All posts by Paul Tchir

Jackie LaVine

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover an Olympian who we believe to be alive, but whose situation requires a little more than the cursory overview than we normally give to our Olympians of the Day. This will, consequently, be a short post, as well as a mystery that will probably be easily and quickly resolved but, as always, we are committed to transparency in both our research and our claims.

The subject of our inquiry is American swimmer Jackie LaVine, born October 4, 1929, whom we believe to have turned 90 recently. LaVine was first slated to represent the United States in the 4×100 metres freestyle relay at the 1948 London Olympics, but she remained an unused reserve in the team’s gold-medal victory. On her way to the 1952 Helsinki Games, she won five national titles, a gold medal in the 4×100 metres freestyle relay at the 1951 Pan American Games, and silver in the 100 metres freestyle at the same tournament. In Helsinki, she helped the Americans take home bronze in the 4×100 metres freestyle relay.

(Mention of Jackie LaVine’s marriage from the June 13, 1957 edition of the Muncie, Indiana Star Press)

LaVine continued her swimming career for a short time after earning her medal, but soon disappeared from the newspapers. The only trace of her were able to uncover was a brief mention in the Muncie, Indiana Star Press that she had married a handball player by the name of Philip Collins. This allowed us to discover that she was listed in American public records as having lived in Chicago, Illinois from August 1, 1993 through January 1, 2009 as Jacqueline Collins. A last update in 2009 is just on the edge of the range of when we would list someone as living on our tables.

Unfortunately, even this mention is not guaranteed to be entirely accurate, as many individuals are listed as having “resided” in their last place of residence in public records for years after their death. Regardless, even with a “last known living” date of 2009, she would be slated for removal from our lists at the end of 2020 if there were to be no further update. This, therefore, is why we have turned to the Olympic Mysteries blog to reach out to our readers, as we find it likely that someone out there could solve this case rather easily. Unfortunately, names like Jacqueline, and especially Phil, Collins make it difficult for standard Google, and even broader public record, searches to be useful. At the very least, however, we hope that we have done our job of highlighting one of the oldest Olympians and bringing more clarity and nuance to the results that we produce.

Last Survivors of Early Olympic Games, Part III

Today we are concluding our series that looks into the last survivors of early Olympic Games. As a reminder, this data is based on the best of our knowledge; with so much missing information on athlete deaths, particularly from the early Games, it is possible that the last survivor died in obscurity, or without anyone realizing that they were the last one. Thus, as with all considerations regarding the Oldest Olympians, this information might change in the future.

Cecil Smith – Member of Canada’s figure skating delegation to the 1924 and 1928 Winter Olympics

Cecil Smith, born September 14, 1908, won her first figure skating medals at the Canadian national championships in 1923, paving the way for her to become the first woman to represent her country at the Olympics when she made her debut at the 1924 Chamonix Games. There she was sixth in the singles and seventh in the pairs with Melville Rogers. She made a second appearance at the Winter Olympics in 1924 in St. Moritz, where she was fifth in the singles, but the highlight of her career came at the 1930 World Championships, where she won silver behind Norway’s Sonja Henie. Smith continued earning national medals through 1933, but then settled into private life. She died on November 9, 1997, at the age of 89 years, 56 days, which makes her the last surviving competitor that we could find from the 1924 Chamonix Olympics. With the relatively low number of participants at the Winter Games compared to the Summer ones (in 1924, for example, Chamonix had less than 10% of the competitors as Paris), it is likely that Smith was truly the last survivor, but there is also a lot of missing information from these Games as well, making it equally possible that a later survivor will be uncovered in the future.

