91. They were a relatively unheralded duo entering the event, but nonetheless managed to leave it with a bronze medal. While much is known about Rodríguez, all we know about Jones is that at some point he moved to Florida, where he was living in 2003 when he and Rodríguez were honored for their Olympic accomplishments.

On April 7, 2014, an anonymous user on Wikipedia added the sentence “William Jones is now living in Citrus County Florida with his wife of 53yrs” to his biography, which aligns with the update from 2003. On August 9 of that year, a different anonymous user added the information that Jones had died on August 7.

The fact that a William Jones of Inverness, Florida died August 7, 2014 at his home is supported by an obituary. Unfortunately, the obituary is far too brief and lacking in details to confirm that it belongs to the Olympian. Another anonymous edit in January 2016 claimed that he was born in 1925 in the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, this information has proven insufficient to locate him in public records, let alone to confirm that the individual who died in August 2014 was the Olympian. While we believe that this is quite likely the truth, we cannot confirm it, and until someone can provide additional information, this will remain an Olympic mystery.

Kalle Nieminen

For today’s Olympic mystery, we are looking into a case forwarded to us by Harri Piironen: Karl Maurits “Kalle” Nieminen. Nieminen had a successful amateur career in athletics, but his only appearance at the Olympics came at the 1908 London Games. There, he competed in the marathon and placed 10th out of 55 starters.

The first half of Nieminen’s life was relatively typical for an amateur athlete of that era, although he did not start competing in distance running until he was 25 years old. He soon displayed proficiency at longer distances, however, and set a Finnish national record for the 10,000 metres in 1905. Two years later he made his international début for Finland, before being selected to represent that nation at the London Games. After one more year of amateur competition, he travelled to the United States to embark upon a professional career.

Nieminen’s stint as a professional was brief but, soon after it ended, he landed a job as an athletics coach at Columbia University. He became a citizen of the United States in the 1910s while living in New York, and this is where the mystery begins. Nieminen visited his sister in the early 1920s, after which he was never heard from again in Finland. In 1971 he was declared dead in absentia, but the details of his later life became an important question in Finnish sports research.

Eventually, it was discovered that he had died in the United States around 1946, but no other information was available at the time. Oldest Olympians took on this mystery, but did not got much further, discovering only that he eventually moved to Arlington, Vermont and was still alive in 1942 when he was registered for the draft during World War II. Noted Olympic researcher (and fencing Olympian!) George Masin then discovered that he may have had a son and that his wife Maria may have died on December 17, 1951 and been buried in Finland.

Unfortunately, however, no one has yet been able to uncover an exact date or place of death for Kalle. It seems likely that he died in either 1946 or 1947, and that this happened in Vermont, but without any evidence from after 1942, we cannot be sure. We wanted to post about this not only in the hopes that someone might be able to uncover a missing piece of the puzzle, but because many websites still list his year of death as 1971, which is incorrect.

Eugene R. Rogers

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover a case that we have talked about in the past, albeit not in depth, and share some new information that has come to light that, unfortunately, did not resolve the issue conclusively. Our subject of the day is American swimmer Eugene Roy Rogers, born February 17, 1924.

(Rogers pictured at the Columbia Lions Hall of Fame)

Rogers was a member of the American 4×200 metres freestyle relay squad that took gold at the 1948 London Olympics, although he only raced in the opening round and not in the final and thus did not receive a physical medal, per the rules at the time. He had an outstanding swimming career at Columbia University, where he earned an engineering degree, and has been inducted into their Athletics Hall of Fame. If he were alive, then he would be the oldest living Olympic champion in swimming and the oldest living American Olympic champion.

For a long time, Rogers was listed as having died on April 26, 2004, but multiple sources, including his own family, confirm that this was an error, and that the Eugene Rogers who died on that date was a different individual. Nonetheless, many sources continue to reproduce this mistake.

Then, in January of 2018, someone claiming to be his grandson on Wikipedia listed him as having died on December 30, 2017 in Long Island, New York. We here at Oldest Olympians are not intrinsically distrustful of Wikipedia, but since he had had an incorrect date of death attributed to him previously, we wanted to be extra careful. When we were unable to contact the user or locate an obituary, we decided against listing him as deceased and have featured him on Oldest Olympians previously as if he were living, albeit with the proper caveats. Furthermore, the United States Olympic Committee was of the belief that he was still alive.

Recently, however, researcher and historian Hilary Evans has located an Ancestry Family Tree that listed a Eugene Roy Rogers, born 1924, as having died in 2017 in Glen Cove, New York, which was where he was last known to be living. Unfortunately, there was still no corroborating, definitive proof, but it now seems likely enough that he is deceased, and therefore we have removed him from our list. Given the uncertainty, however, we felt that it was appropriate to announce this removal with a blog post to avoid creating another mysterious disappearance.

