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ALLYSON FELIX – WHAT CAN SHE DO IN TOKYO?

Allyson Felix has won more medals in Olympic track & field athletics than any woman, with 9, sharing that number with Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey. Together they trail only Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi, who won 12 Olympic medals, and Carl Lewis, with 10. You could also include American standing jumper Ray Ewry, if you count the 1906 Intercalated Olympics, in which he won 2 gold medals, to help him get to 10 gold medals.

Felix will likely run 2 events in Tokyo. She made the team in the 400 metres and will almost certainly run the 4×400 metres as well. That gives her a chance for 2 medals in Tokyo. The USA women have won the 4×400 at the last 6 Olympics, going back to 1996, and will be favored again. In the open 400 Felix has a chance at a medal, but a gold medal is unlikely at her age and given her times this year. If Felix wins 2 medals, this would give her 11 medals, and move her ahead of Carl Lewis and Ray Ewry, however you count Ewry’s medals.

Felix also has 6 gold medals going into Tokyo, which among track & field Olympians currently trails only Nurmi and Lewis, with 9, and Ray Ewry and Usain Bolt with 8 (remember Bolt lost a gold medal in the 2008 4×100 relay after a positive doping test by Nesta Carter, who ran on the relay). (Again, you could give Ewry 10 gold medals if you count 1906.) Winning a 4×400 relay gold would move her total up to 7, although at 6, she is alone in 5th place on this list. Two gold medals (400 and 4×4) would bring her to 8, but that is an extreme long shot.

Among women, Felix is already in a class by herself. Her 6 gold medals is the most ever by a woman in Olympic track & field. Five women trail Felix with 4 Olympic gold medals – Evelyn Ashford (USA), Sanya Richards-Ross (USA), Fanny Blankers-Koen (NED), Betty Cuthbert (AUS), and Bärbel Eckert-Wöckel (GDR) – but with more gold in Tokyo Felix can distance them further.

Allyson Felix will also be competing in her 5th Olympics in Tokyo, something that has been done among Americans in track & field only by Willye White (1956-72), Gail Devers (1988-2004), and Amy Acuff (1996-2012). An American man has yet to compete in 5 Olympics in track & field, although Abdi Abdirahman will become the first in Tokyo, after having competed in 2000-12.

SIMONE BILES – WHAT WILL SHE DO IN TOKYO?

Simone Biles comes into Tokyo universally acclaimed as the GOAT – the greatest female gymnast of all-time. At Rio in 2016 she won 5 medals, with 4 gold medals in the all-around, team event, horse vault, and floor exercise, adding a bronze medal on the balance beam.

At Tokyo she will again compete in the individual all-around and team event and will likely qualify for several apparatus finals. She is the overwhelming favorite in the individual all-around, not having lost an all-around competition since before Rio, although she did struggle on the second day of the recent US Olympic Trials. The USA women have won team gold in 2012 and 2016 and will likely be slight favorites again.

It’s difficult to predict how many medals and golds Biles can win in Tokyo, as the apparatus finals are a bit more of a crapshoot, but she is likely to win medals on several apparatuses, and some of them could be gold. Let’s look at what happens if she repeats her performance from Rio with 4 gold medals and 5 medals in all, which would give her 10 Olympic medals and 8 gold medals. We’ll compare mostly to women in gymnastics as men have an advantage, since they have 2 more apparatuses on which they can win medals.

  • 10 medals would rank her 3rd all-time, trailing Larissa Latynina (USSR) (18) and Věra Čáslavská (Czechoslovakia) (11), and would tie her with Soviet Polina Astakhova and Hungarian Ágnes Keleti (who just turned 100-years-old on January 9 of this year)
  • 8 gold medals would rank Biles 2nd all-time only behind Latynina, who won 9 golds. Were Biles to end up with 7 gold medals she would tie Čáslavská, and even winning a single gold would give her 5 gold medals, tieing her for 3rd on the women’s gymnastics lists with Astakhova, Keleti, Nadia Comăneci (Romania), and Nelli Kim (USSR).

Looking only at American gymnasts, Biles already has the most gold medals with 4, followed by Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman with 3. Shannon Miller has the most medals among American female gymnasts, with 7, followed by Raisman with 6. Biles is tied with 5 with Nastia Liukin and Mary Lou Retton, but in Tokyo Biles is almost certain to surpass Miller and Raisman and move to #1 among American Olympic gymnasts. None of the American men approach these numbers, with Mitch Gaylord having won the most medals at modern Olympics, with 4 in 1984.