Hans Kleppen – Member of Norway’s ski jumping delegation to the 1928 and 1932 Winter Olympics

The case of Hans Kleppen, born March 16, 1907, is relatively well-known. He represented Norway in ski jumping at the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics, but fell and placed 36th, near the bottom of the list of finishers. He made up for this the following year, however, when he won a bronze medal at the World Championships. He was selected to represent his country once more at the 1932 Lake Placid Games, but only as a substitute, and he did not end up competing. A taxi driver and driving instructor by trade, he found considerable fame later in life due to his longevity, as he was for several years Norway’s oldest living Olympian at a time when the public had begun to pay attention to such distinctions. He died on April 12, 2009, at the age of 102 years, 27 days, which made him the last known competitor from the 1928 St. Moritz Games and, arguably, the final one from the sparsely-attended 1932 Lake Placid Olympics as well. The last survivor of the 1932 Games who actually participated, however, was British figure skater Cecilia Colledge, born November 28, 1920, who died April 12, 2008 at the age of 87 years, 136 days. That Colledge would hold this title is of little surprise: when she debuted in 1932 at the age of 11 years, 73 days, she became the youngest-ever Winter Olympian, a feat that has never been surpassed.

Simone Schaller – Member of the track and field delegation of the United States to the 1932 and 1936 Summer Olympics

The 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, held in the middle of the Great Depression, was much more poorly attended than several previous iterations of the Games. Track athlete Simone Schaller, born August 22, 1912, was one of the competitors and she did fairly well, just missing the podium in the 80 metres hurdles in fourth. In the same event at the 1936 Berlin Games, she was eliminated in the semifinals. World War II then ended any chance that her career would continue, and she settled into private life, working at a California high school and not granting any interviews in her later years. Nonetheless, she was known to be alive and, when she died on October 20, 2016, at the age of 104 years, 59 days, she was noted as being the last survivor of the 1932 Los Angeles Games, as well as the oldest living Olympian overall. There was, however, still a survivor from an earlier edition of the Games.

Carla Marangoni – Member of the Italian gymnastics delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

That distinction went to gymnast Carla Marangoni, born November 13, 1915, who had won a silver medal with the Italian team at the age of only 12 at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. This was the extent of her sporting career, however, and she later worked for the transportation department in her local Pavia. By the time of her 100th birthday, however, she was already known not only as the oldest living Italian Olympian, but as the last survivor of the 1928 Amsterdam Games. This was in stark contrast to her teammate Bianca Ambrosetti who, already ill with tuberculosis during the Games, died in 1929 at the age of only 15, making her the shortest-lived Olympic competitor. Marangoni, however, outlived even Schaller and, when she died on January 18, 2018, aged 102 years, 66 days, she had become the Olympian who lived the longest after her Olympic appearance.


Although we know of no living competitors from the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics, it seems a little premature to declare a last survivor when there are still eight living participants from the 1936 Berlin Games. As it stands, however, the last survivor we known of from the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games is Romanian figure skater Maria Popp, born November 18, 1919, who died August 21, 2015. Popp did not start in her event, however, which leaves Czech alpine skier Hilde Walterová, born February 21, 1915, who died April 19, 2013 at the age of 98 years, 57 days, the last surviving actual competitor. With that information, we conclude our series on the last survivors of early Olympic Games. We hope that you have enjoyed these posts, and that you will join us next week when we blog about a new topic!

Last Survivors of Early Olympic Games, Part II

Today we are going to continue our look into the last survivors of early Olympic Games. As a reminder, this data is based on the best of our knowledge; with so much missing information on athlete deaths, particularly from the early Games, it is possible that the last survivor died in obscurity, or without anyone realizing that they were the last one. Thus, as with all considerations regarding the Oldest Olympians, this information might change in the future.

Willem Winkelman – Member of the Dutch track and field delegation to the 1908 London Games

Willem Winkelman, born July 14, 1887, represented the Netherlands in two track events at the 1908 London Olympics. He was eliminated in the opening round of the 3,500 metres walk (the only time this event was held at the Games) and gave up part way through his heat of the 10-mile walk (another event held only in 1908). Winkelman recalled that, at the time, sport was not taken seriously where he was from and thus the 1908 Olympics were the pinnacle of his career. Nonetheless, by the time of his death on July 1, 1990, at the age of 102 years, 352 days, the importance of international sport was well-cemented into the fabric of global life. Thus Winkelman was recognized widely for his longevity and connection to the early Olympics and, in almost 30 years, no one else has been discovered that can claim the mantle of last survivor of the 1908 London Games.

