Olympedia now open to the public

Some readers of this Olympic blog may remember a post I did at the end of the Rio Olympics concerning our statistical site on www.sports-reference.com/olympicshttps://olympstats.com/2016/08/21/the-olymadmen-and-olympstats-and-sports-reference/.

In that post we noted that we were working to transfer our private research site, www.olympedia.org, to another server and that sports-reference/Olympics would shut down. This has recently occurred and the data on sports-reference/Olympics is no longer easily available to the public.

The Olympedia research site contains the profiles and results of all Olympic athletes and informative descriptions about the Games, events, venues, and much more. It is the most comprehensive database about the Olympic Games and is the result many years of work by a group of Olympic historians and statisticians called the OlyMADmen.

Here are some examples:

Olympedia has always been a product solely of the OlyMADMen and has been a private site that required a password that only we could grant. Olympedia has recently moved to another server, but during this time it has still required password access and did not have open access.

We have recently received permission to open Olympedia to the public, and it will no longer require a password. We thank the International Olympic Committee for working with us on this project, and granting us this permission. We are excited and hope you will be, too.

Olympedia contains all of the information that was previously on sports-reference/Olympics – and actually much more – it is far more detailed. Welcome to Olympedia, the most detailed internet reference source on the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement – www.olympedia.org

The OlyMADMen

Bill Mallon (USA)

Arild Gjerde (NOR)

Jeroen Heijmans (NED)

David Foster (ENG)

Hilary Evans (WLS)

Taavi Kalju (EST)

Wolf Reinhardt (GER)

Martin Kellner (AUT)

Ralf Regnitter (GER)

Ralph Schlüter (GER)

Paul Tchir (CAN/EGY)

Morten Aarlia Torp (NOR)

Stein Opdahl (NOR)

Carl-Johan Johansson (SWE)

George Masin (USA)

Ian Morrison (GBR/ESP)

Michele Walker (CAN)

Kristof Linke (GER)

Andrey Chilikin (RUS)

Rudolf Laky (HUN/GER)

David Tarbotton (AUS)

Ahmed Labidi

Today on Oldest Olympians we are looking into the possibility that two Olympic athletes by the name of Ahmed Labidi are in fact just one individual. While we have a fairly strong feeling that they are one and the same, we wanted to open this issue up to everyone in the hopes that we can uncover some conclusive proof.

The first individual under consideration is known by the full name of Mohamed Ali Ahmed Ben Labidi and was supposedly born April 19, 1923. Representing CA Montreuil, he competed for France in the 10,000 metres event at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and placed 25th among 33 starters. This individual continued representing France through 1955, after which there is no definite information on him. This coincides roughly with Tunisian independence in 1956, after which it is possible that he resided in Tunisia.

The second individual is known by the full name of Ahmed Ben Dali Labidi and was allegedly born May 4, 1922 in Gammouda, Tunisia. A member of Zitouna Sports, he represented Tunisia in the marathon at the 1960 Rome Olympics, finishing 49th among 69 starters. Beyond his Olympic participation, we know nothing further of this individual.

Two sources tie these individuals together as one. The first is the French Wikipedia, which also claims that he died on July 17, 2008. The other is a Tunisian Facebook page, although the only source that it lists for this claim is Wikipedia itself. On the surface, there is nothing glaring to signal an immediate rejection of this claim: they have roughly the same name, are roughly the same age, and competed in roughly the same discipline.

We are contacting the individuals associated with these posts in both Arabic and French in the hopes of learning more and finding some manner of confirmation. In the meantime, we wanted to post about it on this blog not only in the hopes that someone who sees it has some information that might help solve the mystery, but also to present a case that we feel might be of some interest to our readers. As always, we hope that the process of our research, as well as highlighting areas of potential confusion, are worth hearing about.

Finnish Olympians Declared Dead in Absentia

Today on Oldest Olympians we are looking at a quartet of mysteries sent to us by Harri Piironen. All of them concern Finnish Olympians who are believed to have immigrated to North America and subsequently disappeared from the public record.

