J. Basham

Today’s blog post concerns a boxer who represented Great Britain in the welterweight division at the 1924 Paris Games: J. Basham. Officially he is known as Joseph J. “Johnny” Basham but, as will be seen, we cannot be entirely certain of this. What we do know is that he was about 21 years old when he attended the Olympics and a member of the Columbia Amateur Boxing Club.

The first obstacle we encounter is that there was a much more well-known professional boxer from Wales with the name Johnny Basham who also competed as a welterweight. His professional career began in 1909, which precludes him from being the Olympian, but the two are often confused in both contemporary and more recent accounts. In fact, while we usually like to illustrate our blog posts, and a good picture claimed to be of the professional Basham is widely available, we have chosen not to post it here, to avoid adding further confusion. Thus, at a basic level, any search for a Johnny Basham or a boxing J. Basham is complicated by the existence of this other boxer. In the few newspaper clippings we have been able to locate referring to the Olympian, as is the case for many early athletes, only his first initial, “J.” is given, and never his given name, adding another layer of uncertainty to the search.

To add to the difficulties, it appears that there may have been two other boxing Bashams that were active around this time, one associated with the London Fire Brigade in the late 1920s, and one associated with the London & Northeast Railway and Goodmans Yard in the early 1920s. Since the Olympic Basham did not have a significant amateur career, it is difficult to connect any details of his life to the other Bashams, particularly as newspapers of the time do not seem to have made much effort to distinguish the professional from the amateurs, let alone amongst the amateurs.

One possible candidate (assuming the age of 21 in 1924 is correct) for the amateur boxer is John Basham, born March 19, 1903 in Manchester, who worked on the railways and was living in London around the time of the Paris Olympics. There was also a James George Basham, born May 12, 1903, who is noted in 1939 to be a fireman with the London Fire Brigade, but in both cases there are no obvious links to either man being the Olympic boxer.

(Article on Johnny Basham’s injury from the June 6, 1928 edition of The Guardian, page 19)

A newspaper article from 1928 noted that a former British welterweight champion boxer and fireman named Johnny Basham was injured in a training accident and hospitalized at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. There is, however, no evidence that the professional was ever a fireman; in fact, a later article noted a communication from the professional, back at home in Wales, that there was “no truth whatever[sic]” in the previous report. Consequently, there is no evidence of the amateur Johnny Basham ever winning any titles or championships. A 1924 article states J. Basham of Columbia ABC to be the “winner of military, polytechnical and V Division 10st 7lb competitions”, though we have not been able to find any further information about this.

(Basham’s denial of injury, from the June 7, 1928 edition of The Guardian, page 4)

Thus, we could have at least three boxing J. Bashams: Johnny (the professional), John (the railway worker), and James (the fireman). The railway worker and the fireman may be the same individual and, given how common the surname Basham is, it is possible that the Olympian, perhaps named Joseph, is someone entirely different than anyone we have mentioned here. While this can get confusing, we hope that we can clear up at least one misconception with this post: the Olympic boxer is not the same as the Welsh professional , but the jury still remains out on who the Olympic boxer was.

As we often do here, we want to thank Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore for contributing to this post and uncovering much of the information!

OLYMPIANS COMPETING FOR MULTIPLE NATIONS

Over the last few days I have posted on athletes competing in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, and those who competed in 2 different sports. What about athletes who have competed for 2 different nations at the Olympics? Surely that has happened a few times.

Well, it has, in fact we have 1,622 such Olympians in our database – that’s out of about 135,450 Olympians. It is probably more correct to say they represented 2 or more GPEs, or geo-political entities, at the Olympics, rather than nations. This is because technically Olympians represent National Olympic Committees, or NOCs, rather than nations, but also there are several exceptions to nations and NOCs, but for simplicity, we will stick to “nations”.

