All posts by Paul Tchir

1948 Olympic Mysteries From Argentina

Today Oldest Olympians is resuming its look into mystery competitors from the 1948 London Olympics for whom we lack both a date of birth and confirmation as to whether they are alive or deceased. Given the time that has passed, nearly all of these Olympians would be at least 90 years old, but there is a possibility that some are still alive. Today we wanted to look at three Argentinians who meet the criteria.

The first is Manuel Fernández, who was a member of his country’s coxed eights rowing squad at the London Games. After failing to qualify in their round one heat, the Argentinians entered the round one repêchage, where they were eliminated from the competition. We know that the rest of his team is deceased, but they had a wide range of ages, leaving open the possibility that he is still alive. With his common name, however, we have been unable to uncover more information about him, aside from the fact that he was from Rosario.

Next is Ángel Carrasco, who represented Argentina in Star class sailing alongside Jorge Piacentini. In that event they finished 16th out of the 17 entrants. This is all that we know about him and, since sailors can also have a wide range of ages, we have been unable to ascertain whether or not he is still alive.

Finally we have Jorge Soler, who took part in the gymnastics tournament, where he was 15th in the team all-around and had a best individual finish of 101st in the horse vault. He had much more success at the Pan American Games, winning seven medals, four gold and three silver, at the 1951 edition. It is possible that he was Jorge Sebastian Soler, born on October 11 in either 1921 or 1924 and died June 15, 1992, but we have been unable to confirm this.

Domini Lawrence and Mariya Shubina

Today on Oldest Olympians we have two milestone birthdays, so it is once again time to cover both in a single blog post rather than choosing between them!

First, British equestrian Domini Lawrence is turning 99 today! 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. She is now the oldest living British Olympian, as well as the oldest living person to have competed at the 1972 Munich Games.

Second, Soviet canoeist Mariya Shubina is turning 94 today! Shubina represented the Soviet Union in the K-2 500 at the 1960 Rome Games, where she won the gold medal. She also captured six medals at the Worlds – four of them gold – and four at the Europeans – three of them gold – across various disciplines, and was a ten-time national champion. By career she studied medicine and biology, earning a PhD in 1975, and she is now the oldest living Olympic canoeing champion.

Joseph Reynders

Oldest Olympians is saddened to learn that that Belgian swimmer and water polo player Joseph Reynders, born December 16, 1929, died April 12 at the age of 94. Reynders represented his country in the 1500 metres freestyle event at the 1948 London Games, where he was eliminated in round one. He also represented Belgium at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, this time in the water polo tournament, where his nation placed sixth overall. Reynders had also competed in the 1500 metres freestyle at the 1947 European Championships, where he set a national record. By career, he ran an autobody shop in in Antwerp.

We wanted to make this announcement in a blog post so that we could highlight his brother, Kamiel, who is also among the oldest Olympians, having been born February 22, 1931. Kamiel represented Belgium as a member of the 4×200 metres freestyle relay swimming event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where his country was 17th and last overall. Although we know little else about him, he was still alive in 2023 according to his family.

Finally, we wanted to provide an update on one of the Olympians that we noted on our list of Olympians who were last known alive in 2013: German track athlete Franz Happernagl, born December 25, 1929. Thanks to personal contact with a member of the OlyMADMen, we can now confirm that Happernagl is still alive as of 2024.

Poul Svendsen and Cees Gravesteijn

Today on Oldest Olympians we have two milestone birthdays, so, yet again, rather than choose between them, we have decided to cover both in a single blog post!

(Poul Svendsen, pictured at Sjællandske Medier)

The first is Poul Svendsen, the oldest living Olympic rowing medalist, who is turning 97 today! Svendsen represented Denmark in the coxed pairs event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he won a bronze medal alongside Svend Pedersen and Jørgen Frantzen. A member of the Frederiksværk Roklub, he is now the last surviving member of his bronze medal-winning crew.

The second is Cees Gravesteijn, the oldest living Dutch Olympian, who is turning 96 today! Gravesteijn represented his country in the K-2 1000 canoeing event at the 1948 London Games, where he placed sixth alongside his teammate Wim Pool. He was a member of Kanovereniging De Zwetplassers.