Jussi Kivimäki – Member of Finland’s wrestling delegation to the 1908 London Olympics

Jussi Kivimäki, born February 5, 1885, represented Finland in the light-heavyweight, Greco-Roman wrestling competition at the 1908 London Games. There, he received a bye in round one, but then lost by decision to Jacob van Westrop of the Netherlands in round two and was thus eliminated from the tournament. The Helsinki champion of 1907 and 1908, he next competed at the unofficial 1909 European Championships, where he was sixth, and then immigrated to North America.

(Did Kivimäki become Ole Samson?)

Here sources differ: most everyone agrees that he was a professional wrestler in Canada for a time after 1910. Some believe that he changed his name to John Kivimäki or John Thompson. At least one researcher believes that he might have been Ole Samson. Some believe that he was a member of the Finnish Workers’ Sports Federation during the 1920s and 1930s; others think that this is a misidentification. Regardless, no one has been able to locate a date of death and thus he was declared dead in absentia with a retroactive date of January 1, 1976.

Emil Holm – Member of Finland’s sport shooting delegation to the 1912 Stockholm Olympics

Emil Holm, born September 2, 1877, represented Finland in the three positions, 300 metres shooting tournament at the 1912 Stockholm Games, where he was 49th individually and 5th with the team. The following year, his building firm went bankrupt and he fled to the United States, possibly settling in Galveston, Texas. Former fencing Olympian, and now researcher, George Masin discovered Holm in the draft registry for World War I dated September 12, 1918, living in Houston and with a next-of-kin as his Siri Regina Holm of Helsingford. Emil was declared dead in absentia with a date of January 1, 1968.

Kalle Leivonen – Member of Finland’s wrestling delegation to the 1912 Stockholm Olympics

Kalle Leivonen, born September 17, 1886, represented Finland in the featherweight, Greco-Roman wrestling tournament at the 1912 Stockholm Games. There he survived until round seven, only to be defeated by upcoming silver medalist Georg Gerstacker of Germany. Two years later, Leivonen immigrated to the United States.

(Account of Leivonen’s accident, from the May 26, 1927 edition of the Fitchburg Sentinel)

We located records of Leivonen’s arrival in Massachusetts in 1914, where he ran a business and lived until at least 1927. That year, he was rescued after nearly drowning in an automobile accident. Evidence suggests that he was living in Manhattan by 1930, but after that our trail went cold. Without further information, he was declared dead in absentia as of January 1, 1978.

Hannes Kärkkäinen – Member of Finland’s diving delegation at the 1924 Paris Olympics

Hannes Kärkkäinen, born July 17, 1902, is perhaps the most mysterious of all. He represented Finland in platform diving at the 1924 Paris Games, where he placed ninth. He is known to have left Finland in 1926, but after that his movements are not certain. One theory is that he emigrated to the United States and eventually died in North Sterling, Connecticut. The other is that he was the Juho Juhonpoika Kärkkäinen who was killed in the Soviet Union’s Great Purge in 1938. As neither theory has been proven, he is listed with a death in absentia date of January 1, 1993.

Zakaria Chihab

Today on Oldest Olympians we are presenting a relatively straightforward mystery regarding a single Olympian: Lebanese wrestler Zakaria Chihab. Chihab was born March 5, 1926, but there is no question as to whether he is alive or if he became one of the oldest Olympians. Our hope, as with the last blog about Maurice Lefèbvre, is simply to find out when he died despite the conflicting information.

(Chihab, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)

As a prominent international wrestler of the 1950s, most of the details of Chihab’s life are not in question. Always competing as a bantamweight, he took silver in the Greco-Roman division and bronze in freestyle at the 1951 and 1955 Mediterranean Games respectively. Undoubtedly his greatest achievement, however, was in becoming Lebanon’s first Olympic medalist by winning silver in the Greco-Roman competition at the 1952 Helsinki Games (his wrestling compatriot Khalil Taha earned bronze as a welterweight later that day). He also attended the 1953 World Championships, placing sixth, and ran a fitness club after his retirement. At some point in the 1970s, he moved to Kuwait to work as a coach with the army.

He lived out the rest of his days in Kuwait, so it is known that he died there, but sources differ on when exactly that was. The Arabic-language Wikipedia lists 1996 but, predictably, without a source. With that said, we were able to locate an old article (since removed but archived) from July 8, 1996 that mentioned he died “years ago”.