As examples of non-national GPEs, Russia competed at PyeongChang in 2018 as OAR = Olympic Athletes from Russia, and will compete at Tokyo as ROC = Russian Olympic Committee. There have been Refugee Olympic Teams, unfortunately labelled as ROT originally, but now to be EOR = Équipe Olympique Réfugée. Further, there have been several cases where teams were labelled as IOA = Independent Olympic Athletes or IOP = Independent Olympic Participants. Finally, some NOCs do not represent independent nations, such as Puerto Rico and American Samoa, territories of the United States; or the British Virgin Islands, a British Overseas Territory; Hong Kong, China, now a part of China; and formerly the Netherlands Antilles, which was a part of the Netherlands.

Even listing all the nations can cause some confusion, because many of these 1,622 cases have been nations that have been related politically. The Soviet Union’s republics separated into many different nations, as did the former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and Germany was formerly the Federal Republic of Germany (West) and the German Democratic Republic (East). So we will make a distinction between 1) related nations, and 2) distinctly different nations (DDN).

Of the 1,622 cases in our database, only 315 of them involved DDN. There are actually 5 examples of athletes representing 4 nations at the Olympics, although none of these are fully DDN, and they all involve former Soviet or Yugoslav athletes. They are as follows:

NameGdrNationsSportYears
Irina LashkoFAUS/EUN/RUS/URSDIV1988-2004
Jasna ŠekarićFIOA/SCG/SRB/YUGSHO1988-2012
Makharbek KhadartsevMEUN/RUS/URS/UZBWRE1988-2000
Ilija LupuleskuMIOA/SCG/USA/YUGTTN1988-2004
Michał ŚliwińskiMEUN/POL/UKR/URSCAN1988-2004

There have been 92 athletes represent 3 nations at the Olympics, with almost all of them involving athletes from former Soviet or Yugoslav republics. Only 1 athlete can be considered to have represented 3 DDN – Yamilé Aldama, originally a Cuban triple jumper who competed in 5 Olympics from 1996-2012. She competed for Cuba in 1996 and 2000, the Sudan in 2004 and 2008, and Great Britain in 2012.

What are the most frequent combinations of multiple nations represented? There have been 354 different combinations, but looking at all nations, related and distinctly different, here is the list of the most common:

Nations###
Fed. Rep. Germany/Germany228
German Demo. Rep./Germany172
Unified Team/Russia135
Unified Team/Soviet Union107
Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia92
Olympic Athletes from Russia/Russia47
Egypt/United Arab Rep.35
Unified Team/Russia/Soviet Union34
Unified Team/Ukraine30
Slovakia/Czechoslovakia28
Serbia & Montenegro/Serbia27
Croatia/Yugoslavia20

As you can see, these are all politically related nations. Now if we limit the list to DDN, this looks far different:

Nations###
Cuba/Spain9
Belgium/Netherlands6
Great Britain/Ireland5
Hungary/Romania5
Austria/Yugoslavia4
Unified Team/Germany4
Hungary/United States4
Canada/Czechoslovakia3
Cameroon/France3
France/Poland3
Germany/Romania3
Germany/Ukraine3
Turkey/Ukraine3

But looking at this another way, here are the most common nations among the DDN:

Nation###
United States36
Australia29
France29
Canada26
Germany24
Hungary22
Spain21
Great Britain20
Italy20
Austria17
Russia15

Now what about winning Olympic medals for 2 nations or 2 DDN? Has that happened? Of course, it has. There are 320 cases of Olympic athletes winning medals for 2 different nations, but limiting this to DDN, this narrows it down to only 25 examples. There have also been 10 cases in which an athlete won Olympic medals for 3 different nations, although with the exception of Irina Lashko, 8 of these were for the Soviet Union, Unified Team, and Russia, and 1 case involved Yugoslavia and its various different names. Here is that list:

NameGenderSportNations
Marina Dobrancheva-LogvinenkoFSHOURS/EUN/RUS
Irina LashkoFDIVEUN/RUS/AUS
Jasna ŠekarićFSHOYUG/IOA/SCG
Anfisa ReztsovaFBIA/CCSURS/EUN/RUS
Aleksandr KarelinMWREURS/EUN/RUS
Makharbek KhadartsevMWREURS/EUN/RUS
Pavel KolobkovMFENURS/EUN/RUS
Andrey LavrovMHANURS/EUN/RUS
Sergey ChepikovMBIAURS/EUN/RUS
Igor KravchukMICHURS/EUN/RUS

Again, Anfisa Reztsova is the queen of cross-overs, having won medals in 2 different sports for 3 different nations.

