All posts by Paul Tchir

Missing Data on Lebanese Olympians

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover a topic that we have hit upon eclectically, but never really devoted our full attention to: missing information on Lebanese Olympians. There are a lot of gaps in our data, but today we wanted to focus on four individuals who competed between 1948 and 1964 and may still be living, although we do not know enough about them to be sure either way.

Salem Salam – Member of Lebanon’s sport shooting delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

We know very little about Salem Salam, who represented Lebanon in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres competition at the 1948 London Games. His result of 70th, among 71 competitors, is essentially the sum of this knowledge; even the picture we have seen of the 1948 Lebanese team cuts off some of the names (including his) leaving us unable to identify exactly who he is in the photograph. While sport shooters tend to be older than the average Olympian, it is certainly in the realm of possibility that he may still be alive.

(Michel Ghawi, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)

Michel Ghawi – Sole boxer in Lebanon’s delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Michel Ghawi took up boxing at 15 years old and won the Lebanese national bantamweight title in 1947. At the 1948 London Games, however, he represented his country as a flyweight, where he lost in round one to Chile’s Manuel Videla. We know that he founded a club in 1944, so the absolute latest he could be born is roughly 1929. He was, however, likely much older by then, although it remains a possibility that he is still living.

Sami Beyroun – Member of Lebanon’s alpine skiing delegation to the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics

Of all the Olympians on this list, we know the least about Sami Beyroun. Even his name is uncertain, as one Arabic-language site lists him as “Samir Bayrouni”. All we can be certain of is that someone with this name or similar competed in three alpine skiing events at the 1964 Innsbruck Games, placing 80th and last among the finishers in the giant slalom and also competing in the slalom and downhill. Without any further information, we are limited in our ability to research his later life.

(Michel Rahme, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)

Michel Rahme – Member of Lebanon’s alpine skiing delegation to the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics

Like Sami Beyroun, Michel Rahme represented Lebanon in all three events at the 1964 Innsbruck Games, placing 75th in the both the downhill and giant slalom and 53rd in the slalom. While this was his only major competitive tournament, he spent many years with the Lebanese national team as an administrator. We have, however, unfortunately been unable to find more details about his more recent life, or if he is even still alive.

Finally, while on the subject of Lebanon, we wanted to publicly thank Zakaria Chihab’s son Bassam for confirm that his father, at 1952 Olympic bronze medalist and subject of an Olympic Mysteries post from last year, died in November 1984. We are not sure just yet what topic we will cover next, but we hope that you will join us!

Austrian Missing Links, Part II

Today on Oldest Olympians, we are presenting part two of our series on Austrian missing links. Last week we looked at cemetery records for individuals who may have competed at the 1936 and 1948 Games, but for whom the connection between the record and the Olympian was not certain. Today, we are going to complete the discussion by looking into potential links from 1928 and earlier.

Grete Kubitschek – Member of Austria’s figure skating delegation to the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics

Grete Kubitschek, born in 1903, represented Austria in the women’s singles figure skating event at the 1928 St. Moritz Games, where she placed 17th among 20 participants. She had been third at that year’s Austrian national championships and went on to place fifth at the 1929 World Championships. As to the rest of her life, we are a little unclear – she may have been the daughter of a well-known historian Wilhelm Kubitschek, as he was known to have a daughter named Grete born in the first decade of the 1900s. Either way, we have been unable to confirm that a cemetery record for a Margarete Kubitschek, born July 13, 1903 and died January 7, 2001, is the Olympian.

Richard Brünner – Member of Austria’s fencing delegations to the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics

Richard Brünner, born in 1889, represented Austria in three foil fencing events across two editions of the Games, reaching the quarterfinals of the team competitions in 1924 and 1928 and being eliminated in the first round individually in the latter year. He won silver and bronze in the team event in 1933 and 1931 respectively, and was a five-time foil and sabre national champion between 1920 and 1927. Cemetery records list a Richard Brünner born November 18, 1888 as having died November 25, 1962, but these unfortunately offer no further clue as to whether they are for the Olympian.

