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Historical Oldest Living Olympians

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to use our blog post to highlight an update to the Oldest Olympians site, specifically the historical list of the oldest living Olympian. Thanks to a little additional research, we have been able to complete the table to the beginning of the Games!

(Emily Rushton)

Previously, we knew that Emily Rushton, an archer in the Double National Round tournament at the 1908 London Games, had been the oldest Olympian at some point in her life, as she was born in the first quarter of 1850 and died June 30, 1939 at the age of 89. What we were not certain about, however, was if John Butt had ever held the title. Butt, a two-time Olympic trap shooting medalist, was born October 30, 1850, meaning he was definitely younger than Rushton, and died at some point in 1939. If he had died after June 30, then he would have been the oldest living Olympian until his death, but we finally discovered that he died in the first quarter of 1939, meaning that he was never the titleholder.

(Luc Alessandri)

From there, our journey back in time was a little easier. Before Rushton, George Barnes, born sometime in 1849 and died January 25, 1934, was the oldest living Olympian. He won bronze in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 and 100 yards competition at the 1908 London Games and, although we do not know the exact date of his birth, no one else could have held the title since the death of his predecessor, British art competitor Jacob Rees. Rees, born October 15, 1844, represented Great Britain in the architecture competition at the 1912 Stockholm Games, and died one day after his 89th birthday. He in turn was preceded by 1904 American roque silver medalist Smith Streeter, who died December 17, 1930. Although Streeter’s date of birth is sometimes seen as July 1, 1851, records indicate that he was actually born July 14, 1844. Before him was French fencer Luc Alessandri, born May 31, 1842, who competed in the masters sabre event at the 1900 Paris Games and died August 18, 1926.

(David McGowan)

Prior to Alessandri, the oldest living Olympian was American archer David McGowan, born January 10, 1838 and died September 22, 1924. He competed in the double York round in 1904 and placed 11th. He had been the oldest Olympian for over a decade, since the death of French equestrian Louis, Count du Douet de Graville on October 12, 1912. Graville, who was born February 27, 1831, took part in the four-in-hand equestrian driving competition in 1900. Before Graville, French sailor William Martin was the oldest living Olympian, someone we have covered in the past because he is the Olympian with the earliest known date of birth: October 25, 1828.

(Eugen Schmidt)

Since Martin competed in 1900, however, we still needed to know who was the oldest living Olympian prior to his competition. Thankfully, working forwards from the 1896 Athens Games was not a difficult task. The first “oldest Olympian” was Eugen Schmidt of Denmark, born February 17, 1862, who competed in the very first Olympic event, the 100 metres dash. He held the title for two days, until Italian sport shooter Giuseppe Rivabella, born sometime in 1840, competed on April 8. An individual born as late as Schmidt would not hold the title again for six decades. Rivabella then held the title until Martin competed in 1900.

And that completes the list! Of course, we are missing lots of data on early competitors at the Games, so it seems likely that this will change at some point in the future. For example, since we last posted about Olympians who competed for an unknown country, Olympedia has added one more to its database: an unknown rider who competed in the equestrian jumping competition at the 1900 Paris Games. On the other end of the spectrum, we learned that Italian gymnast Bianca Ambrosetti, who is usually cited as the shortest-lived Olympian after having died in 1929 from tuberculosis at the age of 15, actually lived a few years longer according to research by Diego Rossetti, dying March 27, 1933 at the age of 19. For now, however, we have the most complete list we can get with our current data!

1932 Japanese Rowing Delegation

A while back on Oldest Olympians, we covered the Japanese rowing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Games, and today we wanted to briefly cover a squad that is equally mysterious to us: the 1932 delegation. Japan entered two crews into the tournament in Los Angeles, one each for the coxed fours and the eights, and we know very little about both delegations.

(Umetaro Shibata, pictured on the left, at a ceremony of the Olympians Association of Japan)

We do know the biographical details of one member of the coxed fours crew that was eliminated in the round one repêchage: Shokichi Nanba, born September 26, 1911 in Tokyo and died January 24, 1995. Like the other members of his crew, Nanba represented Keio University, but Nanba later had a prominent career in business, which is why we know more about him. We have learned at least the date of birth of two others: Rokuro Takahashi and Umetaro Shibata were both born in 1909, and we covered Shibata in an earlier blog post because he was still alive in 2006 at the age of 97. About the other two members, Daikichi Suzuki and Norio Ban, we have no information.