Finally, how many Olympians have won gold medals for 2 different nations? This has been done 67 times, but only 3 times by athletes representing DDN:

NameGenderSportNOC-Year1NOC-Year2
Dan CarrollMRUGANZ/1908USA/1920
Armen NazaryanMWREARM/1996BUL/2000
Viktor An (Hyeon-Su Ahn)MSTKKOR/2006RUS/2014

And from the previous list, 3 Olympians actually have won gold medals for 3 different nations, but all were for the Soviet Union/Unified Team/Russia combination  – Anfisa Reztsova (BIA/CCS), Aleksandr Karelin (WRE), and Andrey Lavrov (HAN).

And there you have it.

Felix Würth and Lotte Haidegger

We have another quick post today on Oldest Olympians. Until recently, we listed Felix Würth, born August 11, 1923, as the oldest living Austrian Olympian. This was based on a report from late 2012 that listed him as alive and living in Ontario, Canada, but we had not seen an update since. Recently, however, we removed him from our tables on credible, albeit yet unproven, evidence that he may have died, and we wanted to dedicate a little space to explaining that decision.

First, a little background, as Würth was no marginal athlete. His domestic career in Austria began after World War II and, from 1947 through 1952, he won a total of 21 national titles: four in the 4×100 relay, four in the 4×400 relay, five in the long jump, six in the triple jump, and two in the decathlon. He competed in both the long and triple jump at the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics, and was eliminated in the first round of all events except the long jump in 1948, where he placed eighth. He also represented Austria at the 1950 European Championships, finishing 13th in the triple jump and being eliminated in the qualifications for the long jump.

(Lotte Haidegger)

Würth married Lotte Haidegger, herself an accomplished track and field Olympian. She won Austrian titles in the shot put, discus throw (twice), and pentathlon, and was eighth in the discus at the 1950 European Championships. In both 1948 and 1952 she placed fifth in the Olympic discus tournament, and she was also entered in the shot put in 1952, although she did not start. After retiring from active competition, the couple eventually moved to Canada, and Haidegger was listed as deceased in the 2012 update on Würth.

This was the basis of our listing Würth as alive, although we also noted that a “Felix Wuerth” was listed as living in Guelph, Ontario at the same address as the retirement home that published the update. Public records, of course, may be slow to update, and recently an anonymous user on Wikipedia claimed that Würth died February 25, 2014. This user also noted that Haidegger died February 14, 2004 in Puslinch Township, Ontario. None of this information conflicts with what we know for certain but, unfortunately, even with such specific data we were unable to locate corresponding proof of these claims. We do, however, suspect that it is accurate, hence our removal of Würth from our lists. Until we uncover more evidence, however, this will remain a small Olympic mystery.

(Franz Zigon, pictured at the age of 94, at Nachrichten)

All of this means that the oldest known Austrian Olympian is now Franz Zigon, born March 9, 1924, who recently turned 97. Zigon represented his country in the water polo tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where Austria was eliminated after the preliminary round. Unlike with Würth, we have much more documentation that Zigon is alive (and active in swimming!).

MULTI-SPORT olympians

A few days ago I posted about athletes who competed at both the Summer and Winter Olympics – very rare birds. But what about those athletes who have competed in 2 different sports at the Olympics, although not necessarily at the Summer and Winter Olympics? How often has that occurred.

