Missing Biographical Data From 1936

The 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Berlin Olympics are the last prewar Games for whom some of the more mysterious competitors could still be alive and have not yet been covered on this blog. In seeking to address this, today on Oldest Olympians we to cover five starting Olympians who competed at these editions, but for whom we lack any biographical data.

Two of these individuals represented Austria in aquatic sports. The first, Helena “Elli” von Kropiwnicki, was a member of the 4×100 freestyle relay team that was eliminated in round one. While all four are missing dates of death, von Kropiwnicki is the only one missing a date of birth. The second, Therese Rampel, was a member of the same club, 1. Wiener Amateur Schwimmclub, but took part in platform diving, where she was 16th.

(Qadri Mahmud)

A third competitor, Egyptian Fadl Ibrahim, was also an aquatic participant, as he took part in the 4×200 metres freestyle relay, where his nation was also eliminated in round one. He is the only one of his teammates about whom we know nothing, although our only information on Zaki Saad al-Dine is that he died prior to May 20, 2000. Qadri Mahmud, born October 8, 1917, was a star swimmer at the American University of Cairo, but we do not know his date of death. Finally, Higazi Said, born sometime in 1916 in Cairo, died August 30, 1998 and was a well-known national swimmer as well.

The final summer Olympian is Abouwi Ahmad Shah, who was a member of Afghanistan’s field hockey team in Berlin, which placed fifth overall in the tournament. There was an Ahmad Shah Abouwi who competed for Afghanistan in field hockey at the 1956 Melbourne Games, but records indicate that he was born in 1930, too early to have also been the 1936 Olympian. The 1936 squad also had a few non-starters, such as Abdul Chaffar and Nauroz Ali Nauroz, about whom we also know nothing.

01AH8CER; Bozena Moserova

(Picture from Diomedia)

Finally, we have Wilhelm Blechschmidt, who represented Czechoslovakia in both the two- and four-man bobsleigh events in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. As with many bobsledders of this era, we know nothing else about him. On the topic of bobsledders, however, Connor Mah was able to prove that John Read, who represented Great Britain in the four-man at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympics, and whom we covered previously on Oldest Olympians, died April 12, 2000 in Salisbury, England. And in terms of Olympians who represented Czechoslovakia at the Winter Games, we learned that Božena Moserová, who took part in three alpine skiing events at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics, and who we have also covered previously, died February 9, 2017.

1932 Track and Field Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we want to return to the 1932 Los Angeles Games to look at some of the non-starters and reserves in the athletics competition about whom we know nothing. In general, data on track and field athletes is fairly good, but we wanted to devote a little attention to those competitors who have been overlooked.

First on our list is József Szabó, who was entered by Hungary into the long jump, but did not start the event. We do not know anything else about him, since his name is fairly common in Hungarian, but there was a József Szabó who wrote books on athletics during the 1940s who may be the Olympic non-starter. About another non-starter from Europe, Georgios Theodoratos of Greece in the shot put, we know nothing.

Brazil, meanwhile, has a number of athletes about whom we have only limited information. For example, we have at least a year of birth for six of the eight members of Brazil’s 4×100 metre relay entry, but two have eluded us. We believe that Raimundo Chrispiniano (who was also a potential for the 4×400 metres relay) might be the Raymundo Chrispiniano do Nascimento who was born in 1907 and died October 26, 1999 in Rio, as both were military professionals, but we have no proof. The name of the other, Aloisio da Silva, is too common for us to be able to find useful information. In the 4×400 relay, our mystery non-starter is Vicente Araujo, for whom we were also unable to uncover any biographical details.

(Heitor Medina, pictured at TECPAR)

There were three Brazilian non-starters in the 5000 metres, but the only one without even a year of birth is Jeronimo Maria, although we do know that he was competing as early as 1929 and continued until at least 1937. In the javelin throw, three Brazilians were entered, one of whom, Heitor Medina, actually competed. Born July 10, 1910, Medina later became a prominent biologist, but we were unable to locate his date of death. Similarly, Esmeraldo Azuaga, born August 8, 1908, who was entered into four events but did not start any of them, also became a doctor and is also missing a date of death. For the third javelin thrower, Domingos Trevisan (whose surname is sometimes spelled Trevison), we have no data.

Over the past few months, we have taken a look at some of the lesser-known Olympians from 1932 for whom we lack biographical data, but there are always more that we could cover. For Brazil’s water polo team, for example, we are missing at least one piece of biographical data on all but two of the players, and for two reserves, Alfredo Di Blasio and Jorge Pessoa, we know nothing at all. The further we examine reserves, the more such cases we can find, such as Austrian Franz Janisch, who did not start his weightlifting event. We want to move on to other topics, however, so we will leave 1932 with this and bring you something new soon!