Among American women at the Olympics in all sports, three swimmers stand out, having won 12 medals – Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres, and Natalie Coughlin. Allyson Felix is next with 9 medals in track & field (and now Allison Schmitt, with 9 medals in swimming) and she will compete in Tokyo and likely increase that total. Biles could move up to 10, and even 11, if she medals in every event, but will still trail Thompson, Torres, and Coughlin, and probably Felix.

However, for gold medals, Biles could move to the top of the American women. Thompson leads the list with 8 gold medals, followed by Felix and swimmer Amy Van Dyken with 6 golds. If Biles wins another 4 golds in Tokyo, she will match Thompson, although Felix could also move up with relay golds in Tokyo.

In terms of all sports Biles could possibly match Latynina’s 9 gold medals, if she were to win 5 golds in Tokyo. Four Tokyo golds would give her 8 and equal Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen, while three would equal Čáslavská’s 7.

Individually, Biles won 3 golds and 4 medals in Rio, and will increase those numbers in Tokyo. If she wins 4 individual golds, she will tie Věra Čáslavská for the most among women in any Olympic sport, with 7. Six individual Olympic golds would tie Biles for second with Latynina and Soviet speedskater Lidiya Skoblikova. Latynina has 14 individual Olympic medals and is out of sight. Next on the list for Biles to shoot at among women is Čáslavská with 7, and with 6 – Nadia Comăneci, Merlene Ottey (JAM-ATH), Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN-SWI), and Kirsty Coventry (ZIM-SWI).

Finally, there is one more arcane Olympic record Biles may garner in Tokyo. She won 3 individual Olympic golds in Rio, and if she repeats that in Tokyo, she will join Věra Čáslavská and Michael Phelps as the only Olympians to win 3 or more individual Olympic golds at 2 Olympic Games.

CAELEB DRESSEL – WHAT WILL HE DO IN TOKYO?

Caeleb Remel Dressell will likely swim 7 events at Tokyo – the 50 and 100 metre freestyles, the 100 butterfly, all three men’s relays, and the mixed medley relay. At the 2017 and 2019 World Championships Dressell swam 8 events – all those above and the 50 metre butterfly, which is not an Olympic event. He won 7 gold medals in 2017 and 6 golds and 2 silvers in 2019. He is expected to dominate the short sprints in Tokyo.

If Dressell swims in 7 events and wins 7 medals or 5, 6, or 7 golds, where would that place him historically for performances at a single Olympics?

  • One mark appears out of reach which is winning 8 medals at a single Games, which has been done 3 times – by Aleksandr Dityatin in 1980 gymnastics and Michael Phelps in swimming in both 2004 and 2008.
  • 7 Olympic medals at a single Olympics has been performed 8 times, most notably by Mark Spitz in 1972 when he won 7 swimming gold medals, all in world record times. Matt Biondi also won 7 swim medals in 1988, with 5 golds. The other 6 athletes to perform this were shooters Willis Lee (USA-1920) and Lloyd Spooner (USA-1920), and gymnasts Mariya Gorokhovskaya (URS-1952) (the only woman), Boris Shakhlin (URS-1960), Mikhail Voronin (URS-1968), and Nikolay Andrianov (URS-1976).
  • 6 Olympic medals at a single Olympics is a tremendous feat, but its not that rare. It has been done 26 times by 17 men and 9 women. The sports were Gymnastics (18), Swimming (4), and then 1 each for Archery, Athletics, Track Cycling, and Shooting.
  • 7 gold medals would be a stretch for Dressell but if he pulls that off, he reaches the Olympic pantheon occupied only by Michael Phelps, 8 golds in 2008, and Mark Spitz with 7 golds in 1972.
  • 6 gold medals also takes Dressel to the top levels of Olympians, as this has only been done 3 times at a single Olympics – by Kristin Otto (GDR-SWI) in 1988, Vitaly Scherbo (URS-GYM) in 1992, and Phelps in 2004.
  • 5 gold medals has been done 7 times at a single Olympics, as follows: Anton Heida (USA-GYM-1904), Nedo Nadi (ITA-FEN-1920), Willis Lee (USA-SHO-1920), Paavo Nurmi (FIN-ATH-1924), Eric Heiden (USA-SSK-1980) (uniquely winning all 5 individual events entered), Matt Biondi (USA-SWI-1988), and Michael Phelps (USA-SWI-2004).

Go for it, Caeleb!

KATIE LEDECKY – WHAT WILL SHE DO IN TOKYO?