Hugo Philipp – Member of Austria’s fencing delegation to the 1924 Paris Olympics

Hugo Philipp, born in 1884, represented Austria in the team foil fencing event alongside Brünner at the 1924 Paris Games. We know nothing else aside from this, as he has a common name and does not appear to have had any other major international fencing results. As such, we cannot connect the cemetery record for a Hugo Philipp who died at the age of 86 and was buried on November 27, 1970, to the Olympian.

Toni Eichholzer – Member of Austria’s boxing delegation to the 1924 Paris Olympics

Toni Eichholzer, born August 5, 1903, represented Austria in the lightweight boxing tournament at the 1924 Paris Games and was eliminated in his first bout against Haakon Hansen of Denmark. It does not appear that Eichholzer ever turned professional, but he did take up coaching and training later in life. A record exists of an Anton Eichholzer having died at the age of 58 on March 19, 1961, which would make him one year older than the Olympian would have been.

Fritz Weinzinger – Member of Austria’s track and field athletics delegation to the 1912 Stockholm Games

Fritz Weinzinger, born July 14, 1890, represented Austria in the 100 metres and the 4×100 metres relay at the 1912 Stockholm Games, but he was eliminated in the first round of both. He was also entered into the 200 metres and the high jump, but did not start. He had set national records in these events at the end of the 1900s, but we could find nothing else about his life after the Games. A Friedrich Weinzinger who died May 22, 1963 at the age of 73 is a possible candidate, although this individual would have been one year older than the Olympian.

Those are all of the Austrian missing links that we are aware of, so next week we will be looking into a new topic and we hope that you will join us!

Austrian Missing Links

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to address a simple topic: Austrian missing links. Austria is a country for which we usually have good data and for whom we have access to thorough cemetery records that often help us catch those Olympians who died beneath the radar. Sometimes, however, the details do not quite match what we have in the database, and thus we cannot be certain that those listed in the cemetery records are the same individuals. We covered this topic previously, focusing on three Olympians: Adam Bischof, Walter Niederle, and Theodor Obrietan. We now want to expand our scope somewhat and thus today we will be looking at Austrian cemetery mysteries from 1936 and 1948.

Fritz Wächtler – Member of Austria’s figure skating delegation to the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics

Fritz Wächtler, born October 13, 1906, represented Austria in figure skating’s pairs event at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games, where he placed 14th out of 19 out of the 19 duos that entered, alongside Eleanore Bäumel. A year earlier, they had been sixth at the European Championships. Aside from this, we do not know much about him, but an individual by this name died at the age of 57 and was buried July 31, 1963. The Olympian would have been one year younger at that time, so we cannot confirm that they are one and the same.

Franz Wenninger – Member of Austria’s water polo squad at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Franz Wenninger, born October 20, 1910, represented Austria in the water polo tournament at the 1936 Berlin Games, where his country placed sixth. A member of 1. Wiener Amateur Schwimmclub, he won a silver medal at the 1938 European Championships, but we know little of his postwar life. A cemetery has a Franz Wenninger, born August 20, 1910, dying August 1996, but his name is common enough that we cannot be certain that this is the Olympian.

Sebastian Ploner – Member of Austria’s water polo squad at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Sebastian Ploner, born May 27, 1907, was on the same team as Franz Wenninger that finished sixth in the water polo tournament at the 1936 Berlin Games. Being slightly older, his European Championship medal came in 1931, when Austria took bronze. The possible cemetery record for Ploner lists a man by that name who died at the age of 74 and was buried December 22, 1981. This age aligns with the Olympian, but the name is popular enough that we cannot be certain that the two are one and the same.

Emil Hübscher – Member of Austria’s athletics delegation to the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Emil Hübscher, born September 3, 1912, represented Austria in the 800 and 1500 metres events at the 1936 Berlin Games, where he was eliminated in the semifinals and round one respectively. He was also a reserve for the 4×400 metres relay, but did not compete. We again do not know much about his postwar life, but a cemetery record has an Emil Hübscher dying at the age of 46 and being buried March 6, 1958, which would be one year older than the Olympian.