We also have one update that we wanted to share. Earlier this month we noted the death of American Larry Damon and mentioned that he had been the only living Olympic biathlete over the age of 90. Since then, we have learned that Mauno Luukkonen, born April 14, 1934, who represented Finland in the 20 kilometers event at the 1968 Grenoble Games, is still alive and turned 90, thus giving us another Olympic biathlete on our lists!

Emam Ali Habibi and Ben Campbell

Today on Oldest Olympians we have two milestone birthdays, so, once again, rather than choose between them, we have decided to cover both in a single blog post!

The first is Emam Ali Habibi, the oldest living Iranian and wrestling Olympic champion, who is turning 93 today! Habibi represented his country in the lightweight, freestyle wrestling division at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where he won a surprise gold medal. He then switched to welterweight, winning titles at the 1958 Asian Games and the World Championships from 1959 through 1962, with his only major loss coming at the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he was eliminated in round five. He was later a member of Iran’s parliament and had a brief career in film.

The second is Ben Campbell, the oldest living Olympic judoka, who turns 91 today! Campbell represented the United States in the open class event at the 1964 Tokyo Games, where he placed sixth. He had been a gold medalist in that category at the 1963 Pan American Games and was a three-time national champion. He later turned to politics and served in the United States Senate from 1993 through 2005.

Bakir Ben Aissa and Garry Hoyt

Today on Oldest Olympians we have two milestone birthdays, so rather than choose between them, we have again decided to cover both in a single blog post!

The first is Bakir Ben Aissa, the oldest living Moroccan Olympian, who is turning 92 today! Ben Aissa represented his country at two editions of the Olympic marathon, placing eighth and twelfth in 1960 and 1964 respectively. He won that event at the 1959 and 1963 Mediterranean Games and took gold in the 10,000 metres and silver in the 5,000 metres at the 1957 Pan-Arab Games. Originally a representative of France, he joined the Moroccan national team a few years after independence and did not retire from active competition until 1968. He is, however, among the Olympians who may be removed from our lists at the end of the year, as a French article from 2013 is the last evidence we have of his being alive.

(Garry Hoyt, pictured at The Inquirer and Mirror)

The second is Garry Hoyt, the oldest living Olympian to have represented Puerto Rico, who is also turning 92 today! Hoyt represented his country in three editions of the Olympic sailing tournament, beginning in 1968 when he was 10th in the Finn class. He then teamed up with Hovey Freeman to take part in the Tempest class in 1972 and 1976, placing 16th and 15th respectively. He had better luck in the Snipe class at the 1966 Central American and Caribbean Games, where he won the gold medal. By career, he was an advertising executive, businessman, and author on the topic of sailing.

2024 Fast Facts

Now that we are well into 2024, we wanted to share our yearly fast facts about the Oldest Olympians in the world, partially to continue our commitment to transparency in our research but mostly just for fun and to share some statistics!

(The oldest living Olympian, Yvonne Chabot-Curtet, born May 28, 1920)

As of today, our full list contains 2254 participants, non-starters, demonstration athletes, and art competitors born between 1914 and 1933 that could be living, 830 of which we believe to be living for certain. The former number is down from 2299 and the latter is up from 819 from the beginning of last year.

We also have 242 Olympians (down from 294 last year) who competed in the 1928, 1932, or 1936 Games, Winter and Summer, who have no date of birth but could be still living. It is worth reminding everyone that the vast majority of athletes that could be living are likely deceased.

(Iris Cummings-Critchell, the last known survivor of the 1936 Berlin Olympics)

As of the beginning of this month, we have 11 living Olympic centenarians, as 11 died in 2023 and two thus far in 2024. We also know of one survivor from a pre-World War II Olympics: Iris Cummings, born December 21, 1920, who competed in the 200 metres breaststroke at the 1936 Berlin Games. If you have any suggestions of statistics or information that you would like to see added, please send us a message and we will be happy to include it in the next round!

