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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!


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 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 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 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.


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.


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.