Katie Ledecky has won 5 gold medals and 6 Olympic medals in all at previous Olympics. She has qualified for @TeamUSA in 4 individual events – 200, 400, 800, and 1,500 freestyle, and will likely swim in relays, although the exact number of relays is to be determined. In terms of the all-time Olympic medal lists, what can she accomplish in Tokyo?

Let’s assume she swims 6 events in Tokyo – her four individual events and the 4×200 freestyle relay (definite) and 4×100 freestyle relay (possibly swim a heat). She could swim 2 other relays in heats, the women’s medley relay and the mixed medley relay, but that’s highly unlikely.

In the 6 events named, Ledecky will be the heavy favorite in the 800 and 1,500 and will likely win gold. She has been the world’s best in the 400 freestyle since before the 2016 Olympics but Australia’s Ariarne Titmus put up some times at the Australian Olympic Trials that actually make her look like the favorite in that event, although Swimming World magazine picked Ledecky as the likely gold medalist in the 400. Titmus is also favored in the 200 freestyle, which is on the short side for Ledecky. However, it is likely Ledecky will win medals in both the 200 and 400 freestyles, if not gold. As to the relays, barring some disaster like a false start or other disqualification, the USA will certainly win medals in both the freestyle relays. They will likely be a narrow favorite in the 4×200 but Australia will be the betting choice in the 4×100.

So let’s give Ledecky 3 gold medals and 6 medals in all at Tokyo and see where that puts her on the all-time Olympic medal lists:

  • 8 gold medals – among women she would move to =#2 all-time behind Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina, and tied at second with Marit Bjørgen (NOR-CCS), Birgit Fischer-Schmidt (GDR/GER-CAN), and American swimmer Jenny Thompson.
  • 11 Olympic medals – among women she would move to =7th all-time behind Latynina (18), Bjørgen (15), Fischer-Schmidt and Thompson (12), and American swimmers Dara Torres and Natalie Coughlin, with 12 each. Among men and women, she would move up to =18th all-time in terms of Olympic medals.
  • 11 Olympic swim medals – Ledecky would trail only Michael Phelps (28), Thompson, Torres, and Coughlin with 12 each, Ryan Lochte, also with 12, and she would be tied with Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi who won 11 Olympic medals in swimming. Notably, everybody in this group is from @TeamUSA.
  • 8 Olympic swim gold medals – Ledecky would move to 3rd on this list, behind Michael Phelps with 23, and Mark Spitz with 9. Eight gold medals would tie her with Jenny Thompson and Matt Biondi.
  • 9 Olympic gold medals – If she were to win 4 gold medals in Tokyo, she would have 9 total, and move to 2nd all-time among swimmers, behind that guy from Baltimore, and would also be 2nd all-time among athletes in all-sports, trailing only Phelps, and tying Latynina, Spitz, Paavo Nurmi (FIN-ATH), and Carl Lewis (USA-ATH). (Ray Ewry, US standing jumper won 10 gold medals if you include the 1906 Intercalated Olympics.)

Let’s also look at individual accomplishments. Many of the swimmers have won a lot of medals in relay races. Ledecky has also won some relays, but to date, she has 4 individual gold medals (and 4 individual medals in all). If she wins 2, 3, or 4 individual gold medals in Tokyo, where does that rank her? As stated, I think she’ll win the 800 and 1,500, but the 200 and 400 are longer shots. She could win them, but far from a lock.

  • 2 individual golds in Tokyo = 6 individual golds total – Phelps leads this list with 13 individual golds, followed by standing jumper Ray Ewry (USA) with 8 (10 if you count the 1906 Intercalated Olympics). There are 2 athletes with 7 individual gold medals – Carl Lewis in athletics and Věra Čáslavská (Czechoslovakia) in gymnastics. Thus, 6 individual gold medals would move Ledecky to =#5 on the all-time Olympic list. (We’re not counting Leonidas of Rhodes who won 12 individual titles at the Ancient Olympic Games.)
  • 3 individual golds in Tokyo = 7 individual golds total – now Ledecky moves up and matches Carl Lewis and Věra Čáslavská and would be =3rd on the all-time list for individual gold medals. And by matching Čáslavská, Ledecky and Čáslavská would be =#1 among women.
  • 4 individual golds in Tokyo = 8 individual golds total – don’t hold your breath for this one, but if she could do it, Ledecky would match Ray Ewry and trail only Michael Phelps among Olympians with individual gold medals.

What about at Tokyo by itself? If Ledecky wins 6 medals, or 4 or 5 golds, where does that stand for a single Olympics?