Jalmari Kivenheimo – Member of Finland’s gymnastic delegation to the 1912 Stockholm Games

Jalmari Kivenheimo, born September 25, 1889, was a member of the Finnish gymnastics squad that won the silver medal in the free system team all-around event at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics (other events in 1912 required competitors to use either the European or Swedish systems). This was his only major international competition, and he later earned a PhD in botany and worked as a teacher. By the time of his death on October 29, 1994, at the age of 105 years, 34 days, he was acknowledged in an English-language bulletin as the oldest living Olympian, the last survivor of the 1912 Stockholm Games, and the longest-lived Olympic medalist ever. Almost 25 years later, he still holds that latter distinction, and it was only as of today, when John Lysak reached the age of 105 years, 35 days, that Kivenheimo has dropped from the list of the top five longest-lived Olympians of all-time.

Aileen Riggin – Member of the aquatic delegations of the United States to the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics

Aileen Riggin, born May 2, 1906, was perhaps the first of the last survivors who was well-known for reasons other than her longevity. At the age of 14, she won the springboard diving event for the United States at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, also placing fifth in the plain high competition. She returned in 1924 and took silver in the springboard, as well as bronze in the 100 metres backstroke swimming tournament. She then had a successful career as an aquatic professional, performing in exhibitions and appearing in films, before changing careers and working as a journalist. She was made a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1967. 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.

(Pavelić, pictured in his obituary in The Daily Greenwich)

Ivo Pavelić – Member of Yugoslavia’s swimming delegation to the 1924 Paris Games

The Olympic career of Ivo Pavelić, born February 10, 1908, was brief: he represented Yugoslavia in the 200 metres breaststroke event at the 1924 Paris Games and was eliminated in the opening round. He was more successful as a footballer, making several appearances with the national team between 1927 and 1930 and winning the national championship in the latter year. By career he was a lawyer who moved to Switzerland during World War II, but he became a businessman in Greenwich, Connecticut after the conflict. Due to his brief Olympic appearance, and the fact that he emigrated to the United States, it came as a surprise in 2011 that he had still been alive and died on February 22 at the age of 103 years, 12 days, making him the last known living survivor of the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Pavelić’s death begins our personal experience with last living survivors of the Games, as discussion surrounding his obituary was the first time that we at Oldest Olympians had encountered the concept, and thus it seems like a good place to stop for today. Next week, our final part of this series will examine the 1928 and 1932 Summer Olympics, as well look into the Winter Games. We hope that you will join us!

Last Survivors of Early Olympic Games

Today we are going to begin looking into a topic that is very much related to Oldest Olympians: the last survivors of early Olympic Games. While in many cases these individuals lived to be over 100, not all of them did, and in two cases they did not even reach the age of 90, which means that they would have been ineligible for the Oldest Olympians table. The last survivor, of course, is not necessarily the longest-lived, as the case of Walter Walsh shows. Walsh is the longest-lived Olympian, but he competed in his 40s at the 1948 London Games, and thus there are many competitors from that edition who survived him.

One should also keep in mind that this data is based on the best of our knowledge; with so much missing information on athlete deaths, particularly from the early Games, it is possible that the last survivor died in obscurity, or without anyone realizing that they were the last one. Thus, as with all considerations regarding the Oldest Olympians, this information might change in the future. Nonetheless, we will begin this series with a look into the earliest editions, for which information about the competitors is the least well-known.