Mystery UAR Competitors

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to address a new finding of ours in the world of Egyptian Olympians. At the 1960 Rome Games, Egypt competed as the “United Arab Republic” (UAR) because it had unified politically with Syria. As far as we know, however, there were no Syrians in the actual delegation, but we did have one mysterious competitor in wrestling listed as “Ben Ali” for whom we could find no record in contemporary sources. This left open the possibility that he might have been a Syrian on the team.

As we discovered recently, however, “Ben Ali” was a transcription error for the real competitor: Al-Sayd Hassan Ali Rifa’i. Rifa’i was born in Alexandria and represented Egypt internationally for over a decade, most notably at the 1959 Mediterranean Games, where he won silver in the freestyle, welterweight competition (in Rome, he competed in Greco-Roman). We were unable to find dates of birth and death, but we have now confirmed that he was Egyptian.

This leaves us with only two representatives from the UAR delegation for whom we have no biographical data: divers Moustafa Hassan and Ahmed Moharran. Both were relatively prominent on the national sports scene and Hassan even won a bronze medal on the platform at the 1959 Mediterranean Games. Hassan and Moharran competed on the platform in Rome, placing 25th and 24th respectively, while the latter also finished 28th in the springboard. We do not have a year or place of birth for either, however, or even an age estimate.

(Ibrahim Abdulhalim and his name on the Swissair Flight 306 memorial)

Finally, we were able to identify additional information about a member of the UAR’s rowing squad: the competitor that we had listed as “Ibrahim Mahmoud” was actually Ibrahim Abdulhalim, one of Egypt’s most successful rowers of the 1950s. Unfortunately, he died only three years after the Rome Olympics, in the crash of Swissair Flight 306 on September 4, 1963.

More 1932 Olympic Art Competitors

Two weeks ago on this blog, we examined some of the lesser-known Belgian art competitors who entered the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Today, we wanted to look at five additional entrants for whom we have limited information: two from the United States and three from Cuba.

In general, we know the details of most American art competitors, although Jay C. Maddox has eluded us. Maddox entered an unknown painting event with the work “Gallant Fox” and, at the time of the Games, lived at 206 N. 35th St., Philadelphia. We have been unable to find a painter by this name, however, and suspect that this might be a pseudonym, and we have been similarly been unable to find who lived at that address at the time. Another mysterious competitor is Elsie Swanson, who entered an unknown work into the music competition. Without anything else to go on, we cannot identify her with precision.

(Ernesto Lecuona)

Three Cubans entered the same music competition, all with unknown works. One went by the moniker “Lenva”, but we suspect that this was the well-known composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona y Casado. Another was Abelardo Cuevas, known as a composer and oboist, who was most active during the 1930s and the 1940s. We have not, unfortunately, been able to uncover his biographical details. Finally, Rogelio Pazquez is the most mysterious of all, as we have no leads on his specialty or identity.

Finally, on the subject of Cuba, we have one more mysterious track and field athlete from the Los Angeles Games: Rafael Pérez Rodríguez. Pérez was entered into the high jump and long jump, but did not start either of the events, and we have been unable to learn anything additional about him.

Afghanistan at the 1948 London Olympics

A little while ago, we covered Iraq’s delegation to the 1948 London Olympics as one of the national teams for whom we were missing considerable information. Today we want to turn our attention to another country for whom we are missing substantial data: Afghanistan. Afghanistan sent two teams to the 1948 Games, one for football and one for field hockey.

Afghanistan had actually made its début at the Games in 1936, including a field hockey team, but none of the participants returned in 1948, where they were eliminated in the preliminary round. For roughly half of the squad, we have only a year of birth: 1925 for Abdul Kadir Nuristani, Jahan Gulam Nuristani, Mohammad Kadir Nuristani, and Khan Nasrullah Totakhail, 1926 for Mohammad Jahan Nuristani, and 1928 for Mohammad Amin Nuristani, Bakhteyar Gulam Mangal, and Din Mohammad Nuristani. In the latter case, we have a possible lead, as a Din Mohammad Din M Nooristan(y/i), born c. 1927, lived for many years in Virginia. The Social Security Death Index records a Din M. Nooristani of Aldie, Virginia, who was born October 1, 1925, dying on March 17, 2008. Unfortunately, we have no proof that he was the Olympian. About the others, Ahmad Yusufzai, Ahmad Jahan Nuristani, Ahmad Tajik, Mohammad Khogaini, Mohammad Attai, and G. Jagi (who we covered in an earlier post), we know nothing at all.