  • 6 medals in Tokyo would be 2nd most all-time among women at one Olympics, behind only Mariya Gorokhovskaya of the Soviet Union in 1952 gymnastics, who won 7. Ledecky would match 9 other women who have won 6 medals at a single Olympics. If she wins 5 medals in Tokyo she would match 25 other women for 11th place for Olympic medals at a singles Olympics by a woman.
  • 4 or 5 gold medals in Tokyo – 5 gold medals, a long shot, would put Ledecky behind only East German swimmer Kristin Otto, who won 6 gold medals in 1988. No other woman has won 5 gold medals at an Olympics. 4 gold medals would tie Ledecky with 11 other women, including Simone Biles who won 4 in gymnastics at Rio de Janeiro.

So there you have it. Whatever Ledecky accomplishes in the pool in Rio, she is likely to make history.

TEAM EVENT STREAKS

In the US sporting media much is being made of the USA women’s basketball team, which could win its 7th consecutive gold medal in Tokyo (1996-2020), equalling the record of the USA men from 1936-68, when they won 7 straight Olympic basketball titles. However, there are a number of other national winning streaks on the line in Tokyo in team events, as opposed to just team sports, which I discussed yesterday in relation to Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi and women’s basketball, and several of them involve USA winning streaks.

The longest streak is by the USA men in swimming medley relay. They have now won the event at 9 straight Olympics, going back to 1984. This is an absolute Olympic record for the longest streak by any nation in a team event in any sport, and they will be going for 10 in Tokyo.

Korea (South) also has a long ongoing streak, with their women having won the team archery gold medal at each Olympics from 1988-2016 – 8 straight. They share this mark with three others although none of the streaks are ongoing. The USA won the men’s 4×100 metre relay in athletics at each Olympics from 1920 to 1956. United States’ rowers also won the men’s coxed eights at the same Olympics – 1920-56, for 8 straight. And finally, the Soviet Union women gymnasts won the team title consecutively from 1952-80. A case could be made for adding the USA again to this list with their men’s swimming short freestyle relay team, which won every year from 1904 to 1996 – 8 consecutive golds. The event was not raced from 1908-60, was not contested in 1976 or 1980, and in 1904 it was swim at 4×50 yards, rather than the traditional 4×100 metres.

There are several other long national streaks on the line in Tokyo. The USA women have won 6 consecutive gold medals in the 4×400 relay in athletics. There are 5 team events in which nations have a 5-gold winning streak coming into Tokyo, all won from 2000-16: Russia in artistic swimming in both duet and team, Russia again in rhythmic gymnastics group competition, China in women’s synchronized platform diving, and Great Britain in men’s fours rowing. One could argue that Russia cannot extend their streak technically, as they will not be competing in Tokyo as the Russian Federation, but rather the Russian Olympic Committee.

WHO IS AN OLYMPIAN?

Coco Gauff, the young American tennis phenom who recently went to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and the fourth round at Wimbledon, was named to the 2020 USA Olympic team, but she then tested positive for COVID-19 and had to withdraw. Is Coco Gauff an Olympian?

At Sochi in 2014 Heidi Kloser was selected for @TeamUSA in freestyle skiing, but in training the day before her competition she fractured an ankle and could not compete. Videos of the injury showed her poignantly crying out, “Am I still an Olympian?” Is Heidi Kloser an Olympian?

Basically, the question is “What defines who is or who is not an Olympian?” Shortly over a year ago the IOC started promoting the policy of Olympians being able to add “OLY” after their names, similar to how doctors add MD, research doctorates use PhD, or lawyers use JD. But who exactly gets to use the “OLY” designation? You might think its an easy answer but it’s not.

The IOC has no strict definition for an Olympian. The term is not mentioned in the Olympic Charter, as only the word athlete is used.

There is an “alumni” group of Olympians termed the World Olympians Association (WOA). They have had definitions for their members in the past but those definitions have changed with time. When contacting Dick Fosbury, past President of the WOA, and Willie Banks, former President of the US Olympians Association, both agreed that there is no strict definition that is agreed upon. Banks said that “This has been a sticky problem for as long as there has been the Olympic Games. … However, traditionally, an Olympian is someone who has ‘participated’ in the Olympic Games.”

National Olympic Committees (NOCs) often have different policies about who is an Olympian. I can assure you that the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) considers the members of the team they named for the 1980 Olympic Games as Olympians, even though they never competed, never were entered, and never came close to Moscow. But per the USOPC they are Olympians, and many NOCs consider their reserves and alternates as Olympians.