Hermann Mazurkiewitsch – Member of Austria’s boxing delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Hermann Mazurkiewitsch, born October 12, 1925, represented Austria in the bantamweight boxing tournament at the 1948 London Games, where he was eliminated in round one. He had better luck at the 1951 European Championships, where he won a bronze medal. He was also known as Hermann Mazurkiewicz, and a man by that name was buried February 6, 1985 in Vienna. Unfortunately, without more information, we cannot make the connection.

While we are at it, there are two more Austrian Olympic mysteries from this era that are not based in cemetery records. Grete Neumann, born June 19, 1910, represented Austria in the 100 metres and the 4×100 metres relay at the 1936 Berlin Games, but was eliminated in the first round of both. A three-time national champion in the relay, we learned of a Grete Neumann born May 19, 1910 in Schottwein who married a Hans Hirsch in 1935 and died February 8, 1996. While it seems unlikely that this is the Olympian, it is a possibility. Finally, Andreas Krapf, born March 21, 1913, represented Austria in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres competition at the 1948 London Games and placed 50th. An anonymous user added a year of death of 2000 to his English Wikipedia page, but we have been unable to verify that this is accurate.

Oldest Winter Olympic Survivors Under the Age of 90

A few days ago on the Oldest Olympians blog, we looked into the oldest surviving competitors from editions of the Summer Games that had no survivors over the age of 90. Today, we wanted to do the same for Winter Olympians. As one might expect, with winter sports geared more towards younger participants, many of these “oldest” Olympians are relatively young. For example, the oldest participant at the 2018 PyeongChang Games was Finnish curler Tomi Rantamäki, born September 18, 1968. Similarly, the oldest competitor at both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics was Mexican alpine skier Hubertus von Fürstenberg-von Hohenlohe, born February 2, 1959.

Werner Hoeger

Venezuelan luger Werner Hoeger, born December 15, 1953, was the oldest participant at the 2006 Turin Olympics, and actually competed against his son, Chris, in the singles (Chris edged out his father by placing 31st, ahead of Werner’s 32nd). Werner also competed at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, but at that edition five-time United States Virgin Island luger Anne Abernathy, born April 12, 1953, was older. To get to 1940s births, we have to go back to the 1998 Nagano Olympics and its oldest competitor, Canadian curler Paul Savage, born June 25, 1947, who won a silver medal in the men’s tournament.

Maurilio De Zolt

The oldest competitor at the 1994 Lillehammer Games was Sammarinese bobsledder Dino Crescentini, but he unfortunately died in 2008 in a motor car racing accident. This leaves Italian cross-country skier Maurilio De Zolt, born September 25, 1950, as the oldest survivor of that edition. Like many of the oldest competitors, De Zolt was a multi-Olympian, having represented his country five times. He won silver medals in the 50 kilometers in 1988 and 1992 and gold in the 4×10 kilometers relay in 1994. He also captured six medals at the World Championships, including gold in the 50 kilometers in 1987.

(John Reeve, pictured on the title card of the “Bet on Yourself” documentary)

Unfortunately, we do not know much about the oldest competitor from the 1992 Albertville Olympics, bobsledder Michael Juhlin of the United States Virgin Islands, born October 19, 1945. He participated in the four-man event and placed 29th out of 31 teams. Bobsledders from that country also made up the three oldest Olympians at the 1988 Calgary Games, with the oldest, Harvey Hook, born August 8, 1935, having died October 14, 2011. This leaves John Reeve, born November 7, 1937, as the oldest survivor of that edition, as he competed in the two man bobsleigh event and was entered in alpine skiing’s giant slalom competition, although he did not start. Of British origin, Reeve was inspired by Egypt’s alpine skier Jamil El-Reedy to take a shot at participating in the Winter Olympics and was featured in the documentary “Bet on Yourself” in his older age.

Reeve is the closest among these individuals to becoming an official “oldest Olympian”, and we look forward to celebrating that achievement in a few years. Until that time, we will be bringing you more stories of the oldest Olympians and hope that you will join us for our next blog entry!

