Guyanese Olympic Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to take a look at Olympic mysteries from a country that does not get much attention often: Guyana. We were inspired to make this post partially by the fact that one of the nation’s weightlifters, Winston McArthur, would have turned 90 on January 1 if he were still alive, but we were unable to locate any additional information on him. Then, Connor Mah pointed out several more cases, and we decided to make a quick post showcasing some of the country’s athletes.

Laddie Lewis – Guyana’s lone cyclist at the 1948 London Olympics

Laddie Lewis, born in 1915, was the sole cyclist among Guyana’s four-man inaugural delegation to the Olympics in 1948. In track cycling, he placed 21st and last in the time trial and was eliminated in the round one repêchage of the sprint. He also competed in the road race, but did not finish. His real name was Lionel F. Lewis and we have confirmed that he is deceased; however, we have been able to uncover little else about him, aside from the fact that he was the stepfather of Guyanese politician Lindley Geborde.

21st July 1948: Charles Thompson from British Guiana practising his starts at Richmond Olympic Camp. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

(Charles Thompson, pictured at Getty Images)

Charles Thompson – Guyana’s lone track and field athlete at the 1948 London Olympics

Charles Thompson, born in 1921, represented Guyana in two events at the 1948 London Games, being eliminated in the first round of both the 100 metres and the long jump. He was also entered in the triple jump, but did not start. He may have lived in St. Lucia at some point, but unfortunately we know nothing else about his personal life or career.

Cecil Moore – Lone Olympian from Guyana at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Cecil Moore, born November 1, 1929, represented Guyana in the light-heavyweight weightlifting event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he placed 17th. Unfortunately, we know of no other results for him, nor any other details of his life.

Michael Swain – Member of Guyana’s weightlifting delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Michael Swain, born in 1933, represented Guyana in the bantamweight weightlifting tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where he placed joint-13th. He was also fourth in that event at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Connor Mah has found a potential missing link in an individual of this name who was born February 14, 1933 in Georgetown, Guyana and died October 15, 1978 in Alameda, California. Unfortunately, we have been unable to confirm if this was the Olympian.

That is all we have for today but, before we depart, we wanted to provide an update on two of the Olympians we listed as having last been heard from in 2011. We want to thank Vesa Tikander for confirming that Finnish marathoner Eino Oksanen is still alive at the age of 90. We also want to thank Ralf Regnitter who verified that Swiss sport shooter Erwin Vogt is also still at the age of 90.

Final Updates from 2021

Happy New Year everyone! For today’s blog, we have decided to do a quick wrap up of some of the outstanding issues from 2021 that we would like to address. Primarily, we wanted to update you on some excellent Canada-related research provided by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore that has solved some of our previous Olympic mysteries!

The first is a former Olympic rowing medal mystery, Al Taylor, who won bronze with Canada’s rowing eights at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Previously, all we knew about his private life was that he was born c. 1911 and was a member of the Leander Boat Club of Hamilton, Ontario. Thanks to some good research, however, we now know that he was born May 20, 1911 in Belleville, Ontario and died September 9, 1988 in Hamilton. By career, he was a police officer.

Mah and Gilmore were also able to solve some of Canada’s Olympic sport shooting medal mysteries. We knew a fair amount about George Beattie, born May 28, 1877, who won three silver medals in trap between 1908 and 1924, but we were missing his date of death, which we now know as April 6, 1953.

They were also able to verify that the 1908 bronze medal-winning military rifle shooter Bruce Williams, born December 1876, was indeed the Bertram Williams born December 18, 1876 in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia who died January 27, 1934 in Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Similarly, they were able to confirm the candidate for silver medal-winning trap shooter Mylie Fletcher: he was Miles Edwin Fletcher, a Hamilton firefighter, born August 23, 1868 in Binbrook, Ontario who died October 25, 1959 in Hamilton.

(Lotte Haidegger)

In a Canada-related matter, the duo was also able to confirm the information on Austrian athletes Lotte Haidegger and Felix Würth that was posted on Wikipedia. Haidegger did indeed die February 14, 2004 in Puslich, Ontario, while her husband Felix was never the oldest living Austrian Olympian, as he died February 25, 2014 in Guelph, Ontario.

Finally, we have one more death to acknowledge, that of American sailor Norman Freeman, born November 14, 1931, who died December 27 at the age of 90. Freeman represented his country in the Flying Dutchman event at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where he placed sixth with his teammate John Mathias. One year earlier, the duo had taken bronze in that class at the Pan American Games and in 1974 Freeman was a silver medalist in the Laser class at the World Championships. A lawyer by career, he was arrested in 2005 on charges of sexual molestation charges involving three minor girls. He pleaded no contest to one of the charges and was given a 6½ year prison term.

Last Known Alive in 2011

At the beginning of this year, we listed six individuals for whom we last had information on their being alive in 2010: Mahmoud Beiglou, Silvio Brivio, Aurelio Díaz, Mariya Dimova, Silvia Glatthard, and Shmuel Laviv-Lubin. Since then, we learned that Brivio died later in 2010 and Glatthard was still alive in 2012, which means that the rest will unfortunately have to be removed from our tables and placed on the “possibly living” list. This brings us to our next task, reviewing those who were last known living since 2011. Since we have eight such cases, we want to provide just a brief overview of each in today’s blog.