Thus Wikipedia’s date of 1996 was incorrect, but an understandable error. With that, for many years we simply had a best guess of “sometime in the 1990s” for his date of death. Then, in December of last year, an anonymous user from Kuwait added a more precise date of December 1983 to his English Wikipedia article. Of course, if a source had been included, we would not be writing this entry. Thus, while we have no reason to doubt this date, we have been unable to verify it either. Perhaps, much as with our review of Egypt’s earliest Olympic medalists when we first began this blog, our mystery is only half mystery, and half a sad tale of a forgotten prominent sportsman.

Maurice Lefèbvre

Today on Oldest Olympians we are looking at a mystery where we believe that we know all of the potential avenues for its resolution, but can only take a reasonable guess on which one is correct. It concerns Maurice Lefèbvre, a water polo player for the French national team who represented his country at two editions of the summer Olympics. This is about all that we can say about him with confidence.

According to the Olympic reports, a Maurice Lefèbvre represented France in the water polo tournaments at the 1936 Berlin and 1948 London Olympics, where the nation placed fourth and sixth respectively. The only other fact that we know about his life was that he was a member of Enfants de Neptune de Tourcoing and that all sources gives his year of birth as 1913.

Beyond this is where the questions arise: some sources have his date of birth as December 30, other have October 1. Some spell his surname Lefèbvre, others spell it Lefèvre. The French Swimming Federation added to the confusion by listing a Maurice Lefè(b)vre under both names, but only a year of birth. Under the Lefèbvre spelling, they listed a date of death of January 1, 2014, which would have made him 100 years old. Under the Lefèvre spelling, he was listed with a date of death of October 1, 2013, which would have made him 99.

Our best guess, therefore, was that information had been muddled somewhere and that “January 1, 2014” was a placeholder year signaling “deceased, date unknown” and that October 1, 2013 was the correct date. Recently, however, the French Swimming Federation merged the two entries together, and now the Olympian is listed under the spelling Lefèbvre with the January 1, 2014 date.

With the recent release of the French Death Index, we set out to solve this issue once and for all. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we did not find any Maurice Lefè(b)vre who died in 2013 or 2014 that would match the Olympian. There was, however, Maurice Alfred Lefèbvre born on October 30, 1913 in Tourcoing who died May 24, 1983 in Tourcoing.

This would seem to solve the mystery, as it combines all the data points we had into one likely suspect. Unfortunately, without a full obituary, we are unable to confirm that this is the Olympian. Nonetheless, since we see so much different information online regarding Lefèbvre, and particularly since most of that data points towards him being among the Oldest Olympians, we thought that we would gather it in one place so that readers could get a better sense of where it all comes from.

William Jones

Today on Oldest Olympians we have an Olympic medal mystery of a different kind. It concerns William Jones, a bronze medal-winning rower from Uruguay about whom we have been able to uncover only limited information.

(William Jones, pictured second from the right, from the website of the Uruguayan President’s office)

At the 1948 London Games, Jones paired up with Juan Rodríguez in the double sculls, an Olympian who we covered on this site in the past because he lived to the age of 91. They were a relatively unheralded duo entering the event, but nonetheless managed to leave it with a bronze medal. While much is known about Rodríguez, all we know about Jones is that at some point he moved to Florida, where he was living in 2003 when he and Rodríguez were honored for their Olympic accomplishments.

On April 7, 2014, an anonymous user on Wikipedia added the sentence “William Jones is now living in Citrus County Florida with his wife of 53yrs” to his biography, which aligns with the update from 2003. On August 9 of that year, a different anonymous user added the information that Jones had died on August 7.

The fact that a William Jones of Inverness, Florida died August 7, 2014 at his home is supported by an obituary. Unfortunately, the obituary is far too brief and lacking in details to confirm that it belongs to the Olympian. Another anonymous edit in January 2016 claimed that he was born in 1925 in the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, this information has proven insufficient to locate him in public records, let alone to confirm that the individual who died in August 2014 was the Olympian. While we believe that this is quite likely the truth, we cannot confirm it, and until someone can provide additional information, this will remain an Olympic mystery.

Kalle Nieminen

For today’s Olympic mystery, we are looking into a case forwarded to us by Harri Piironen: Karl Maurits “Kalle” Nieminen. Nieminen had a successful amateur career in athletics, but his only appearance at the Olympics came at the 1908 London Games. There, he competed in the marathon and placed 10th out of 55 starters.