Oldest Olympic Survivors Under the Age of 90

Here at Oldest Olympians we decided to take a break from blogging during the 2020 Tokyo Games – after all, day after day, there were much more interesting topics to keep track of during competition. Now that those Games have ended, however, we want to get back to some lengthier posts and help fill the gap a little between now and the 2022 Beijing Games.

A quick Google search will tell anyone that the oldest Olympian at the Tokyo Games was Australian equestrian Mary Hanna, born December 1, 1954. Hanna is no stranger to the Olympics, as 2020 was her sixth edition: she had competed previously in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2012, and 2016. At “only” 66, however, she naturally has quite a while to go before being featured on Oldest Olympians. Thus we asked ourselves instead, if we are going to feature Olympic years that currently have no living nonagenarians, why not go back a little further? Sticking with the theme of the Summer Games, we currently have no one listed as the oldest survivor of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, or for any edition from 1996 onward.

Hiroshi Hoketsu at the 2012 London Olympics

Going backwards, the oldest Olympian at the 2016 Rio Games was born only a few months before Hanna. Julie Brougham, born May 20, 1954, represented New Zealand in equestrian and was 44th in the individual dressage tournament. The oldest Olympian from the 2008 and 2012 editions, meanwhile, was Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu, born March 28, 1941, who received particular attention due to the large gap between his appearances. Hoketsu made his Olympic début at the 1964 Tokyo Games and did not compete again until 2008, a considerable wait of 44 years! Meanwhile, 10-time Canadian equestrian Ian Millar, born January 6, 1947, is the oldest living Olympian from the 2004 Athens Games.

Moving back to 2000 allows us to discuss someone who is a little closer to being among the oldest Olympians: sport shooter Bruce Meredith, born April 19, 1937. Meredith represented the United States Virgin Islands at four consecutive editions of the Olympic small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres event, from 1988 through 2000, with a best finish of joint-31st in 1992. In 2000, he was also the oldest participant in the Games. He also competed in the three positions, 50 metres event in 1988. He had more success at the Pan-American Games, capturing team gold in two events in 1967 and an individual silver in 1995, as well as the World Championships (team silver in 1970) and Central American and Caribbean Games (individual bronze in 1995). As he is still competing into his 80s, we look forward to celebrating his 90th birthday in a few years.

Even more prolific was Sweden’s Ragnar Skanåker, born June 8, 1934, who appeared at seven consecutive editions of the Olympics, from 1972 through 1996, winning gold in the free pistol, 50 metres event at his first appearance, and silver twice and bronze once in subsequent years. He also won a total of 14 medals, four of them gold, at the World Championships between 1978 and 1990, and is now the oldest living survivor of the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Ladislau Lovrenschi

Finally, it would not be an Oldest Olympians blog if there were not at least a semblance of an Olympic mystery. According to our records, the oldest survivor of the 1988 Seoul Games is Romanian rower Ladislau Lovrenschi, born June 21, 1932. Lovrenschi competed at four editions of the Olympics from 1968 through 1988, missing only the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games, and took bronze in the coxed pairs in 1972 and silver in the coxed fours in 1988. He was also a World Champion in the coxed pairs in 1970 and a bronze medalist in the coxed fours at the 1967 European Championships. While most sources have 1932 as his year of birth, some mention 1943, which would align better with his career. If it were the case that Lovrenschi was a decade younger, Austrian sport shooter Hermann Sailer, born November 1, 1933, would be the oldest survivor of the Seoul Olympics.

There are nine editions of the Winter Olympics without any survivors over the age of 90, which means that this topic merits a future post of its own. Thus, for now, we will leave you with the summer Olympians and hope that you will join us next time!

Addressing More Recent Removals

Because it has been over a year since we last did this, today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to address three of the recent removals from our list that were not discussed in a separate post on our Twitter or Facebook. Usually this happens when an individual we believe to be alive turns out to have been deceased for a long period of time, so we cannot devote an individual post to them. While we are at it, we also wanted to point out some of the updates that we had on previously featured cases.