Dimitrios Loundras – Member of the Greek gymnastics delegation to the 1896 Athens Games

At 10 years and 216 days old, Greek gymnast Dimitrios Loundras, born September 6, 1885, was the youngest participant at the 1896 Athens Games, so it is not surprising that he was the last survivor as well. Loundras came in third in the team parallel bars event, which at the time would not have earned him a prize (the gold-silver-bronze medal structure did not emerge until 1904), but retroactively he is considered a bronze medalist. He later served in the Greek Navy and, perhaps more importantly, with the Hellenic Olympic Committee. It is because of this latter role that we know of his participation in the Games, as many of the names of the second- and third-place finishers of his event (as well as of the 1896 competitors in general) are unknown or have been lost. His date of death is given as February 15 of either 1970 or 1971, so he was aged 84 or 85 years and 162 days, but either way he was the last known living connection to the first Olympic Games. Given how much missing information there is about these Games, however, it is very possible that another individual may have actually survived longer.

Lucien Démanet – Member of the French gymnastic delegations to the 1900 and 1920 Summer Olympics

Lucien Démanet, born December 6, 1874, was also a gymnast, but unlike Loundras he was well into adulthood when he débuted at the 1900 Paris Games, where he came in third among 135 competitors in the individual all-around. Again, there were no bronze medals at this edition, although he is considered a medalist retrospectively. In 1920, however, he received an actual bronze medal with the French team in the all-around event at the age of 45. In-between, he won three medals, one gold and two bronze, at the 1905 World Championships. Démanet died March 16, 1979 at the age of 104 years, 100 days, and was the last known survivor of the 1900 Games. As with 1896, of course, there are many unknown competitors, including a French boy of about seven years who helped the Dutch team win the coxed pairs event. It is possible, therefore, that a younger participant survived Démanet.

(Dellert, pictured with his 1904 participation medals, in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, on November 8, 1984)

John Dellert – Member of the Concordia Turnverein gymnastic delegation to the 1904 St. Louis Games

John Dellert, born November 18, 1884, was the third of the last survivors who was both a gymnast and a competitor from the host country. Neither is surprising, as gymnasts are often younger, on average, than competitors in other sports, and the host countries of early Games tended to have far larger delegations than those of other nations, making the last survivor statistically more likely to come from there. Unlike the Loundras and Démanet, however, we know about him despite the fact that he was not a top performer at the Games: he placed no higher than 30th in the individual events and was fourth in the team all-round. He was also selected to compete at the 1908 Rome Olympics, but an injury prevented him from attending. He worked a series of manual labour jobs throughout his life and died February 3, 1985, aged 100 years, 77 days, and while there is a lot of missing information on the 1904 St. Louis Games, he is nonetheless a strong candidate for the last survivor.

Vahram Papazyan – Armenian track and field athlete at the 1906 Athens Intercalated Games

There are some things that are unclear about Vahram Papazyan, but two conjectures seem very likely: that he was the youngest competitor at the 1906 Intercalated Games held in Athens, and that he was the last survivor. In the former case, his date of birth is usually seen as September 12, 1892, but his obituary and Social Security Death Index record list him as being born in 1893. This latter date seems unlikely given contemporary pictures of the athlete, but either way he would have been the youngest participant when he competed in the 800 and 1,500 metre races, being eliminated in the opening round. He is usually considered as having represented Turkey, although he was arguably an individual participant who happened to come from the Ottoman Empire. At the 1912 Stockholm Games, however, he was an official representative of the nation and competed in the same two events, with similar results. He later moved to the United States and worked as an electrical engineer, remaining there for the rest of his life and dying March 7, 1986 at the age of, at most, 93 years and 176 days. Given this (relatively) young age, and the fact that the 1906 Games are now considered unofficial and thus have not been studied as much as other editions, it remains possible that someone will be discovered who survived longer than Papazyan.

That seems like enough for one post, so we will continue this series with second and third entries in the coming weeks. Before we end today, however, we would like thank Fabio Montermini, who undertook research and used his contacts to discover that one of our Bronze Medal Mysteries, Italian sailor Antonio Cosentino, died in 1993 in Naples. We greatly appreciate the work that he did to solve this mystery and offer him our sincere thanks!