(Hidemitsu Tanaka)

As for the eights crew, from Waseda University, we know full biographical details for two of the rowers: Setsuji Tanaka and Hidemitsu Tanaka, the latter of whom later became a well-known novelist. For another two, Kenzo Ikeda and Setsuo Matsura, we are aware that they were born in Hiroshima Prefecture. For the others, Taro Nishidono, Shigeo Fujiwara, Yoshio Enomoto, Saburo Hara, and Toshi Sano, we have no biographical details, although we have learned that Enomoto is definitely deceased.

Gebhard Büchel

Today on Oldest Olympians, we thought that we might be celebrating the 101st birthday of Gebhard Büchel, who represented Liechtenstein in the decathlon at the 1948 London Games. Unfortunately, as we have had no confirmation of his 100th birthday over the past year, and in fact have had no confirmation of his being alive since 2013, we have unfortunately had to remove him from our lists. Complicating matters, he had a namesake who was born on the exact same date and died in 2008, thus making it difficult to find information on the Olympian.

Until we find evidence about Büchel one way or another, we will be listing Theodor Sele, born April 20, 1931, as the oldest living Olympian from Liechtenstein. Sele represented his country at two editions of the Olympic alpine skiing tournament. In 1948 in St. Moritz, he was 58th in the combined and 90th in the downhill. In 1956 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, he was 45th in the slalom and 70th in the giant slalom.

(Francisc Horvath)

On a related note, thanks to a submission from Connor Mah, we learned that Mărgărit Blăgescu, born August 26, 1925, whom we believed previously to be the oldest living Romanian Olympian, actually died in March 24 at the age of 78. Moreover, the next two oldest Romanian Olympians may be deceased as well. We covered Francisc Horvath, born October 19, 1928, on a previous edition of Olympic medal mysteries, as he won bronze in bantamweight, Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1956 Melbourne Games. One user provided a report that showed him alive in 2021, but others have pointed out sources that he died in 1969 or 1980, and it remains unclear which is correct. The next, athlete Emma Konrad, born November 21, 1929, purportedly died May 16, 2021 according to a Wikipedia edit, but we have not been able to verify this.

(Carol Bedö)

This would leave Carol Bedö, born December 13, 1930, as the oldest living Romanian Olympian. Bedö represented his country in the gymnastics tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he was 20th with the team and had a best individual finish of joint-55th in the floor exercise. Even in this case, however, the last evidence we have of his being alive comes from 2013. Finally, while we are on the topic of Romanian Olympians, we wanted to thank Ronald Halmen for discovering that 1928 Olympic athlete Otto Schop, who we mentioned in a previous post, was actually Arnold Otto Schöpp, born June 4, 1907 in Sebeș and died January 29, 1973 in Sibiu.

1928 and 1948 Olympic Lacrosse Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to shift our attention to a sport that tends to receive less attention: lacrosse. In particular, we wanted to look at a handful of mysteries from the tournaments at the 1928 and 1948 Summer Games, when lacrosse was a demonstration sport, and focus on the British players at both tournaments.

(Eric Parsons, pictured in the Burnley Express, October 19, 1949)

For 1928, we have two main mysteries. The first is Frederick Johnson, born May 9, 1905, who represented Old Mancunians domestically. We know that he was active in lacrosse throughout the second half of the 1920s and later had a career as a chartered accountant, living in Cuba and South Africa in the 1930s. Although we know that he was deceased by 1960, we have been unable to come up with an exact date or place of death. We know less about Eric Parsons, other than that he played for Disley, near Stockport, and was living in Nelson, Lancashire in 1949. Connor Mah has suggested that he may have been William Eric Parsons, born September 5, 1902 in Disley and died April 27, 1968 in Lancashire, but we have been unable to confirm this.

(Photograph of the British team in the 1948 London Olympics, courtesy of the family of player Rick Wilson)

For 1948, we have three mysteries, one of whom lacks even a full name: H. Wyatt. We do know that he played domestically with Boardman & Eccles, so he may be Harry Leslie Wyatt, born September 6, 1910 in Eccles and died Q4 1987 in Newport, Wales, but this is just one possible candidate. For a second, we have at least a nickname: J. H. “Jack” Little. He played for a team from Chorlton-cum-Hardy, so he may be John Harrison Little, born August 7, 1915 in that town and died August 1980. Again, however, we have no proof.