Theresa Offredy – Member of the British fencing delegation to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Theresa Offredy, born May 4, 1930, represented Great Britain in the team foil fencing event at the 1964 Tokyo Games, where her country was eliminated in round one. We covered her in an earlier blog post with information that she was still alive in 2010, just at the edge of when we would list someone as living on our tables. Unfortunately, we learned through probate research conducted by Ian Morrison that Offredy died April 17, 2017, at the age of 86.

(Bechara Abou Rejalie, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)

Bechara Abou Rejalie – Member of Lebanon’s wrestling delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Bechara Abou Rejalie, born in 1922, represented Lebanon in the lightweight, freestyle wrestling competition at the 1948 London Games, where he withdrew in the second round. We last had confirmation of his being alive in 2015, and thus for many years we have listed him as the oldest living Lebanese Olympian. We recently discovered evidence, however, that he died at some point between April 2019 and April 2021, although we do not know the exact date. This makes Abdallah Sidani, his wrestling compatriot at the London Games, the oldest living Lebanese Olympian that we know of, and he was also last known to be living in 2015, in Saudi Arabia.

(Styrczula, kneeling on the left, at Dziennik Polski)

Stanisław Styrczula – Member of the Polish biathlon delegation to the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics

Earlier this year, on what we believed to be his 92nd birthday, we featured Stanisław Styrczula, born January 26, 1929, as the oldest living Olympic biathlete. Styrczula represented his country in the 20 kilometer event at the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, where he placed 35th. He also took part in the 1958, 1961, and 1962 World Championships and won two national titles in the 4×10 kilometer competition in 1951 and 1954. We learned recently, however, that Styrczula actually died August 17, 2020, at the age of 91. This makes Great Britain’s Norman Shutt (another individual who has been featured on our blog), born November 9, 1929, the oldest living Olympic biathlete.

In terms of updates, thanks to his son Bassam Zakaria Chehab, we learned that Lebanese Olympic silver medal-winning wrestler Zakaria Chihab, who we featured in this blog as having an uncertain date of death, died November 1984 in Kuwait. Earlier in the year, we chronicled the mysterious J. Basham, who represented Great Britain as a welterweight at the 1924 Paris Olympics, and whose identity might have been conflated with several others. Thanks to some aid from a relative, we learned that the Olympian was James George Basham, who was born May 12, 1903 and died in 1977. Finally, research by Connor Mah, who contacted the Olympian’s granddaughter, was able to verify the identity of one of the mystery Indian competitors from the 1928 Amsterdam Games. It turns out that “R. Burns” was actually Ronald Bertram Chesney Burns, born October 9, 1903, who died June 7, 1985. A biography of him is now available at Olympedia.

That is all that we have for you today! We were happy to tie up some loose ends, and we hope that you enjoyed reading them as well! Join us next week when we will pursue another topic at Oldest Olympians!

The 1932 Egyptian Weightlifting Delegation

Today on Oldest Olympians we are returning to the topic of a theoretical Egyptian delegation to the 1932 Los Angeles Games by looking at a sport in which the nation would not only have participated in, but in which it would almost certainly have claimed medals: weightlifting. Unlike track and field athletics, Egypt was an international power in weightlifting during this era, but the national boycott prevented it from adding more laurels in Los Angeles.

(Attia Mohammed)

Of the five national champions, we have already covered three in this blog as individuals who won medals at the Games. In the featherweight division, an 18-year-old Attia Mohammed won with a total lift of 285.0 kg. Had he repeated this feat in Los Angeles, he would have taken home the silver medal. Unfortunately, he would have to wait 16 years to make his Olympic début at the 1948 London Games. By then he was competing as a lightweight and took silver in that division, losing the gold to his compatriot Ibrahim Shams by virtue of Shams’ equal total lift, but lower body weight.

(Anwar Mousbah)

The winner of the national championships in the lightweight category in 1932, meanwhile, was 19-year-old Anwar Mousbah, with a total lift of 315.5. This also would have been good enough for silver in Los Angeles, but thankfully Mousbah got the chance to compete four years later and capture gold, albeit with a much heavier lift of 342.5. The Egyptian heavyweight winner in 1932 was Sayed Nosseir, who had been the Olympic light-heavyweight champion in 1928. His winning lift in 1932, however, would only have placed him in fifth in the Los Angeles heavyweight tournament.