Here we must be careful in discussing sports and disciplines. The IOC recognizes both sports and disciplines, with disciplines being considered a sub-group within a sport. The best examples are swimming, diving, water polo, and artistic swimming (formerly synchronized swimming), which the IOC considers disciplines within the sport of aquatics; and skiing, with separate disciplines labelled cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and snowboarding. There are several other sports that also have separate disciplines under their purview.

We basically consider disciplines as separate sports in the cases above and a few other cases, such as volleyball and beach volleyball. So, when athletes compete in two or more “sports” at the Olympics, it becomes important to classify them either as 1) related sports, or 2) distinctly different sports (DDS). DDS are not necessarily those that the IOC labels as separate sports. We consider fencing and modern pentathlon, swimming and triathlon, or biathlon and cross-country skiing to be related sports, among others, since the action of one is included in the other sport.

Now, given that primer, there have been 1,004 Olympians compete in 2 different sports at the Olympics, by our definitions. Of these 360 competed in DDS. Of the 1,004, 77 athletes have actually competed in 3 different sports at the Olympics, and 6 athletes appeared in 4 different sports.

Of the 6 athletes competing in 4 different sports, only 3 could be considered to have competed in DDS, and all of those were in 1896. Carl Schuhmann (GER) competed in athletics, gymnastics, weightlifting, and wrestling, as did Launceston Elliott (GBR); while Viggo Jensen (DEN) appeared in athletics, gymnastics, shooting, and weightlifting.

Of the 77 athletes competing in 3 different sports, only 16 athletes can be considered to have appeared in DDS. These were all men and the last time it happened was in 1928, when Philippe Van Volcksom competed in ice hockey, rowing, and speed skating, although I guess one could argue that speed skating and ice hockey have some features in common.

What are the sports that most commonly doubled up? There have been 186 different combinations of multi-sport participation at the Olympics. Looking at all sports, including related sports, here are the most common:

Sports###
Swimming/Water Polo154
Biathlon/Cross-Country Skiing93
Cross-Country Skiing/Nordic Combined87
Nordic Combined/Ski Jumping57
Athletics/Bobsledding49
Fencing/Modern Pentathlon49
Cross-Country Skiing/Nordic Combined/Ski Jumping31
Athletics/Gymnastics25
Athletics/Tug-of-War25
Diving/Swimming20
Beach Volleyball/Volleyball19
Cycling/Speedskating17
Bobsledding/Luge12
Alpine Skiing/Cross-Country Skiing10
Speedskating/Short-Track Speedskating10

No surprise there with swimming and water polo leading the way, but if you look at that list, we would only classify ATH/BOB, ATH/GYM, and ATH/TOW as DDS. Here is what the list looks like, if we limit ourselves to the DDS only:

Sports###
Athletics/Bobsledding49
Athletics/Gymnastics25
Athletics/Tug-of-War25
Cycling/Speedskating17
Athletics/Weightlifting9
Cross-Country Skiing/Cycling8
Diving/Gymnastics8
Tug-of-War/Wrestling7
Athletics/Basketball6
Fencing/Shooting6
Rowing/Sailing6
Athletics/Cross-Country Skiing5
Athletics/Hockey5
Tug-of-War/Weightlifting5

Have any of these athletes actually won medals in 2 or more different sports? Yes, of course they have. It has happened 86 times at the Olympics, with 33 of those occurring in DDS.

Unique among these athletes is Franz Kugler, who won medals in 3 different sports. He is often listed as Frank Kungler in earlier sources, including ours, although we have now discovered his full, correct name and vital dates. Kugler was a German when he competed at the Olympics in 1904, although he is listed by the IOC as from the USA because he represented the St. Louis Southwest Turnverein. He is the only Olympian to win medals in 3 Olympic sports. He won a silver medal in heavyweight wrestling, 2 bronze medals in weightlifting, and a bronze medal in tug-of-war in 1904. Kugler became a US citizen in 1913 and died in St. Louis in 1952.