Ray Robinson

It has been about two months since we last featured a mystery about an Olympic medalist, but today we have another South African to discuss: cyclist Ray Robinson, born September 3, 1929, who would have recently turned 90 if still alive

(Ray Robinson, pictured far left, at Classic Lightweights UK)

Robinson had a very successful run at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, winning silver in the tandem sprint with Tommy Shardelow and bronze in the 1,000 metres time trial. He also placed fifth in the sprint. He and Shardelow competed again at the 1956 Melbourne Games, but were eliminated in the quarterfinals. He continued riding until 1960 but, unfortunately, due to his relatively common name (and the fact that results tend to get muddled with those of Sugar Ray Robinson), we have been unable to locate more about his career or later life.

Even though English is a common language in South Africa (certainly at the time of Robinson’s career), it is not particularly surprising to have a medal mystery from this country; in fact, we have covered several in the past. Considering the many racial tensions that existed during that era of national sport and its subsequent tarnished legacy, added to the commonality of his name, it is not surprising that there are few online resources available to explore his career. What does make him unique, however, is that he is arguably our most decorated Olympic mystery. We have covered the case of Belgian figure skater Micheline Lannoy, our only Olympic gold medal mystery, but Robinson is one of only two Olympic medal mysteries to have earned more than one medal, and the other, Austrian canoeist Herbert Wiedermann, won bronze twice.

This is why we have chosen to highlight Robinson in today’s blog as a crucial portion of Olympic history, because we suspect that the information must be out there, and that it is either inaccessible to us or we have simply missed it. On our last day at the Olympic Studies Center in Lausanne, we even attempted to scour some rare books on South African sports history for clues about his career and fate, but to no avail. Left with limited options we turn to you, our readers, in the hopes that someone will be able to solve this important Olympic mystery.

Africa’s Oldest Olympians

For today’s blog, we wanted to take a break from our usual coverage of Olympic Mysteries and dip our toes into a subject that has been drawing attention as of late: the oldest African Olympians. Due to the fact that most African nations (with the major exceptions of Egypt and South Africa) did not get their start at the Games until after decolonization, it is not surprising that we know of very few living African Olympians over the age of 90, and not many more who reached that milestone in the past. Even for those who competed at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, many survivors are simply too young.

Following the death of Nigeria’s Karim Olowu, previously the oldest living African Olympian, we know of six living Olympians who represented an African nation. From Egypt, there is equestrian Mohamed Selim Zaki, born July 16, 1924, footballer Abdel Aziz Kabil, born March 14, 1927, and rower Ibrahim El-Attar, born February 22, 1928. From South Africa, there is rower Don Dyke-Wells, born February 13, 1924, and track and field athletes Abram van Heerden, born September 7, 1927, and Edna Maskell, born April 13, 1928. We have already profiled Zaki, Kabil, Dyke-Wells, and Maskell on Oldest Olympians, and we hope to cover the other two very soon.

(Edna Maskell, left, pictured in the Vancouver Sun, during the 1954 British Empire Games)

Unfortunately, a greater share of African Olympians can be found on our “possibly living” list, because we have been unable to uncover information regarding whether they are alive or deceased. It is a sad fact that many of these great athletes fade into obscurity once the Games have ended and, as they are not known to be among the oldest Olympians, we generally do not profile them in depth on our site. From Egypt alone, we count 69 Olympians, including 3 medalists, potentially over the age of 90 for whom we cannot determine for certain whether they are alive or deceased, let alone when they died and what happened to them later in life (and that does even count those without a year of birth!). South Africa adds another 10 Olympians, including medalist Daphne Robb-Hasenjäger, whom we profiled recently.