(From left to right, Moukhtar Hussein, Sayed Nosseir, and ‘Antar ‘Arafa, pictured in the April 25, 1932 edition of Al-Ahram)

The winner of the light-heavyweight competition was Moukhtar Hussein, who had competed as a lightweight at the 1928 Amsterdam Games and placed seventh. He had moved up to light-heavyweight in 1932 and won the nationals with a total lift of 276. He had been the 1931 European Champion, but would have placed last in the field in Los Angeles with his Egyptian championship-winning lift. Nonetheless, he went on to set three light-heavyweight world records and placed fifth as a heavyweight at the 1936 Berlin Games.

The final lifter, and winner of the middleweight division, was ‘Antar ‘Arafa. ‘Arafa set several world records in the first half of the 1930s and his winning lift in 1932, 355.5, would have won him gold at the Los Angeles Olympics. His case is perhaps the most unfortunate of all, as not only was he deprived of the opportunity to become an Olympic champion by the boycott, but he never appeared at the Games at all and cannot even claim status as an Olympian.

That is all that we have for today, but we hope that you will join us again next week for a new topic (we’ve learned to stop predicting what we might write about)!

Four March 2021 Deaths

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to look at those Olympians aged 90 and above who died in March 2021 because, during that month, we lost 13 individuals in this category. We have covered nine of these athletes on our page already: Michèle Angirany, József Gurovits, Ursula Happe, Ulisses dos Santos, Aulis Sipponen, Hans Standl, Josy Stoffel, Suzanne Zimmerman, and Lennart Larsson. The other four, however, have only just come to our attention, and we wanted to pay a brief tribute to each of them in this blog entry.

(Yevgeny Kadyaykin, pictured in his obituary)

Yevgeny Kadyaykin – Member of the Soviet athletic delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Yevgeny Kadyaykin, born August 15, 1928, represented the Soviet Union in the 3000 metres steeplechase at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where he was eliminated in round one. He was eighth in that event at the 1954 European Championships and earned five national titles during his career. After retiring, he worked as a coach and sports professor, and played billiards nationally at the masters’ level. He died on March 5 at the age of 92.

(Yevgeny Morozov, pictured in his obituary)

Yevgeny Morozov – Member of the Soviet coxed pairs squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Yevgeny Morozov, born January 12, 1929, represented the Soviet Union in the coxed pairs rowing event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he was eliminated in the semi-finals repêchage. This was his only major international competition, but he did win a Soviet title in 1950 and later gained notoriety for his five decade-long coaching career, training dozens of national and international champions at his rowing school. He died on March 23 at the age of 92.

(Enrique Martínez, pictured in his obituary)

Enrique Martínez – Member of the Spanish equestrian delegations to the 1960, 1964, and 1972 Summer Olympics

Enrique Martínez, born July 13, 1930, represented Spain in the equestrian tournaments at three editions of the Olympic Games. In 1960 he competed in eventing, while in 1964 and 1972 he took part in jumping, although he never reached the podium individually or with the team. He was a gold medalist at the 1969 World Military Championships and retired from the sport in 1974, later turning to administration, judging, and coaching, in addition to his professorship at the Military Riding School. He died on March 24 at the age of 90.

Mihai Bîră, Sr. – Member of the Romanian alpine skiing delegations to the 1948 and 1952 Winter Olympics

Mihai Bîră, Sr., born September 5, 1929, represented Romania in the alpine skiing tournaments at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Olympics. In 1948 he only appeared in the downhill, placing joint-71st, while in 1952 he took part in all three events, with a best finish of joint-35th in the downhill. He was a gold medalist at the 1951 Winter World University Games and earned three more at the 1958 European University Championships, in addition to capturing the European Cup in alpine skiing in 1952. He was later involved in the administration of the sport internationally and within Romania and worked as a writer and television commentator. His son, Mihai Bîră, Jr., represented Romania in alpine skiing at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. Bîră Sr. died in March, on the 15th or earlier, at the age of 91.