What about winning gold medals in 2 different sports? Yeah, that’s happened, too, actually 15 times with 4 athletes doing it in DDS. There were 2 women, Anfisa Reztsova (EUN/RUS/URS) who not only did it in biathlon and cross-country skiing, but while representing 2 different NOCs; and Esther Ledecka (SVK) who famously did it in 2018 in Alpine skiing and snowboarding, but both of those were in related sports.

The 4 athletes to win gold medals in DDS were as follows:

NameSport1-Year(s)Sport2-Year
Eddie Eagan (USA)BOX-1920BOB-1932
Carl Schuhmann (GER)GYM-1896WRE-1896
Daniel Norling (SWE)GYM-1908/12EQU-1920
Morris Kirksey (USA)ATH-1920RUG-1920

And there you have it.

Mystery 1948 Olympic Competitors

Two posts ago, when we discussed the French gymnast known only as “F. Vailee”, we noted that there were several other competitors from the 1948 London Olympics for whom we lacked even a full name. This was a more common phenomenon in the prewar era, when records were not kept as well and participants could take part having had limited success even in their home countries. By 1948, however, the Games had been firmly established as one of the pinnacles of international sporting competition.

It is true that newer nations, or at least those that had not participated previously, were beginning to take part, but all five of the individuals we are covering today were from countries that had at least one previous appearance at the Games. Thus, while we may not know a lot about the starting competitors from some non-European and non-American countries, we at least have a full name for almost all of them.

The first exception is that of G. M. Jagi, who represented Afghanistan in the field hockey tournament in 1948. Afghanistan had sent two track and field athletes, as well as a hockey team, to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and returned to the Games after the war with both a hockey and a football squad. While their footballers were eliminated in the qualifying round, the field hockey team fared slightly better, winning, losing, and tying one game to place joint-seventh among 13 teams overall. Despite knowing very little about the delegation in general, Jagi remains the only starting player from either team for whom we lack even a full name.

(The 1945 national water polo team of Chile, seated, pictured at Water Polo Legends)

The other non-European is A. Hurtado Vargas, who was a member of the Chilean water polo team that was eliminated in the group stage in 1948. Connor Mah has suggested that this individual may be César Augusto Hurtado Vargas, who died in 2007, but we have been unable to confirm this for certain.

The other three are all French sport shooters, which may be due to the lack of widespread media coverage given to the sport. For one, R. Gauthier-Lafond, who placed 20th in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 metres event, we have a small hint that he may be French-Tunisian Georges Henry Gauthier-Lafond, who was active in the sport in the 1930s. He was born on October 16, 1914 and lived in Zriba, where his son Guy was born, and died September 30, 1992 in Auch. We have not been able to link him conclusively, however, to the Olympian. For the other two, R. Bouillet who finished 32nd in the rapid-fire pistol, 25 metres, and R. Stéphan, who was 48th in the free pistol, 50 metres, their names are common enough that we have encountered difficulty in locating any clues.

That is what we have for today – given the subject matter, we did not have much to say on the actual competitors, but we hope that there is still some interest in the topic nonetheless. As always, we hope to see you in the future for another blog post!

The 1928 Mexican Winter Olympic Bobsleigh Team, Part II

Today on Oldest Olympians we have an exciting update to a story that we covered recently on this blog. Two posts ago, we shared what little we knew of the tale of the Mexican bobsleigh team at the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics. At the conclusion, we noted that the full identities of three of the five competitors remained a mystery.

(Porfirio Díaz)

Shortly thereafter, Carlos Hernandez forwarded us some fascinating information: the entire team was composed of the close circle of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz, who had been ousted from power and sent to exile in Paris in 1911, where he died a few years later. G. and J. Díaz, therefore, were close relatives of this famous politician! Based on this evidence, and with a little help from Hilary Evans and Connor Mah on the finer details, we were able to identify these men as Porfirio’s grandsons: Genaro Díaz Raigosa and José de la Cruz Porfirio Genaro Díaz Raigosa. Both were born in Mexico City; Genaro on April 19, 1904 and José on April 29, 1907. Genaro eventually returned to Mexico and died there on December 5, 1963. José died sometime in 1988, but we have been unable to ascertain further details.