The first half of Nieminen’s life was relatively typical for an amateur athlete of that era, although he did not start competing in distance running until he was 25 years old. He soon displayed proficiency at longer distances, however, and set a Finnish national record for the 10,000 metres in 1905. Two years later he made his international début for Finland, before being selected to represent that nation at the London Games. After one more year of amateur competition, he travelled to the United States to embark upon a professional career.

Nieminen’s stint as a professional was brief but, soon after it ended, he landed a job as an athletics coach at Columbia University. He became a citizen of the United States in the 1910s while living in New York, and this is where the mystery begins. Nieminen visited his sister in the early 1920s, after which he was never heard from again in Finland. In 1971 he was declared dead in absentia, but the details of his later life became an important question in Finnish sports research.

Eventually, it was discovered that he had died in the United States around 1946, but no other information was available at the time. Oldest Olympians took on this mystery, but did not got much further, discovering only that he eventually moved to Arlington, Vermont and was still alive in 1942 when he was registered for the draft during World War II. Noted Olympic researcher (and fencing Olympian!) George Masin then discovered that he may have had a son and that his wife Maria may have died on December 17, 1951 and been buried in Finland.

Unfortunately, however, no one has yet been able to uncover an exact date or place of death for Kalle. It seems likely that he died in either 1946 or 1947, and that this happened in Vermont, but without any evidence from after 1942, we cannot be sure. We wanted to post about this not only in the hopes that someone might be able to uncover a missing piece of the puzzle, but because many websites still list his year of death as 1971, which is incorrect.

Eugene R. Rogers

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover a case that we have talked about in the past, albeit not in depth, and share some new information that has come to light that, unfortunately, did not resolve the issue conclusively. Our subject of the day is American swimmer Eugene Roy Rogers, born February 17, 1924.

(Rogers pictured at the Columbia Lions Hall of Fame)

Rogers was a member of the American 4×200 metres freestyle relay squad that took gold at the 1948 London Olympics, although he only raced in the opening round and not in the final and thus did not receive a physical medal, per the rules at the time. He had an outstanding swimming career at Columbia University, where he earned an engineering degree, and has been inducted into their Athletics Hall of Fame. If he were alive, then he would be the oldest living Olympic champion in swimming and the oldest living American Olympic champion.

For a long time, Rogers was listed as having died on April 26, 2004, but multiple sources, including his own family, confirm that this was an error, and that the Eugene Rogers who died on that date was a different individual. Nonetheless, many sources continue to reproduce this mistake.

Then, in January of 2018, someone claiming to be his grandson on Wikipedia listed him as having died on December 30, 2017 in Long Island, New York. We here at Oldest Olympians are not intrinsically distrustful of Wikipedia, but since he had had an incorrect date of death attributed to him previously, we wanted to be extra careful. When we were unable to contact the user or locate an obituary, we decided against listing him as deceased and have featured him on Oldest Olympians previously as if he were living, albeit with the proper caveats. Furthermore, the United States Olympic Committee was of the belief that he was still alive.

Recently, however, researcher and historian Hilary Evans has located an Ancestry Family Tree that listed a Eugene Roy Rogers, born 1924, as having died in 2017 in Glen Cove, New York, which was where he was last known to be living. Unfortunately, there was still no corroborating, definitive proof, but it now seems likely enough that he is deceased, and therefore we have removed him from our list. Given the uncertainty, however, we felt that it was appropriate to announce this removal with a blog post to avoid creating another mysterious disappearance.

Finally, on a small side note of speaking about sudden removals, we have just learned that Geoffrey Tudor, born December 29, 1923, who represented Great Britain in the 3,000 metres steeplechase at the 1948 London Games, died October 2, 2018 at the age of 94. As this happened some time ago, we are noting this information here to explain his removal from our tables.

Oldest Olympians From Saar

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to post a follow-up to our last blog entry, where we discussed individuals removed from our list after we discovered that they had been deceased for a lengthy period of time. As it happens, only two days later, we were informed of another individual who fit in this category and who happened to be the oldest living Olympian from his participating country: Klaus Hahn of Saar.