(Hasenjäger, pictured far left, in the Life Photo Collection)

African nations that have participated only since World War II, however, contribute their fair share as well. Morocco, which did not compete independently until 1960, leads this list with five Olympians. Ethiopia and Kenya, which debuted in 1956, and Sudan and Tunisia, which first participated in 1960, are not far behind with three each. Ghana, meanwhile, took part in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as Gold Coast. Two of its track and field athletes from those Games, high jumper James Owoo, born December 16, 1927, and triple jumper William Laing, born January 3, 1929, may still be alive.

(James Owoo, pictured in the July 11, 1952 edition of Daily Graphic)

Uganda entered the Olympic scene in 1956, but its two possibly living oldest Olympians are boxers from the 1960 Rome Games. Frank Kisekka, born December 22, 1926, was a flyweight, while Peter Odhiambo, born October 14, 1927, was a middleweight. Zimbabwe, meanwhile, did not participate independently until the 1980 Moscow Olympics but, competing for Rhodesia, trap shooter John Richards, born October 12, 1928, finished 42nd out of 51 competitors at the 1964 Tokyo Games. And although Côte d’Ivoire made its Olympic debut that same year, it is one of its canoeists from the 1972 Munich Games, Daniel Sedji, born April 15, 1927, who makes our possibly living list as the lone entry from his country.

(Kisekka, right, at the 1960 Rome Olympics)

It is, of course, worth noting that just because these nations lie on the same continent, there should no assumption of homogeneity between them. Olowu, Zaki, and Dyke-Wells all come from very different background and nations with significantly different histories. Nonetheless, we find it a valuable exercise to highlight their contributions in a dedicated blog post, because we feel that the one thing they all have in common is that their nations are often overlooked in terms of global sport, whereas all other inhabited continents have at least one sporting powerhouse nation that is discussed routinely.

Even More Olympic Missing Links

Since it has been a few months, today on Oldest Olympians we have decided that it is time  to review some of the Olympic Missing Links that have accumulated since our last post. Thus, today we are once again looking at cases for whom we believed to have identified their date of death but, for whatever reason, we were unable to connect the information, such as obituary or public record, conclusively to the athlete. As always, we present them here not only in the hopes of solving some of these cases, but to continue our commitment to transparency in our research.

(Eduardo Cordero, wearing shirt #6)

Eduardo Cordero – Member of Chile’s basketball delegation at the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics

Eduardo “El Mago” Cordero, born September 12, 1921, was a member of two Chilean Olympic basketball teams. In 1948 in London, the nation ranked sixth, while in 1952 in Helsinki it improved to fifth. In between, he won a bronze medal at the 1950 Basketball World Cup. Cordero was a well-known player domestically in Chile, but the only evidence of his later life that we could uncover was an anonymous edit to Wikipedia that claimed that he died in 1991 in Valparaiso. Although Chilean genealogical records have been very helpful in the past for identifying the fates of the country’s Olympic athletes, in this case they were unable to confirm the information that was added to Wikipedia.

(Grave for Manuel Escobar Palomo at BillionGraves)

Manuel Escobar – Member of El Salvador’s sailing delegation to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics

Like many Olympic sailors, we know little about Manuel Escobar, born August 6, 1924, outside of the fact that he represented El Salvador in the Flying Dutchman class at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Alongside Mario Aguilar (another Olympian on our “possibly living” list), he finished 30th and last. The only other potential trace we have of him is a picture of the grave of a Manuel Escobar Palomo born in 1924 who died in Guatemala in 1995. In this case, the year of birth and the full name match, but the country does not. While it certainly would be possible for the Olympian to have moved to a neighboring country (especially when one presumes that an Olympic sailor would have the resources to do so), we cannot claim with certainty that the grave is his.

Pierre William – Member of France’s athletics delegation at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Pierre William, born December 17, 1928 in Senegal, was at his athletic peaking during the early 1960s. At the turn of the decade, he represented France in the triple jump at the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he finished last and did not survive the qualifying round. Less than three weeks later, however, he set a French national record in that event with a jump of 16 metres. William then became the national triple jump champion in 1961, but faded after that. Someone who is possibly a relative posted that he died on December 21, 2018 in Dakar but, despite how recent this is said to have occurred, we were unable to verify this information.