(Manuel Escandón)

As for the final competitor, Juan de Landa, we were told that his full surname included either y Escandón (from Carlos Hernandez) or Osio (from Fernando Arrechea). While we have been unable to find an exact match for either, we suspect that he may actually have been José Manuel “Pepe” de Landa y Osio, born May 28, 1899 in Tlalpan and died March 6, 1961 in Mexico City, who was the son of Guillermo de Landa y Escandón. We have, however, been unable to confirm this. This would, however, make him related to the Escandón brothers, Manuel, Pablo, and Eustaquio, who won a bronze medal for Mexico in the polo competition at the 1900 Paris Olympics.

There is certainly a much larger story to tell here, but for now this is all that we have. In terms of updates, we also wanted to thank Gérard Lefebvre, who confirmed that two-time French water polo Olympian Maurice Lefèbvre was born on October 30, 1913 in Tourcoing and died there on May 24, 1983. We will be bringing you something new shortly so, as always, we hope that you will join us!

olympians competing in BOTH Seasons

Seiko Hashimoto was recently named as the new President of the Organizing Committee for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. Ms. Hashimoto competed in the Olympics in both cycling and speed skating, as I noted in some tweets on the day she was announced as President. I’ve had several people ask me about athletes competing in both the Summer and Winter Olympics and how rare that is, which has prompted me to prepare this blog on “Both Season Olympians (BSOs)”. And as you will see, Ms Hashimoto’s name will figure prominently in the following.

It’s very rare to be an Olympic athlete. Since 1896 there have been about 135,400 Olympic athletes to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics. By looking at historical populations and birth rates (see OurWorldInData.org), one can estimate that since 1870 through 2000, the period during which most of these athletes had to have been born, there have been about 12,600,000,000 births in the world, or between 12 and 13 billion. That means the chance of any person born in this period becoming an Olympic athlete is about 0.001% – 1/1000th of 1 percent.

How many of these 135,400 Olympians have competed at both the Summer and Winter Olympics, as did Ms. Hashimoto? There have been exactly 142 Olympians to compete at both Olympic Games through 2018, or about 0.1% of all Olympians, meaning the chance of any person born between 1870-2000 has had a 0.000001% chance of competing at both Olympic Games.

Who are these 142 extraordinary Olympians? They have come from 41 different nations, with the following nations having the most BSOs.

Belgium12
Canada12
Hungary12
Austria10
United States10
Norway8
Finland6
Great Britain6
Netherlands6
Switzerland6

Which sports have they doubled in? To date, 8 Olympians, 2 women and 6 men, have competed in 3 different sports/disciplines at the Winter and Summer Olympics, as follows:

NameGenderNOC(s)SportsYear(s)
Jaqueline MourãoFBRABIA/CCS/CYC2004-2018
Georgia SimmerlingFCANASK/CYC/FRS2010-2016
István DévánMHUNATH/CCS/NCO1912-1924
Erik ElmsäterMSWEATH/CCS/NCO1948-1952
Aleksandar MilenkovićMIOA/SCG/YUGBIA/CCS/CYC1992-2006
Béla SzepesMHUNATH/CCS/NCO1924-1928
Philippe Van VolckxsomMBELICH/ROW/SSK1920-1928
Willi ZachariasMROUASK/CCS/HAN1936

Note that Willi Zacharias did this all in 1936. Until 1992 it was possible for Olympians to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year, as the Games were not separated until the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.