(Hahn pictured in February 2014)

Hahn, born December 4, 1925, represented Saar during its brief period as an independent protectorate. A rower, he took part in the coxless pairs at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he came in third in his round one heat and then failed to complete the repêchage when he collapsed from exhaustion. He and his partner Herbert Kesel were second at the German national championships the following year. We featured him as the oldest living competitor from Saar last December on what we believed to be his 94th birthday, but today we learned from historian and researcher Ralf Regnitter that Hahn had actually died on July 10 2019 in Lacanau, Gironde, France, at the age of 93.

(Walter Müller)

This new information means that gymnast Walter Müller, born December 31, 1930, is now the oldest living Olympian to have represented Saar, and is in fact one of only two remaining alive. The other, his gymnastics teammate Heinz Ostheimer, was born on September 15, 1931. Together they placed 22nd out of 23 nations in the team all-around, while Müller was 143rd individually. His best individual finish was joint-106th in the horizontal bars and he later competed at the 1954 World Championships. While he is “only” 89, and thus a little too young to be featured on Oldest Olympians, we did want to discuss him in some manner given the circumstances, and thus we figured he was an appropriate subject for a blog.

That is all we have for today and we are – at least until the end of this week – caught up with the backlog of our blog entries! Nonetheless, we hope to bring you something new soon, so we hope that you will join us!

Addressing Recent Removals

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to address the topic of individuals who are removed from our lists without any formal post to acknowledge the change. This usually occurs when we discover that an individual whom we believed to have been alive actually died a year or more ago without us having known at the time. With the exception of centenarians, such as when we were a year late in discovering that Mexican equestrian Mario Becerril had died, there never seems to be an appropriate time to publish a dedicated post for someone who died a year or two earlier. Thus, while we are catching up on blog entries, we wanted to post about a few of those cases as a group.

Lois Stephens – Member of the United States’ equestrian delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics

The case that spurred this blog post was that of American equestrian Lois Stephens, born March 27, 1923, whom we believed to be the oldest survivor of the 1972 Munich Games, and was one of two possible individuals we considered featuring on her birthday (even before we learned she was deceased, however, we decided to go with Guatemala’s oldest living Olympian, Oswaldo Johnston). Stephens represented her country at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where she came in 31st in the individual dressage and ninth with the American team. Although we noted her birthday with a post last year, we discovered a brief mention recently that she actually died in 2018, and without an exact date, it is possible that she died prior to even her 95th birthday.

Suse Heinze – Member of Germany’s diving delegation to the 1936 Berlin Games

At the beginning of this year, we believed that not only was Suse Heinze, born May 25, 1920, one of the many Olympians slated to turn 100 in 2020, but that she was the oldest living German Olympian as well. Heinze competed in the women’s springboard diving event at the 1936 Berlin Games, placing seventh, but had better luck at the 1938 European Championships, where she won a bronze medal in the 10 metre platform. Nationally, she won a total of seven titles in the platform (4) and the springboard (3). Sadly, earlier this year we were informed by historian and researcher Ralf Regnitter that Heinze had died on November 26, 2018, and was unfortunately not alive the last time we featured her on what we believed to be her 99th birthday in 2019.

(Maurice Tabet, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)

Maurice Tabet – Member of Lebanon’s sport shooting delegations to the 1960 and 1972 Summer Olympics

Finally, we had Maurice Tabet, born February 1, 1919, listed as Lebanon’s oldest Olympian for the first year of our tables, as well as the oldest living Olympian from the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he took part in trap shooting. He was also present at the 1972 Munich Games, this time as a skeet shooter, and held numerous important positions in Lebanese sports administration, including serving as president of its shooting federation from 1965 through 1970. Outside of sport, he served with the Lebanese Diplomatic Corps in several countries and was also successful in business. Unfortunately, at the end of 2018, we discovered his obituary in An-Nahar (page 17), which noted that he died January 27, 2014, well before we started oldest Olympians. Nonetheless, we were happy to have had the opportunity to feature him as one of the earliest profiles on our site.

Those are the three names that came to mind immediately for this topic, but if there are any more removals that you noticed that were not addressed, please feel free to leave us a message and we can post an update on those cases. Otherwise, we still have some blogs to write, so we hope that you will join us next time!

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