That is it for today, but we hope that you will come back next week, when we will have more Olympic mysteries to share with you all!

Roberto Ferrari

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to expand slightly on something we mentioned previously, but into which we did not go into much detail. It concerns Italian fencer Roberto Ferrari, born August 2, 1923, who would have turned 96 earlier this month. Until recently, we had listed Ferrari as the oldest living Italian Olympic medalist, but last month we learned that he was in fact deceased. We thought, for this blog entry, that explicating our research in this regard would help provide a little insight into the process of determining whether an Olympian is alive or deceased.

On the surface, Ferrari seems like an unlikely candidate for an Olympic mystery. He was a prolific fencer during the 1950s who won his first international title at the turn of the decade, in the team sabre event at the 1950 World Championships. His only other gold medal at the Worlds came in the team foil in 1954, but he also took team silvers in the sabre in 1951, 1953, and 1955, and the foil in 1953. At the Mediterranean Games, he won gold medals in the team sabre in 1951 and 1955, and bronze and silver in the individual tournament in those years respectively. He competed at three consecutive editions of the Olympics beginning in 1952, winning silver and bronze in the team sabre in 1952 and 1960 respectively.

Ferrari, therefore, was not a marginal figure in the sporting world, yet the internet, even in Italian, seems bereft of information on his later life. Nonetheless, when we saw his name on a newspaper’s online (now-removed) list of birthdays being celebrated in 2012, we had no reason to doubt that he had reached his 89th birthday.

After that, however, we were unable to locate any update until we were forwarded a list of Italian Olympic medalists, published in 2014, which noted that Ferrari was deceased, but did not include a date. In theory, this did not contradict the birthday list, since he could have died between 2012 and 2014, but we were nonetheless skeptical, since we assumed that an obituary for an Olympic medal-winning fencer who died in the 2010s should be easy to find. Since we had been proven wrong in this regard in the past (in the case of centenarian German alpine skier Gustav Lantschner, whose death we noticed only half a year later in a name-only listing among church funeral services), we decided to contact Italian Olympic expert Beppe Odello to see if he could confirm the information one way or another.

Odello responded quickly to let us know that Ferrari had indeed died, in Genova, but he did not have an exact date. The 2014 listing was, therefore, correct, and it remains possible that the 2012 account was mistaken, or that it had simply assumed (incorrectly) that he was still alive without researching the matter. That as notable a figure as Ferrari could die without drawing significant attention is itself an Olympic Mystery, as clearly the issue here goes beyond a language barrier, since neither the newspaper nor Odello could locate a notice of his death easily.

(Alessandro D’Ottavio, pictured at Boxrec)

In fact, the 2014 list noted that one of our bronze medal mysteries, boxer Alessandro D’Ottavio, born August 27, 1927, was also deceased. Despite having an Olympic medal-winning amateur career and a title-winning professional career, Odello was unable to even confirm the list’s report that D’Ottavio was deceased. We often try to post here about forgotten Olympians because, as the case of Ferrari shows, no athlete, no matter how successful, can be remembered unless people put the effort in to keep their memories and accomplishments alive.

Ben Verhagen

Today on Oldest Olympians, our mystery is not very deep, and is more of a curiosity. It concerns Gijsbertus “Ben” Verhagen, born September 29, 1926, who represented the Netherlands at three editions of the Olympic sailing tournament in the Flying Dutchman class. His first outing, at the 1960 Rome Games, was his best, as he finished in fifth with veteran sailors Gerard Lautenschutz and Jaap Helder. In 1964 in Tokyo he was sixth, and in 1968 in Mexico City he was joint-17th with the Austrian team. In the latter two instances, his partner was Nico de Jong.

(Verhagen from the Dutch National Archives)

Verhagen was more successful at the European Championships, where he won bronze medals in the Flying Dutchman class in 1961 and 1968. He attempted to qualify for the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the Tempest class, but did not succeed. Nonetheless, he continued to race in the Soling class through the 1970s and 1980s.