Birte Christoffersen-Hanson and Stoyanka Angelova

Today on Oldest Olympians we have two milestone birthdays, so rather than choose between them, we have decided to cover both in a single blog post!

The first is Birte Christoffersen-Hanson, who is turning 100 today! Christoffersen-Hanson represented Denmark in diving as Brite Christoffersen until 1953, including at the 1948 London Olympics, where she won a bronze medal in the platform event. She also took two bronze medals at the 1950 European Championships. From 1954 until her retirement in the 1960s, she represented Sweden as Birte Hanson, appearing twice more at the Olympics (1956 and 1960) and capturing one bronze (1958) and two silver medals (1954) at the European Championships. By career, she worked as a physical education instructor and now resides in Limhamn, Malmö as the oldest living Danish Olympian, diving Olympian, and survivor of the 1960 Rome Games!

(Stoyanka Angelova, pictured at Canal Catorce)

Next is gymnast Stoyanka Angelova, who is turning 96 and is the oldest living Bulgarian Olympian! Angelova represented her country in the tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where she had a best individual finish of 34th in the balance beam. After coaching the Bulgarian national team, she emigrated to Mexico in 1971, where she spent a half century involved with Mexican Olympian Committee.

(Zoltán Sándor, pictured in his obituary)

We were also intending to celebrate a third birthday, that of Hungarian sport shooter Zoltán Sándor, who we believed was turning 98. Sándor represented his country in the free rifle, three positions, 300 metres event at the 1964 Tokyo Games, where he placed 16th. He also attended the 1966 World Championships and, domestically, won five individual and 24 team national titles. By career he was an instructor in engineering, but also coached his sport. Earlier this year, we noted that Sándor was the oldest survivor of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, but it seems that was never the case. We now believe the holder of that title is Colombian fencer Ernesto Sastre, born December 17, 1926, who competed in three events in 1964.

Fernand Bothy and Gábor Benedek

Today we have two milestone birthdays to celebrate and, since we could not choose between them, we are going to feature them both! First is Belgian Fernand Bothy, the oldest living Olympic boxer, who is turning 98! Bothy represented his country in the heavyweight division at the 1948 London Games, where he was defeated in round two. He then embarked upon a brief professional career in 1949, earning a 4-2-0 record, and now resides in Farciennes.

Next is Hungarian modern pentathlete Gábor Benedek, the oldest living Olympic medalist in modern pentathlon, who is turning 97! After serving in World War II, Benedek made his Olympic debut at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he won a silver medal in the individual event and, with the help of his countrymen, gold in the team tournament. He made a second appearance in 1956, where Hungary missed the podium in fourth and, individually, Benedek was sixth. He was also an individual World Champion in 1953 and a winner with the Hungarian team in 1954. For political reasons, he was banned from competing after 1959 and thus he took up coaching. He later emigrated to West Germany, where he remained until the end of the Cold War. He is now the last surviving member of his gold medal-winning team.

1934 Olympic Missing Links

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to take a look at two Olympic missing links with a year of birth of 1934. As a reminder, these are individuals for whom we believe that we have a date of death, but cannot confirm that the information is accurate or connect it to the Olympian with certainty.

Muhammad Safdar: Member of Pakistan’s boxing delegations to the 1956 and 1960 Summer Olympics

Muhammad Safdar, born September 1, 1934, represented Pakistan in light-heavyweight boxing at the 1956 and 1960 Summer Games and was eliminated in his first bout both times. He had much better luck at the 1962 Asian Games, where he won a gold medal in that category. An anonymous editor inserted a date of death September 15, 2021 and a place of death of Dulmial into his English Wikipedia page, but we have been unable to verify this.

Trần Văn Xuân– Member of South Vietnam’s fencing delegations to the 1960 and 1964 Summer Olympics

Trần Văn Xuân, born September 6, 1934, represented South Vietnam in five individual fencing events across two editions of the Games, 1960 and 1964, and was eliminated in the first round of all of them. He was also selected for the individual foil in 1968, but did not start the event. Vietnamese Wikipedia has a short biography of him, as well as a date of death of March 3, 2009 in Ho Chi Minh City, but we could locate no sources to confirm this information.