At Olympedia we originally used the policy to only include athletes who actually competed in the Olympics – who stepped onto the field of play. Then around 2003, IOC President Jacques Rogge changed IOC protocol somewhat. Previously, athletes in team sports (football, basketball, etc) who were on medal-winning teams did not receive medals if they did not compete in any matches or games. Rogge, a former rugby player and sailing Olympian, thought this was wrong as all team members contribute to the success of the team in team sports. So, he changed the policy and non-starters in team sports started receiving medals.

With Olympedia we were now left with the problem of not including athletes who did not compete, but who still received medals, so we had to change our policy and we began adding DNS = did not start athletes. Our policy is fairly strict, however, as the athletes must be listed in the Official Results as DNS, or in the final Official Entry lists, both of which we have now – but not always in the early days of the Olympics. Because we did not want to discriminate against athletes by sports, we changed this policy for all DNS athletes in all sports, not simply team sports.

A problem along those lines has recently arisen with our data. In 1976, many African nations boycotted the Montreal Olympics because New Zealand was competing and New Zealand’s rugby team, ironically named in this case the All-Blacks, had recently toured South Africa, at that time a nation known for its policy of apartheid. However, the African nations’ athletes were entered – they are in the final Official Entry lists. Should we list them as Olympians and include them in Olympedia? We’ve been debating this among ourselves. If we include them, we are including athletes whose nations (in most cases) officially did not compete at the Games, but they could be counted as Olympians despite that. For now we have not added them.

One other thing we see all the time is what we term “Triple O’s”, standing for “Obituary Only Olympians”. We see obituaries of former athletes that list them as Olympians, yet they are not in our database and we can find nothing about them even being entered. Probably they were alternates to some NOCs Olympic team at some team. Are they Olympians? Should alternates or reserves to an Olympic team be considered Olympians?

So it’s a tricky problem. We get asked a lot “Who is an Olympian?” And we don’t have a good answer to the question.

SUE BIRD AND DIANA TAURASI AND GOLD MEDAL STREAKS

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have made the US women’s basketball team for the 5th consecutive Olympics. They have won gold medals at their previous 4 Olympics, and the US women are favored to repeat as Olympic Champions for the 7th straight Games. Where does that put the US women and Ms. Bird and Ms. Taurasi historically?

If the USA women win the title in Tokyo, Bird and Taurasi will win their 5th consecutive gold medal in basketball. Five gold medals would move them to =13th on the list of gold medal winners among Olympic women. The list is led by Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won 9 gold medals in 1956-64. Three women – Marit Bjørgen of Norway in cross-country skiing, Birgit Fischer-Schmidt of Germany/East Germany in sprint canoeing, and Jenny Thompson, an American swimmer – have won 8 gold medals, followed by Czechoslovakian gymnast Věra Čáslavská with 7.

But if successful, Bird and Taurasi will have won 5 gold medals in 5 consecutive Olympics, a feat surpassed among women only by Valentina Vezzali of Italy in fencing, who won 6 gold medals in 5 consecutive Olympics. Bird and Taurasi would become the only Olympians, women or men, to win 5 gold medals in team sports. They currently share the record of 4 with three other American women basketballers, Lisa Leslie, Theresa Edwards, and Tamika Catchings; and with three Canadian ice hockey players – Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford, and Caroline Ouellette.

Among men and women, Bird and Taurasi would also join Aladár Gerevich, a Hungarian fencer who won 7 golds in 6 consecutive Olympics; Pál Kovács, another Hungarian fencer with 6 golds at 5 consecutive Olympics; and Steven Redgrave, a British rower who won 5 golds at 5 straight Olympics.

As to the USA women’s team, if they take their 7th consecutive gold medal, they would also reach Everest-like air in basketball and Olympic team sports. A 7th gold would match the Olympic best for team sports set by the USA men in basketball from 1936 to 1968. Besides the USA hoopsters, India also won 6 consecutive Olympic titles in a team sport – hockey (field) – from 1928-56; and in ice hockey both Canada and the Soviet Union had 4 gold medal streaks – Canada in 1920-32 by their men, and 2002-14 by their women, and the Soviet men in 1964-76.

The other best streaks in the various team sports on the Olympic Program are as follows: Beach Volleyball (3) – 2004-12 by USA (Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh) (women); Curling – 2006-14 by Canada (men); Handball (3) – 1996-2004 by Denmark (women); Polo (3) – 1900-20 by Great Britain (men); Softball (3) – 1996-2004 by the United States (women); Volleyball (3) – 1992-2000 by Cuba (women); and Water Polo (3) – 1908-20 by Great Britain (men) and 2000-08 by Hungary (men).

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.