Despite his lengthy career, we have been unable to confirm whether or not he is still alive, and thus since 2016 he has been on our list of “possibly living” Olympians. At the end of last month, however, we noticed that an anonymous user had added the following note to his Wikipedia page:

Ben Verhagen 91 years old. Still alive and fit 18-1-2018

Unfortunately, by the time we discovered this addition, over a year and a half had passed, so it seems unlikely that the author has the same IP address, let alone will respond to our inquiry. We turned, therefore, to Dutch OlyMADMen member Jeroen Heijmans, but he was unable to confirm whether the notice above was true. We have no particular reason to doubt the message’s veracity but, as Wikipedia is so prone to vandalism, we cannot consider the statement above sufficient proof to list him our tables. We felt, therefore, the next best step would be to share this information with our readers in the hopes that someone may have the confirmation needed to close this question.

As a small addition to this post, however, we do have some good news. While searching through Dutch sources, we discovered that Jan Ceulemans, born January 11, 1926, who represented Belgium in basketball at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, was still alive in 2018 at the age of 92, and we were therefore able to add him to our tables:

(Announcement of Jan Pieter Ceulemans’ birthday)

Finally, thanks to a message left on this blog by Christian Brücher, we have learned that one of our Bronze Medal Mysteries, Swiss sailor Pierre Girard, is still alive. Girard, born August 2, 1926, represented his country in the 5.5 metres class at the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he took home a bronze medal. Thanks to Christian Brücher, we are now able to add Girard to our tables as well!

Viscount de Lastic

Continuing with our theme of the 1900 Paris Olympics, today on Olympic Mysteries we are looking into another case muddled by uncertainty, that of French fencer Viscount de Lastic. One might assume that if anyone from the 1900 Games were to be remembered, it would be a member of the nobility. Unfortunately, at the time, the Olympics had yet to distinguish itself from other international sporting tournaments and, with the Paris Games further diluted in importance by being mixed into that year’s World Fair, many may not have even been aware that they were participating in the Olympics, let alone have found it prestigious enough to be worth special mention. If this were the case for the average sportsman, then certainly it would be more so for a member of the nobility whose life would have revolved around many uncommon exploits, and for whom participation in the first round of a fencing tournament may not have been of particular note.

What we know for certain is that a man holding the title of Viscount de Lastic took part in the individual épée competition at the Paris Games and was eliminated in round one of the event. He was neither the only member of the nobility taking part nor was he the highest-ranked. Gabriel, Count de la Falaise, for example, finished fourth in this event and won the sabre tournament.

(The Coat of Arms for the de Lastic family)

The de Lastic family has been around since at least the 11th century, leaving many potential branches to explore. We suspect, however, that Viscount de Lastic was actually Hubert Jehan de Lastic Saint Jal, but we are unable to confirm it. He was born January 15, 1874 and died June 1, 1965 at the age of 91, which would have at one time, appropriately enough, made him among the Oldest Olympians.

(Biography from Des hommes et des activités autour d’un demi-siècle, page 428)

According to one biography, this de Lastic was a cavalry officer and a sports patron, both of which would align well with an interest and competitive history in fencing. He was decommissioned in 1908, but called back to serve with the 10th Hussards during World War I. After that, he seems to have spent much of his time active in various sports administration roles in France.

There is nothing to suggest, therefore, that Hubert Jehan de Lastic Saint Jal was not the Olympic fencer but, unfortunately, there is nothing to confirm it either. Given his extensive sports patronage and decorated military career, there would seem to be little reason in any biography to mention his single-round participation in a fencing tournament nestled within the 1900 World Fair. Although by 1965 participation in the Olympics would certainly be worthy of note, if there is an obituary that mentioned this fact, we have not seen it. Thus, despite all of the supporting evidence, the case of Viscount de Lastic must remain among our Olympic mysteries.