The 1932 Northern Ontario Curling Team

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to share a different kind of mystery from 1932, one focusing on the winter edition, held in Lake Placid, rather than the summer. It concerns the curling demonstration event, the “Northern Ontario” team that won two of its games and lost another two, and one mystery competitor.

(Coverage of the 1932 curling demonstration event from Vancouver’s The Province, February 5, 1932, pg. 18)

We place “Northern Ontario” in quotations because while that was the team’s official designation, research by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore has demonstrated that none of the members were actually from that region of the province. Cecil George was a member of the Orillia Curling Club, while Johnny Walker and Peter Lyall were from Montreal. It is with the fourth competitor, therefore, listed as W. W. Thompson, that the mystery lies.

(W.W. Thompson of Winnipeg, as pictured in the Annual Bonspiel of the Manitoba Curling Association – Vol 61 – 1949)

If his name were accurate, as listed in the Olympic Report, William Winfred “Wynn/Winn” Thompson of Winnipeg, born January 19, 1885 in Bethany, Ontario and died in 1957, would be the likely candidate. This Thompson was well-known in curling circles as a player and executive and became an honorary life member of the Manitoba Curling Association for his services in 1948. Given that none of the other players on the team were from Northern Ontario, his home base of Manitoba does not present too many concerns. Some sources, however, leave ambiguity to other important questions: did Thompson play in all four of the team’s matches? Did he even play at all?

(Clip about W. G. Allen from the February 5, 1932 edition of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, pg. 17)

Winnipeg sportswriter William George Allen would have answered at least the first question as a “no”. Allen, born April 5, 1880 and died January 9, 1939, was well-known as a local sportswriter who claimed in a 1932 article that he had played in one of the Northern Ontario team’s matches in Lake Placid. This is supported by at least one contemporary report, from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, which notes that Allen and Lyall “filled in the gap” on the squad and competed in a match against a New York rink.

One additional source complicates matters even further. It suggests that the original lineup of the Northern Ontario team was a no-show, and that Cecil George and another Orillia curler, E. E. Webb, attended the Games as visitors, only to answer the call to help replace the Northern Ontario squad and actually compete in the event. With all of this, it seems that all we can say for certain at this point is that Lyall and George certainly competed, Walker (mentioned briefly in reports) almost certainly did, and Thompson and Webb may have taken part in at least one match each. To go back to the second question, however, it is possible that Thompson never actually took part, and that the Olympic Report was merely reflecting an outdated entry list.

That is what we have for today, but we intend to continue our look into the depression-era Olympics by returning to the absent Egyptian national delegation. We hope that you enjoyed today’s post and that you will join us next time as well!

The 1932 Egyptian Athletics Delegation

After last week’s blog post on a theoretical Egyptian football squad at the 1932 Los Angeles, we got to thinking – what if Egypt had sent a full delegation to those Games? Unlike with football, other sports held national championships that year that would give a strong indication as to who might have represented the country in various events. Thus, we have decided to spend a little bit of time writing about each sport and who might have been an Olympian had Egypt not boycotted the Games.

(Part one of the results of the 1932 Egyptian national athletics championships, from the April 11, 1932 edition of Al-Ahram)

Today we are looking into track and field athletics, arguably the highlight of any edition of the Summer Olympics. Egypt, however, has never been a powerhouse in this sport; its best result in the history of the Games came when Hassan Badra placed 11th in the triple jump at the 1984 Los Angles Olympics. This, however, provides us with an opportunity to delve into the ostensible focus of this blog, Olympic mysteries, since those Egyptians who did compete in track and field in the earliest editions of the Games tend to be relatively obscure.

(Part two of the results of the 1932 Egyptian national athletics championships)

The task is complicated slightly by the fact that Greek clubs tended to dominate this sport prior to World War II. From 1920 on, however, Egypt’s delegations to the Olympics were composed almost exclusively of indigenous Egyptians. As we mentioned in the previous post, Egypt boycotted the 1932 Los Angeles Games precisely because they were represented by a Greek, rather than an Egyptian, on the IOC, and thus it seems highly unlikely that they would have sent any individuals of Greek ancestry to the Games if they had participated.