So in which sports should you specialize if you wish to compete in both editions of the Olympics? There have been 50 different combinations of sports among these 142 BSOs. The most common combinations are in the table below:

Sports###
Athletics/Bobsledding49
Cycling/Speedskating17
Cross-Country Skiing/Cycling8
Hockey/Ice Hockey7
Athletics/Cross-Country Skiing5
Football/Ice Hockey4
Athletics/Cross-Country Skiing/Nordic Combined3
Biathlon/Cross-Country Skiing/Cycling2
Bobsledding/Equestrian Events2
Bobsledding/Hockey2
Bobsledding/Rowing2
Cycling/Short-Track Speedskating2
Ice Hockey/Sailing2

This is now well-known, as bobsledders are often recruited from track & field athletes, but it was not always so. Johann Baptist Gudenus (AUT) did it in 1932, but it was not until 1968 that it occurred again, when Britain’s Colin Campbell and Switzerland’s Eddy Hubacher first competed, and eventually appeared at both Games in athletics and boblsedding. However, it did not become commonplace until the 1980s.

I mentioned that prior to 1994 Olympians could compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year. Was that a frequent occurrence? It actually happened 39 times, and 2 athletes did it in 2 separate years – Charles Stoffel (LUX) competed in bobsledding and equestrian, quite the unusual combination, in both 1924 and 1928; and the ubiquitous Seiko Hashimoto competed in cycling and speed skating in both 1988 and 1992.

How many BSOs have competed in the Summer and Winter Olympics more than once each? This has only been done 10 times, by 4 women and 6 men, led by the redoubtable Seiko Hashimoto, who competed at the Summer Games three times (1988/1992/1996) and the Winter Games four times (1984/1988/1992/1994), for a total of 7 appearances, the most ever by this group of 142 BSOs. The only other Olympian to compete at the Summer and Winter Olympics 3 times each is Canadian cyclist/speed skater Clara Hughes.

What about winning a medal at both the Winter and Summer Olympics – has this been done? Yes, it has, and 5 times, by the following athletes:

NameGdrNOCSport1SummerSport2Winter
Eddie EaganMUSABOX1920BOB1932
Jacob Tullin ThamsMNORSAI1936SKJ1924
Christa Rothenburger-LudingFGDRCYC1988SSK1984/88/92
Clara HughesFCANCYC1996SSK2002/06/10
Lauryn WilliamsFUSAATH2004/12BOB2014

Of these, there were 2 men and 3 women, although a man has not done it since Jacob Tullin Thams in 1936. Of the above, only Eddie Eagan won gold medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Seiko Hashimoto does not make this list but she did win 1 Olympic medal, a bronze in the 1,500 metres speed skating at Albertville in 1992.

And there you have it.

F. Vailee

We have a quick post today for the Oldest Olympians blog, concerning the French gymnastics team at the 1948 London Games. When considering Olympic mysteries, we usually run into cases that come from before World War II, when the proceedings and competitors were often less well-documented. Today, however, we are going to look into the case of the 1948 competitor listed on Olympedia as “F. Vailee”.

(A picture of the 1948 French Olympic women’s gymnastics team, from Journal Le Petit Corse)

There was only a single gymnastics event for women contested at the 1948 London Olympics: the team all-around. France finished 10th out of the 11 teams, with only the Belgians faring worse. The competitor known as “F. Vailee” was one of the more successful members of the squad, yet she remains the only one about whom we know nothing. In fact, it seems that even what very little we have on her name is likely incorrect.

Research into French archives by Connor Mah has indicated that she was from Louveciennes and was active nationally from around 1947 through 1951, also representing her country internationally in 1949 in Italy. Her surname is given as Valle, Delle Valle, and Vallée, which was apparently her maiden name, although we do not have any clues regarding her age. The best candidate that he was able to uncover was a Carole or Caroline Della Valle of Belfort who was active in the sport in 1943, but this is far from a certain candidate. It does, however, raise the possibility that she was either foreign-born or born to a recently-immigrated family in France.