The third individual, John Foy, is a little more complicated. We actually know a great deal about his career, as he was a player from his teenage years in 1926 all the way through 1960! We have him listed as John P. Foy, but contemporary sources as unearthed by Connor Mah suggested that his middle initial was actually B. If this is correct, then he could be John Bernard Foy, born May 9, 1912 in Chorlton and died April 30, 1986 in Burnage, Manchester. As always, of course, this is not certain.

Finally, while we are on the topic of unofficial Olympians, we have an update on Eulogio Quiroz, a light-heavyweight boxer who was slated to represent Peru at the 1936 Berlin Games, but did not start. We were able to confirm that he was indeed Eulogio Quiroz Andrade, born March 11, 1913 in Huacho and died October 7, 1976 in Lima.

First Half of 1932 Olympic Medal Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover three Olympic medal mysteries who were born in 1932. These are individuals who won a medal at the Olympics and who would now be over 90, but for whom we have no recent evidence of their being alive or any proof that they are deceased.

Wilfried Lorenz – Silver medalist for Germany in Dragon class sailing at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Wilfried Lorenz, born January 18, 1932, represented Germany in the Dragon class sailing event at the 1964 Tokyo Games and won a silver medal. Domestically, he was an East German national champion from 1960 through 1963 and in 1965, and was runner-up in 1966 and 1967. Beyond that, however, we have no further details of his life.

(Vladimir Kryukov)

Vladimir Petrov – Bronze medalist for the Soviet Union in coxed pairs rowing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Vladimir Petrov, born April 27, 1932, represented the Soviet Union in the coxed pairs rowing event at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where he won a bronze medal. He was also a member of the eights crew that was eliminated in the semi-finals. In the latter case, this makes him a teammate of a still-unresolved Olympic medal mystery that we covered earlier: Vladimir Kryukov, born October 2, 1925, who took silver in the coxed eights at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Both Petrov and Kryukov were European Champions in the eights in 1955, while Petrov was European runner-up in the coxed pairs in 1957.

(Graham Gipson, pictured in the Sunday Times)

Graham Gipson – Silver medalist for Australia in the 4×400 metres relay at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Graham Gipson, born May 21, 1932, represented Australia in three track events at the 1956 Melbourne Games, having the most success in the 4×400 metres relay, where his country won the silver medal. Gipson was the Australian champion in the 440 yards in 1953 and achieved several other podium finishes between then and 1958. Research by Connor Mah indicates that his wife died in 2012 and was buried in a family plot, and since Graham is not there, we suspect that he is still alive, although we have been unable to locate any proof.

(Mihhail Kaaleste)

Finally, on the subject of medalists, we wanted to address a recent removal: we had previously listed Mihhail Kaaleste, born August 20, 1931, who won a silver medal in K2 1000 canoeing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, on our charts as living, but we discovered recently that he died May 5, 2018 in St. Petersburg.

1928 Romanian Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we are going to complete our examination of competitors from the 1928 Amsterdam Games without dates of birth or death by looking into Romania. Specifically, there are four track and field athletes who are almost certainly deceased, but could in theory still be living.

(The 1928 Amsterdam Olympic delegation from Romania, pictured at the Romanian Olympic Committee)

The lone woman among the quartet is Irina Orendi of Olimpia Brașov, who was 20th and last in the qualifying round and thus did not advance. Tiberiu Rusu, meanwhile, took part in the men’s high jump and placed joint-28th (with, among others, Otto Schop(p), another Romanian Olympic mystery, but one who was active as early as 1926), also failing to qualify. Schop and Risu were also reserves with the 4×100 metres relay squad that did not start the competition. The other two were Ion Haidu, spelled “Hajdu” in Romanian sources, and Otto Rottman(n). Haidu, who failed to complete the decathlon, represented several clubs in Brașov, while Rottman, who was 27th in the qualifying round of the javelin throw, was another member of Olimpia Brașov and active until at least 1935.

With these names, prewar Romanian Olympic mysteries have been largely covered on this blog. The only remaining individuals who are missing all of their biographical data are three members of the Romania 1 four-man bobsled team from the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games that did not start the competition: Emil Angelescu, Teodor Popescu, and Alexandru Tăutu. Angelescu and Popescu were members of the squad that won silver in the four-man at the 1934 World Championships, and since every other member of the Romanian four-man bobsledding delegation to the 1936 Olympics was born in the 1900s decade, we assume that the three for whom we do not have dates of birth are deceased.