This leaves us with only five Egyptians who earned individual medals at the national championships in 1932, thus limiting the pool of who might have been on the team. This is not surprising: Egypt had two athletics competitors in 1920, one in 1924, and none in 1928. What is a little more unexpected is that the 1924 competitor, Mohamed El-Sayed of Alexandria, was still in good form in 1932. El-Sayed had represented Egypt in the 1500 and 5000 metres events at the 1924 Paris Games, but was eliminated in the heats of each. Born in 1905, he was in his late-20s in 1932 and still performing well domestically: he won the 1500, 5000 and 10,000 metres and was runner-up in the 800 metres.

Thus we suspect that El-Sayed would have represented Egypt in at least the former three events in Los Angeles. His 1932 winning time of 15:45 in the 5000 would not have allowed him to exit the qualification round, while even his best time of 15:23.4, set in 1928, would have left him well outside the medal range. As for the 10,000 metres, he won the nationals with 35:57, far off of podium time. His best event was the 1500, and he has a personal best set that year of 4:12.4. Even this, however, although perhaps qualifying him for the final in Los Angeles, would not have been sufficient for a podium finish. Unfortunately, given how common his name was, and the limited attention given to athletics in Egypt during this era, we have no further biographical details about him and know nothing about his later life.

At the 1932 national championships, the runner-up in the 1500 and the winner of the 800 metres was Abu Al-Yazid El-Halawani, born in 1907, who represented Haras Galalat Al-Malik (King’s Guard). His winning time at the nationals, 2:04.4, would have been the slowest time in the event in Los Angeles. El-Halawani, however, would hit the peak of his career a few years later, when on May 16, 1936, he set an Egyptian record of 1:52 in the 800 and was selected to represent his country in that event, as well as the 400 metres hurdles, at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His 800 time would have put him in contention for gold at the Games (which makes us suspicious that this result was a misprint or error), but he was, per the August 4, 1936 edition of the Egyptian Gazette, “unfit” in Berlin and did not start either competition. Nonetheless, he continued to compete and was the Egyptian runner-up in the 400 metres and the 400 metres hurdles in 1939. Unfortunately, we were unable to discover what happened to him after World War II.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Abu Sobea of Cairo, born in 1907, was the runner-up in the 5000 and 10,000 metres events at the 1932 national championships. Like El-Halawani, he was a member of Haras Galalat Al-Malik and reached his peak a few later when he was selected to represent Egypt in the 1500 and 5000 meters in Berlin. While he did not start the 1500, he did compete in the 5000, but was eliminated in the heats. He set a personal best of 15:41.6 in 1938 and was runner-up in that event again in 1939, which led to his selection to represent Egypt at the 1940 Summer Olympics. That tournament’s subsequent cancellation meant that Abu Sobea likely missed out on two editions of the Games that he would otherwise have been eligible for. Unfortunately, details of his later life are also unknown.

The final competitors are more mysterious. An individual by the name of Sadiq Muhammad, of Haras Al-Hadud (Border Guards), was runner-up in the discus, with 35.19 metres, and javelin throw, with 49.385 metres, and third in the 400 metres. Neither of his field marks would have placed him in contention for the final. As his name is very common and he never participated in the Olympics, we know nothing else about him. Finally, ‘Id ‘Abd Al-Saadiq, of the Cairo Club, came in third in the 10,000 metres. He also competed into the late 1930s, but does not appear to have been a contender for the Berlin Games.

We suspect, therefore, that the first three on this list certainly would have taken part in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics if given the chance. Perhaps if they had, we would know more about them today, although it is equally possible that they would have remained just as forgotten due to the lack of attention paid to Egyptian track and field athletics at the time. Regardless, we hope that you found this post at least a little interesting and hope that you will join us when we look at other possibly make-ups for the 1932 Egyptian sports!