Finally, on a small side note of speaking about sudden removals, we have just learned that Geoffrey Tudor, born December 29, 1923, who represented Great Britain in the 3,000 metres steeplechase at the 1948 London Games, died October 2, 2018 at the age of 94. As this happened some time ago, we are noting this information here to explain his removal from our tables.

Oldest Olympians From Saar

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to post a follow-up to our last blog entry, where we discussed individuals removed from our list after we discovered that they had been deceased for a lengthy period of time. As it happens, only two days later, we were informed of another individual who fit in this category and who happened to be the oldest living Olympian from his participating country: Klaus Hahn of Saar.

(Hahn pictured in February 2014)

Hahn, born December 4, 1925, represented Saar during its brief period as an independent protectorate. A rower, he took part in the coxless pairs at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he came in third in his round one heat and then failed to complete the repêchage when he collapsed from exhaustion. He and his partner Herbert Kesel were second at the German national championships the following year. We featured him as the oldest living competitor from Saar last December on what we believed to be his 94th birthday, but today we learned from historian and researcher Ralf Regnitter that Hahn had actually died on July 10 2019 in Lacanau, Gironde, France, at the age of 93.

(Walter Müller)

This new information means that gymnast Walter Müller, born December 31, 1930, is now the oldest living Olympian to have represented Saar, and is in fact one of only two remaining alive. The other, his gymnastics teammate Heinz Ostheimer, was born on September 15, 1931. Together they placed 22nd out of 23 nations in the team all-around, while Müller was 143rd individually. His best individual finish was joint-106th in the horizontal bars and he later competed at the 1954 World Championships. While he is “only” 89, and thus a little too young to be featured on Oldest Olympians, we did want to discuss him in some manner given the circumstances, and thus we figured he was an appropriate subject for a blog.

That is all we have for today and we are – at least until the end of this week – caught up with the backlog of our blog entries! Nonetheless, we hope to bring you something new soon, so we hope that you will join us!

Addressing Recent Removals

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to address the topic of individuals who are removed from our lists without any formal post to acknowledge the change. This usually occurs when we discover that an individual whom we believed to have been alive actually died a year or more ago without us having known at the time. With the exception of centenarians, such as when we were a year late in discovering that Mexican equestrian Mario Becerril had died, there never seems to be an appropriate time to publish a dedicated post for someone who died a year or two earlier. Thus, while we are catching up on blog entries, we wanted to post about a few of those cases as a group.

Lois Stephens – Member of the United States’ equestrian delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics

The case that spurred this blog post was that of American equestrian Lois Stephens, born March 27, 1923, whom we believed to be the oldest survivor of the 1972 Munich Games, and was one of two possible individuals we considered featuring on her birthday (even before we learned she was deceased, however, we decided to go with Guatemala’s oldest living Olympian, Oswaldo Johnston). Stephens represented her country at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where she came in 31st in the individual dressage and ninth with the American team. Although we noted her birthday with a post last year, we discovered a brief mention recently that she actually died in 2018, and without an exact date, it is possible that she died prior to even her 95th birthday.

Suse Heinze – Member of Germany’s diving delegation to the 1936 Berlin Games

At the beginning of this year, we believed that not only was Suse Heinze, born May 25, 1920, one of the many Olympians slated to turn 100 in 2020, but that she was the oldest living German Olympian as well. Heinze competed in the women’s springboard diving event at the 1936 Berlin Games, placing seventh, but had better luck at the 1938 European Championships, where she won a bronze medal in the 10 metre platform. Nationally, she won a total of seven titles in the platform (4) and the springboard (3). Sadly, earlier this year we were informed by historian and researcher Ralf Regnitter that Heinze had died on November 26, 2018, and was unfortunately not alive the last time we featured her on what we believed to be her 99th birthday in 2019.

(Maurice Tabet, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)

Maurice Tabet – Member of Lebanon’s sport shooting delegations to the 1960 and 1972 Summer Olympics

Finally, we had Maurice Tabet, born February 1, 1919, listed as Lebanon’s oldest Olympian for the first year of our tables, as well as the oldest living Olympian from the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he took part in trap shooting. He was also present at the 1972 Munich Games, this time as a skeet shooter, and held numerous important positions in Lebanese sports administration, including serving as president of its shooting federation from 1965 through 1970. Outside of sport, he served with the Lebanese Diplomatic Corps in several countries and was also successful in business. Unfortunately, at the end of 2018, we discovered his obituary in An-Nahar (page 17), which noted that he died January 27, 2014, well before we started oldest Olympians. Nonetheless, we were happy to have had the opportunity to feature him as one of the earliest profiles on our site.