In terms of the football squad, which was eliminated by Luxembourg in the qualifying round, we have much of the same problem. Abdul Hamid Tajik, Abdul Shacour Azimi, Abdul Ghani Assar, and Yar Mohammad Barakzai were born in 1923, while Abdul Ahad Kharot and Mohammad Anwar Afzal were born in 1926. About Abdul Ghafoor Yusufzai, Abdul Ghafoor Assar, Mohamed Anwar Kharot, Mohammed Sarwar, and Mohamed Ibrahim Gharzai, we again know nothing.

Finally, we wanted to thank those who recently helped us solve some of our previously-featured Olympic mysteries. One contributor provided us proof that Australian silver medal-winning track athlete Graham Gipson, born May 21, 1932, was still alive at least as of 2017. Secondly, the family of Indian sport shooter Harihar Banerjee was kind enough to confirm that he was born April 15, 1922 in Kolkata and died March 28, 1999 in the same city, in addition to providing the picture above.

1932 Belgian Art Competitors

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to take a look a Belgian art competitors from the 1932 Los Angeles Games. While we are missing much data on art competitors in general, Belgium is one country in particular for whom we have several individuals who are lacking biographical details entirely.

We know at least a little about one: Marcel Prévost. Prévost competed in the paintings, drawings, and water colors event, and while we do not know which type he submitted, we do know that it was titled Coureurs (Runners) and received an honorable mention. It was most likely a painting, as this would align with his profession, and we are aware that he later taught at the Royal Academy of Mons.

Three of our other individuals at least have full names. The most prolific of them was Hélène Gérard, who submitted six entries into the painting, graphic arts, category: Throwing the Javelin, Tango, Golf, Tennis, Aquaplaning, and Perche Shooting. Valère De Moer, meanwhile, had four entries in the sculpturing, medals and reliefs division: Insignes (Insignia), Coupe metal (Metal Goblet), and two works titled Bouchon radiateur (Radiator Mascot). Anna Van Nuffel had just one entry, Hockey, in an unknown sculpting event.

Also competing in an unknown sculpting event was a Belgian individual who went only by “Daemers”. He submitted a work entitled Cricket, and we know nothing else about them. For D. Dumortier, who submitted Régates (Regattas) in an unknown painting event, we have little to go on besides that first initial. Finally there was Deryck, who submitted a design called Stadium in the architecture competition, and whose name is quite common and possibly even pseudonymous.

(Henri Niemgeerts)

There is another Belgian art competitor from that year who is a bit of an Olympic mystery. Fritz De Boever also took part in the architecture event with the work Zwembad Van Eyck (Swimming Palace). We suspect that he was Fritz Camillus De Boever, born January 11, 1909 in Ghent, but have not been able to prove this. Finally, on the topic of Belgian Olympians, we have an update: field hockey player Henri Niemegeerts, born February 15, 1922, whom we covered in a previous blog post as having possibly reached the age of 100, actually died September 19, 2016 at the age of 94, in Waterloo, Belgium.

Updates Following the Death of Celina Seghi

Last month we unfortunately noted the death of Italian alpine skier Celina Seghi, born March 6, 1920, who died July 27 at the age of 102. At the time of her death, she was the third-oldest Olympian overall and thus held numerous “titles” among the Oldest Olympians. While usually we prefer to announce the successors in a separate post, in this case there are so many, most of whom we have covered on this page multiple times, that we decided to use our weekly blog post to highlight all of the changes.

(Yvonne Chabot-Curtet)

In terms of broad categories, Seghi was the oldest living woman to have competed at the Olympics. That distinction now goes to Yvonne Chabot-Curtet, born May 28, 1920, who represented France in the long jump at the 1948 and 1952 Summer Games. Seghi was also the oldest living Winter Olympian, a title that now goes to Australia’s Frank Prihoda, born July 8, 1921, who took part in alpine skiing at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympics.

(Rhoda Wurtele, pictured in a clip from My Canadian Moment)
Seghi, however, competed at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Games, which means that Prihoda cannot inherit those titles. Those mantles, therefore, are taken by Micheline Lannoy and Rhoda Wurtele respectively. Lannoy, born January 31, 1925, won a gold medal for Belgium in the pairs figure skating event at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics. Wurtele, born January 21, 1922, took part in alpine skiing at the 1952 Oslo Olympics and competed in all three events.