And that is really all we have. It seems unusual to have a postwar competitor whose very name eludes is, but she is not even the only French Olympian from 1948 where we lack this basic information. Perhaps we will cover some of the other nameless competitors in a future post but, whatever we bring you next, we hope that you will join us again!

The 1928 Mexican Winter Olympic Bobsleigh Team

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to share a piece of Olympic history that most people are probably unaware of. Many might be surprised to hear that Mexico, not a particularly wintery nation, has appeared at six editions of the Winter Olympics, with the most recent having been in 2010. Those who are familiar with this fact, however, may still be unaware that the country’s first participation at the Winter Games came in 1928, when it sent five men to compete in the bobsleigh event. While this appearance is fascinating in and of itself, it also contains an element of Olympic mystery that we like to showcase on this blog.

(The 1928 two-man bobsleigh event, from a photograph posted on Reddit)

The event allowed teams to be composed of either four or five men, but everyone entered five-men teams to avoid being at a disadvantage. It was postponed from its originally scheduled date and then limited to two runs due to poor weather. Of the 25 teams entered into the four/five man bobsleigh at the 1928 St. Moritz Games, Mexico placed 11th overall, coming in 16th in the first run and 8th in the second. This put it ahead of teams from more traditional winter nations, such as Switzerland, Poland, and Austria.

Given the nature of bobsledding during this era, it is not surprising that the two competitors that we do have some information about were members of higher society. Mario Casasús was a military officer who had connections to the world of finance and had an affair with the wife of American philanthropist Frank Jay Gould. Similarly, Lorenzo Elízaga was an aristocrat and property owner with a residence in Paris who later married an actress and died in Spain in 1996.

The other three competitors are more mysterious. We have a full name for only one of them – Juan de Landa – with the other two known only as G. and J. Díaz. As one might expect, nothing has yet been found about these individuals, so the question remains: who were the men who helped Mexico make their Winter Olympic début over 90 years ago? We suspect that the story could be found in Mexican archival material, but we have yet to comes across anything that might shed more light. Mexico did intend to send another team to the 1932 Lake Placid Games, but they did not compete, so we are left to wonder if perhaps some of the prospective team members intended to repeat their appearance from the 1928 edition.

We wanted to post today not only to share this interesting, if brief, story, but also to publicize it in the hopes that perhaps someone reading this might be able to provide more information. We will continue to write up Olympic mysteries here at Olympstats in the coming days and we hope that will you will continue to join us!

1928 British Gymnasts

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to look at the British delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Games. There are many gaps in our knowledge of those who competed at this edition, but we wanted to focus in on the gymnasts, as there are two in particular that have eluded efforts to track down the details of their later lives.

As a member of the Northampton Polytechnic Institute, Doris Woods represented Great Britain as part of the first national women’s gymnastics team and helped them place third in the all-around in 1928. She later took to judging gymnastics competitions, but aside from the fact that she remained unmarried as late as 1939 (and thus retained her surname) and that she may also have been a member of London’s Ibis Club, we know nothing about her. Given the lack of clues in contemporary reports and even the uncertainty about her surname (which is sometimes listed as “Wood”), the best we can say is that she is almost certainly deceased, but otherwise remains an Olympic mystery.

On the men’s side, T. B. Parkinson was a member of the British team that placed 11th and last at the Amsterdam Games. Individually, he had a best finish of joint-65th on the horizontal bars. Unlike Woods, we know much about Parkinson’s gymnastics career, including that he did not take up the sport until he was 18 and that he was British national champion in the team all-around in 1933, 1934, and 1936 with the Bolton Lads. The one critical detail that escapes us, however, is his full name, which might provide additional clues as to his birth and death. Research by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore has suggested that he may have been Thomas Buchanan Parkinson of Bolton, born February 4, 1905 and died November 29, 1965, but thus far no one has been able to confirm this.

Thus we have another short blog entry today, but we will be back soon with more Olympic mysteries. We hope that you will join us!

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