Those are the three names that came to mind immediately for this topic, but if there are any more removals that you noticed that were not addressed, please feel free to leave us a message and we can post an update on those cases. Otherwise, we still have some blogs to write, so we hope that you will join us next time!

Paulette Veste

We are still trying to catch up on our missed blog entries here at Oldest Olympians, so we have decided to devote one to a single Olympian, French field athlete Paulette Veste, whom we believe to be still alive, but whose situation deserves a little more space than we would normally dedicate to a Twitter, or even Facebook, post.

Veste, born February 24, 1928, took up athletics during World War II and began competing in earnest after the conflict, specializing in the shot put and discus throw. She won six national titles (three each) in those events between 1948 and 1953 and attended two editions of the Olympics: in 1948 she was fourth and tenth in the shot put and discus respectively, while in 1952 she was ninth and sixteenth in the same events. In-between, she was sixth in the discus at the 1950 European Championships. She also set two official French records in the discus in 1948. Her last competitive year was 1953, after which she married and moved to the United States, settling in Florida and becoming a naturalized citizen.

(Veste, pictured at the Fédération française d’athlétisme)

The source of confusion comes from when, and if, she died. The Fédération française d’athlétisme lists her as having died on March 1, 2014, which seems straightforward enough, as their data is comprehensive and well-researched. We recently uncovered a story in the French press, however, that mentioned her as being alive at the age of 90. This was not an oversight or assumption that she was still alive; rather, it contained an interview with her and referenced activity at least as recently as 2016, if not contemporary to the article’s 2018 publishing date. While sources in the past have discussed Olympians as if they were alive, only for them to turn out deceased later, in this case we feel fairly confident that Veste is still alive, or at least was as of 2018, and that the Fédération française d’athlétisme is mistaken.

(Veste, pictured in the 2018 article)

We hope that this clarifies any confusion about why Veste is listed as alive on our tables, yet deceased on other sites. We are still in the process of catching up on blog entries, so we aim to have another one out soon and, as always, we hope you will join us for it!

Newly Discovered Centenarians

With so many birthdays and, sadly, deaths for the oldest Olympians as of late, we have had limited opportunities to write new blog posts. Today, therefore, we wanted to begin catching up by briefly covering two deceased centenarian Olympians that were discovered recently by Olympic historian Taavi Kalju. Through his research, he was able to identify literally hundreds of missing datapoints for Olympians, some of which we have already discussed, and we wanted to share a few more of his findings on this blog.

(The 6 metre race at the 1936 Berlin Games, from 1936 Summer Olympics – The Results)

Jacques Rambaud – Member of the French 6-metre class crew at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

As is the case with many sailors, outside of his Olympic participation we know very little of Jacques Rambaud, who was born April 25, 1906. At the 1936 Berlin Games, he was a member of four-time Olympic sailor Jean Peytel’s crew aboard the Qu’Importe. Alongside Claude Desouches, Gérard de Piolenc, and Yves Baudrier, they finished 10th out of 12 teams in the 6-metre event. Rambaud later moved to Switzerland and died there in Fribourg on September 14, 2006, at the age of 100 years, 142 days.

Lucie Petit-Diagre – Member of the Belgian track and field athletics team at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

On the other hand, we know much about Lucie Petit-Diagre, who was born in Paris’ 18th arrondissement on July 24, 1901. From 1921 through 1927 she was a member of the French national team, earning national titles in the two (1923) and one-handed shot put (1927), as well as the discus (1924). It was in the latter category that she set a world record of 27.70 metres and, overall, she earned seven additional French medals in those events, as well as one in the high jump. She then married a Belgian journalist and began representing that country, including at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, where she was 20th in the discus throw.

In 1929, she won her last national title, the Belgian shot put, but she continued competing through the first half of the 1930s. She also dabbled in rowing and swimming. She subsequently settled into private life and died on December 24, 2001, at the age of 100 years, 153 days. This means that from the death of American diver Hal Haig Prieste on April 15, 2001 until her own, she was the oldest living Olympian.

That is all we have for today, but we will be trying to catch up on our blog posts, so we hope that you will join us again soon!

Ernestine Lebrun

Another quick blog entry to provide a brief update today on Oldest Olympians. This time, we are updating our list of last survivors from early editions of the Games. At the time we first presented this feature, we noted that American diver and swimmer Aileen Riggin was believed to be the last known survivor from the 1920 Antwerp Games and wrote the following: “Although she died at the age of ‘only’ 96 years, 170 days on October 19, 2002, we have been unable to locate another candidate for the last survivor of the 1920 Antwerp Games, although it is certainly possible, given how much data on this edition we are missing, that another contender will emerge in the future.”