Seghi was also the oldest living Italian Olympian and the new titleholder in that regard is Antonio Carattino, born April 2, 1923, who took part in the Olympic sailing tournament in 1952, 1956, and 1968. Finally, to update from another death from last month, Swedish triple jumper Arne Åhman was the oldest living Olympic athletics champion at the time of his death on July 5. That distinction now goes to American Bob Richards, born February 20, 1926, who took gold in the pole vault in 1952 and 1956 (and bronze in 1948). This also makes Vanja Blomberg, born January 28, 1929, who won a gold medal in the team portable apparatus at the 1952 Helsinki Games, the oldest living Swedish Olympic champion.

The 1948 Iraqi Olympic Delegation

Iraq made its début as a country at the 1948 London Olympics and 10 out of its 11 athletes were members of the national basketball delegation. Of these individuals, we have full biographical data for only one, George Hallaq, who later moved to the United States and taught business. For most, we have no information at all, and thus we have decided to dedicate a blog post to this pioneering team.

(Labib Hasso, pictured at الاطباء العراقيون)

The odd man out in this delegation was track athlete Labib Hasso, who was born in 1925 and died prior to 2008. He was eliminated in the first round of the 400 metres and later became a well-known physician in Iraq. He was not the only Iraqi to compete in track and field that year, however, as Dallah Ali Salman, a member of the basketball squad, also ran in the 100 and 200 metres, but was eliminated in the first round of both. Unfortunately, we know nothing else about him.

(Wadud Khalil)

We also know a fair amount about Wadud Khalil, who was a multi-sport athlete and captained Iraq’s first football team in addition to his international appearances in basketball. He had a football career in Europe and eventually returned to Baghdad, after which local sources have been unable to trace the details of his life. Born in 1927, he could still be alive, but there are some suggestions that he died after 2006.

(Kanan Awni, top, and Salih Faraj, bottom)

The only other individual we know anything about is Kanan Awni who, thanks to research from Connor Mah, we have a picture for and know that he was born c. 1928. We also have a picture for Salih Faraj and are aware that he was footballer alongside Wadud Khalil, but otherwise were have no biographical details. For the remaining members, Jalil Hashim, Kadir Irfan, Hamid Ahmed, Mahdi Salman, and Yonan Emile, we know nothing at all – it is possible that we have even their names wrong.

Iraq would not make an appearance at the Olympics again until 1960, although they did intend to send a track athlete, Ghanim Mahmoud, to the 1956 edition, but he did not ultimately compete. Mahmoud, another Olympic mystery for whom we have no biographical details, did eventually take part in the Games as a member of the 4×100 metres relay in 1960.

Japan’s Delegation to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics

A few weeks ago we covered the Japanese rowing delegation at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Today on the Oldest Olympians blog, we wanted to expand our look and raise a few additional cases of Japanese Olympians who remain somewhat mysterious.

(Hwang Eul-Su, pictured at kiss7.tistory.com)

The individual that we know the most about is Hwang Eul-Su, who represented Japan in the lightweight boxing tournament under the name of Otsu Shuko while Korea was under occupation. Although he was eliminated in the first round of that competition, he was more successful domestically, winning three consecutive Japanese national championships from 1929 through 1931. After his retirement, he worked as a coach for Japan and, after World War II, for both what was to become South and North Korea. He was last heard of in 1963, after which there seems to be no additional information on his life.

Japan also sent a substantial wrestling delegation to the Los Angeles Olympics, about whom we have very uneven information. For example, we know almost nothing about two members of the team: Yoshio Kono, who was eliminated in round two of the welterweight, freestyle event, and Shuichi Yoshida, who met the same fate in the Greco-Roman division. Two others, Kiyoshi Kase of the featherweight, Greco-Roman category and Eitaro Suzuki of the lightweight, freestyle event, are also lacking biographical details, but we at least know that they were active early enough to certainly be deceased.

(Boxing Postcard by Tomotari Sakurai)

If we were to expand our examination even further, we could mention Kiyoshi Murai, a reserve with the water polo squad about whom we know nothing. It might be more fruitful, however, to bring up the Olympic art competitors, of whom Japan sent many. For example, Toru Arai was active during the 1930s and competed in the painting competitions in 1932 and 1936, likely by submitting woodblock prints, but we lack biographical details. Tomotari Sakurai, meanwhile, competed in an unknown painting event, and while we have an example of his work, we otherwise know very little about his career or life. There is also Eiichi Kawasaki, who took part in sculpturing, about whom we also know nothing.

Historical Oldest Living Olympians

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

(Emily Rushton)

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

(Luc Alessandri)

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

(David McGowan)

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

(Eugen Schmidt)

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

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

All the Olympic Stats You'll Ever Need