Finally, thanks to research from Connor Mah, we have one more Romanian Olympic mystery of a different stripe. We knew that Alexandru Dan, who competed at the 1936 Berlin Games, was born July 26, 1907, but Mah’s research has uncovered the fact that Dan died in 2007, thus potentially making him a centenarian. Unfortunately, we have been unable to ascertain an exact date of death to confirm this.

1928 Swiss Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to cover the remainder of the Swiss Olympic mysteries from the 1928 Amsterdam Games that we have not yet addressed and for whom we cannot prove definitively that they are deceased (although, given their age, all of them almost certainly are). Today we are finalizing our series from the past two weeks.

A good place to start would be water polo, where we have full biographical details for only one of the seven members of the team: three-time Olympian Robert Wyss. For a second, Othmar Schmalz, we are missing only his place of death, and for another, two-time Olympian Fernand Moret, we know that he was born January 15, 1905 and died sometime in 1982 in Geneva. Another two-time Olympian, Robert Mermoud, was born September 25, 1908, while for three others, Eric Brochon of Club de Natation Lausanne, Robert Hürlimann of Romanshorn, and Ernest Hüttenmoser of Sankt Gallen, we know nothing at all. Additionally, the team had two reserves, E. Ruchti and E. Tschümperly, for whom we do not even have first names!

There are two additional Swiss reserves for whom we are missing biographical data, the first of whom is Max Thommen who competed in equestrian events. The second is J. Brun, a reserve with the field hockey team, for whom again we do not even have a full name. We have discussed the Swiss field hockey team and the missing data in a previous post, but neglected to mention J. Brun. In fact, field hockey is a sport for which we have many gaps and thus there are always more players to discuss, such as Austrian Emil Haladik of SV Arminen, about whom we also know nothing.

(Hans Gilgen at Cycling Archives)

Returning to Switzerland, however, the last sport we want to look into is track cycling, as we have fairly good information on the road cyclists: only two, Jakob Caironi and Paul Litschi, are missing dates of death. On the track, however, only one, Hans Gilgen, has completed biographical data. We also know that Gustave Moos was born in 1905 and died in December 1948 in Basel, while Willi Knabenhans was born February 15, 1906 in Zurich. For the other two members, Joseph Fischler of VC Basilisk and Erich Fäs, we have no data – in fact, according to Connor Mah, Fäs does not appear to be listed in 1928 newspapers as a member of the Swiss Olympic cycling team!

That is quite a litany of names, but it does complete our look into Switzerland’s delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. If, however, we continue our look into cycling at that edition, we could examine two more individuals. Both Tarchumas Murnikas of Lithuania and Fred Short of South Africa are completely missing biographical data. By mentioning them, we are left with only one country for whom we are missing data from the 1928 Amsterdam Games that we have not engaged previously: Romania. Thus, we will complete our look into this edition by covering them in a forthcoming post.

1928 Swiss Weightlifting Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to cover more of the Swiss Olympic mysteries from the 1928 Amsterdam Games that we have not yet addressed and for whom we cannot prove definitively that they are deceased (although, given their age, all of them almost certainly are). Today we are going to look at the next large group of competitors: the weightlifters.

Just as with the wrestlers, what we know about the 10 weightlifters that represented Switzerland at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics varies, but not one of them has complete data. The closest is Edmond Donzé, who was 15th and last in the light-heavyweight event, as we have all of his biographical details except for his place of birth. Next closest is Joseph Jaquenoud, who finished fifth and ninth as a lightweight in 1924 and 1928 respectively. We know that he died January 29, 1988 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, but only that he was born around 1901. Otto Garnus, who was 10th in the light-heavyweight competition in 1928, but competed in shot put and discus throw in 1924, would be the bronze medalist for data: he was born c. 1896 and died February 1, 1960.

(Arthur Reinmann)

From there, our knowledge becomes increasingly scarce. Featherweight Arthur Reinmann won a bronze medal in 1924, but slipped down to fifth in 1928. We know that he was born in 1901 and died in 1983, both in Oberaargau, but we have not found the exact dates. For Albert Aeschmann, we have his complete date of birth, August 20, 1900, but nothing else. Aeschmann missed bronze by finishing fourth as a lightweight in 1928, but competed as a middleweight in 1924 and 1936, placing fifth and thirteenth respectively.