Thanks to researcher and historian Taavi Kalju, we can now identify someone from those Games who outlived Riggin by nearly three years. Swimmer Ernestine Lebrun, born February 26, 1906, represented France in two editions of the Summer Olympics, competing in four freestyle events between 1920 and 1924, but never making it past the first round. She also helped her teammates come in fifth in the 4×100 metres freestyle relay in 1924. Domestically, she won 12 national titles, as well as the women’s Traversée de Paris à la nage twice.

Lebrun married Eugène Basse in 1930 and lived as Ernestine Basse until her death on May 6, 2005, at the age of 99 years, 69 days, meaning that she long outlived Riggin and was still alive nearly 85 years after he Olympic appearance. We were unable to find any mention of her subsequent career or later activities, which suggests that she did not seek the limelight after her marriage, and perhaps this is why her death went unnoticed, at least by most of the world. Nonetheless, this new discovery gives her the status of last-known survivor of the 1920 Antwerp Games, even though she did not quite make 100 years, and updates our previous post.

Eladio Herrera

Today on Olympic Mysteries we have a quick blog entry. The subject of our inquiry is a new bronze medal mystery, Eladio Herrera, born February 9, 1930, who earned his prize in boxing for Argentina in 1952. Since we have been unable to discern whether or not he is still alive, we thought that we would provide a quick entry to see if anyone can help determine his status one way or another.

(Eladio Herrera, pictured at Boxrec.com)

Herrera competed at two editions of the Summer Olympics. In 1948 in London he finished joint-fifth in the welterweight category after besting one opponent, but losing his next bout to American Hank Herring, the upcoming silver medalist. In 1952 in Helsinki, this time as a light-heavyweight, he defeated three boxers before losing in the semi-finals to three-time gold medalist László Papp of Hungary, thus earning bronze. Herrera then returned to the welterweight division and turned professional, but contested only two bouts two years apart, winning the first and losing the second, before retiring.

Herrera turned to coaching after his active career, working out of Buenos Aires’ Almagro Boxing Club through at least the 1980s. This is where our trail for him goes cold, as we have been unable to trace his activities after this point. Thus, we are presenting his story today in the hopes that someone can let us know what became of him after this and end his tenure as a bronze medal mystery.

Micheline Lannoy

Today on the Oldest Olympians blog we wanted to revisit one of our earliest Olympic Mysteries, that of Belgian figure skater Micheline Lannoy, who was for a long time the only Olympic gold medal mystery. Since some of our readers have noticed that she has now been added as an official entry on our tables of Oldest Olympans, we felt it worthwhile to dedicate a little space to an update.

A bit of background for those unfamiliar: Lannoy and her partner Pierre Baugniet were Belgian national champions in the pairs event from 1944 through 1947. In 1947 they took both the European and World Championships, and then followed that up with victories at the Worlds and the Olympics in 1948. Despite these impressive successes, the duo ended their careers after the Games and managed to maintain a low-profile thereafter. For Baugniet, only the year of his death, 1981, is known, but for Lannoy we had been unable to discern whether or not she is alive. All we knew at our last posting is that she later moved to Canada and took the married name MacAulay.

Thanks to research conducted by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore, however, we learned that Lannoy was living in Kingston, Ontario as recently as 2012. While it is certainly possible that she has since died, we have not seen any evidence of an obituary and this date falls within the range for which we would list someone as being alive, and thus we have included her on our tables. We hope that more recent evidence will come to light soon.

(Roger Midgley’s obituary)

While we are discussing Lannoy, we feel that it is worth updating some other previous Olympic mysteries. We already featured French track athlete Robert Chef d’Hôtel on Oldest Olympians, a former Olympic silver medal mystery who, as it turned out, had still been alive and died only recently, in October 2019, at the age of 97. Even more recently, Roger Midgley, a British field hockey player whom we had listed as a bronze medal mystery, died December 12, 2019 at the age of 95.

(Jim Hill, pictured in his obituary)

The same research into French death records by Taavi Kalju that confirmed Robert Chef d’Hôtel’s death, meanwhile, also verified that French basketball player Robert Guillin was the same individual as the one we noted previously as having died November 25, 2013. Meanwhile Connor Mah also located an obituary for silver medal-winning sport shooter Jim Hill of the United States: he died August 8, 2018 at the age of 86. Finally, Ian Taylor located a picture of the gravestone of the Ken Box who died in Australia in July 1982, which notes that he was aged 76 at the time of his death, far too old to have been the 1956 British track and field Olympian. Box, therefore, has been restored to our “possibly living” list, as we have been unable to find any confirmation that he is still alive.

And that is our entry for today! We hope that you have found these updates useful, and we will be back next week with more Olympic Mysteries!