For the remaining weightlifters, we have no biographical data at all. The best finisher was Franz Riederer, who was 14th as a heavyweight, the same category in which Walter Gasser of Zurich was 16th. Justin Tissot of Le Locle was also 14th as a featherweight, but he shared that distinction with Aleksander Kask of Estonia. Ernst Trinkler of Thalwil was joint-15th in the middleweight division, with Lithuania’s Povilas Vitonis (another individual about whom we know nothing for certain). Hermann Eichholzer also competed in that event, but did not record a score in the clean and jerk and thus did not place.

Finally, to conclude this entry, we wanted to mention the one Swiss fencer from these Games for whom we have no biographical data: Jean de Bardel. De Bardel was a member of the foil fencing team that was eliminated in the quarter-finals. He was from Geneva, but we otherwise know nothing about him.

1928 Swiss Olympic Wrestling Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to cover some Swiss Olympic mysteries from the 1928 Amsterdam Games that we have not yet addressed and for whom we cannot prove definitively that they are deceased (although, given their age, all of them almost certainly are). As we have mentioned in the past, Switzerland is unusual in that it is a European nation for whom biographical data is somewhat limited, particularly in the early years. Thus we have more names than usual to cover and must split them up. Today, we are going to focus on the wrestling delegation.

(Ernst Kyburz)

Switzerland was relatively successful in the wrestling tournaments at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Of its 11 wrestlers, three won medals, although even among the medalists we do not have complete data. For Olympic champion Ernst Kyburz, who won the middleweight, freestyle competition, we are missing his place of birth. For the runner-up in the light-heavyweight division, Arnold Bögli, we know only that he was born on May 30, 1897 and nothing about his later life. Similarly, for Hans Minder, a featherweight, freestyle bronze medalist, we have a date of birth of August 28, 1908 and nothing else. In fact, the only 1928 Swiss wrestler for whom we have complete data is Henri Wernli, who was fifth in the heavyweight, freestyle competition, but had won a silver medal in that event in 1924.

We know nothing about the remaining wrestlers and for only one of them, Fritz Käsermann, who was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the welterweight, freestyle event, do we have certain confirmation that they are deceased. Of the rest, Amedée Piguet of Le Brassus, who took part in the bantamweight, freestyle competition, was arguably the most successful, as he placed sixth, although this is due primarily to the limited number of competitors in his division. Hans Mollet of Biel, who placed seventh in the lightweight, freestyle tournament, might be considered more successful, as he was eliminated in the semi-finals of a much larger pool.

Otto Frei of Schaffhausen, in the middleweight, Greco-Roman competition, was the only other Swiss wrestler to win a bout, ultimately being eliminated in round three. Isidor Bieri (featherweight), Ernst Mumenthaler of Zürich (lightweight), and Max Studer of Tablat (light-heavyweight) were all eliminated after losing two Greco-Roman bouts.

These are enough names to consider for now, but we will raise the remainder of the Swiss cases in a forthcoming post. We do, however, have an update on a Swiss case that we have covered in the past, as we were able to confirm that equestrian Hermann Dür, born June 23, 1925, did die on August 25, 2015.

Henri Niemegeerts

Today on Oldest Olympians we have a quick blog entry, one that concerns an Olympian who may be alive at the age of 100, but we have yet to be able to prove it. The information that we do have comes courtesy of Connor Mah.

Belgian field hockey player Henri Niemegeerts, born February 15, 1922, represented his country in the tournament at the 1948 London Games, where Belgium was eliminated in the preliminary round after losing its matches against the Netherlands and Pakistan, but defeating Denmark and France. Outside of this, we do not know much about him, but he was definitely alive in 2013 according to this report.

After that, the information becomes less clear. There was an individual by this name living in Waterloo, Belgium as recently as 2015 whose biographical details align with the Olympic hockey player. When the Olympian’s wife died in September 2020, her obituary did not designate her as a widow, which is done commonly on the site where her death was announced. Beyond that, we do not have any additional clues, and there has been no announcement of a 100th birthday.

That is all that we have for today, but we did want to point out two recent removals from our lists that we have not yet addressed, as we learned about their deaths a considerable time after they occurred. Danish handballer Poul Winge, born September 13, 1927, who took part in the demonstration tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, died March 2, 2020 at the age of 92. Indian water polo player David Sopher, born February 1, 1929, who took part in that sport’s tournament at that same edition of the Olympics, died February 14, 2019, shortly after his 90th birthday.