François Fug – Member of Luxembourg’s shooting delegation to the 1960 Rome Olympics

François Fug, born February 7, 1931, represented Luxembourg in the free pistol, 50 metres event at the 1960 Rome Games, where he placed 51st. Like many Luxembourg athletes, this is all that we know about him, although we were able to find a report that he was still alive in 2011. Since then, however, we have heard nothing.

Geoff Haskett – Member of Australia’s basketball squad at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Geoff Haskett, born August 3, 1929, represented Australia in the basketball tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where the nation placed 12th. He had a successful domestic career and was still alive in 2011, when he was inducted into the BNSW Hall of Fame. We do believe that he remains alive, but we have not seen any recent reports to confirm this.

(Ivan Jacob, pictured at The Hindu)

Ivan Jacob – Member of India’s athletics delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Ivan Jacob, born January 1, 1928, represented India in the 400 metres event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he was eliminated in round one. He had better luck at the 1954 Asian Games, where he took home a silver medal from the 4×400 metres relay. A four-time national champion in the 400 metres, he worked as a police officer and later moved to Australia, where we last heard of him in 2011, although we suspect that he is still alive.

(Lazar Hristov, second from the right in the top row, pictured at Retro-Football)

Lazar Hristov – Alternate on Bulgaria’s football squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Lazar Hristov, born March 18, 1925, was an alternate with Bulgaria’s football squad at the 1952 Helsinki Games, but did not see any playing time as his country was eliminated in the qualifying round. He earned six caps with the national team between 1947 and 1952 and had a lengthy domestic career with Lokomotiv Sofia from 1942 through 1956, winning the First League in 1945 and the Bulgarian Cup in 1945, 1948, and 1953. According to a report from 2011, he was still alive at that time, but we have not heard anything about him since.

(Guy McGregor, pictured at the Gisborne Photo News)

Guy McGregor – Member of New Zealand’s filed hockey squads at the 1956 and 1960 Summer Olympics

Guy McGregor, born July 11, 1930, represented New Zealand in the field hockey tournaments at the 1956 and 1960 Summer Olympics, where his nation placed sixth and fifth respectively. He had initially begun his sporting career as a rugby player, but a knee injury in his teens led him to switch to hockey, in addition to finding success in cricket. We know that he was a physical education instructor by career and we believe that he is still alive (and the oldest living New Zealand Olympian!), although we have not had official confirmation of this since 2011.

Merv Moy – Member of Australia’s basketball squad at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Merv Moy, born April 19, 1930, represented Australia in the basketball tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where his squad placed 12th. He had a decade-long domestic career, from 1948 through 1958, and was later employed by the NSW Police Force, rising to the rank of Chief Inspector. Like many of the individuals on this list, we suspect that he is still alive, although we have not had any clear confirmation of that since 2011.

Eino Oksanen – Member of Finland’s athletics delegation to the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Summer Olympics

Eino Oksanen, born May 7, 1931, represented Finland in the marathon at the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Summer Games, placing 10th, 24th, and 13th respectively. He is much better known, however, as a three-time winner of the Boston Marathon, having captured the crown in 1959, 1961, and 1962. He also won the 1959 and 1963 Nordic Championships, the 1957 Turku Marathon, and the 1959 Athens Peace Marathon, in addition to placing 12th at the 1962 European Championships. He later became a police officer and, while we find it unlikely that a three-time Boston Marathon winner would have died without widespread notice, stranger things have happened and the last source that we could find on him dates back to 2011.

Erwin Vogt – Member of Switzerland’s sport shooting delegations to the 1964, 1968, and 1972 Summer Olympics

Erwin Vogt, born September 17, 1931, represented Switzerland in five sport shooting events across three editions of the Summer Games, from 1964 through 1972, with a best finish of fifth in the free rifle, three positions, 300 metres in 1968. He had much better luck at the World Championships, winning 11 medals between 1962 and 1974, including gold in the 300 metres, free rifle kneeling event in 1962. Given this record, it seems unlikely that he died without notice, but we have not had an update since 2011.

Before we close, we wanted to point out one more sad development from 2021. Earlier this year, we noted that Julie Brougham, born May 20, 1954, had been the oldest competitor at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where she represented New Zealand in equestrian, and was therefore the oldest survivor of those Games. Unfortunately, she died of cancer on December 9, at the age of only 67. This leaves Australian equestrian Mary Hanna, born December 1, 1954, who was the oldest competitor at the 2020 Tokyo Games, as the oldest survivor from Rio.

Final 1931 Olympic Medal Mysteries

As we wrap up 2021, we wanted to share a handful of blog posts to address some outstanding issues from the year. Today, we wanted to address four Olympic medal mysteries from 1931 for whom we have been unable to find any confirmation as to whether they are alive or deceased.

Alena Chadimová – Member of the Czechoslovakian gymnastics team at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Alena Chadimová, born November 22, 1931, represented Czechoslovakia in gymnastics at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where she won a bronze medal with the team. Individually, her best result came in both the all-around and the floor exercise, where she placed 20th. We know that she won another bronze medal in the all-around at the 1954 World Championships, but otherwise we have been unable to locate more information about her.

Masami Kubota – Member of the Japanese gymnastics team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Masami Kubota, born December 6, 1931, won three medals for Japan in the gymnastics tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Games: silver in the parallel bars and the team all-around and bronze in the rings. He also took silver with the team at the 1954 World Championships but retired after the Olympics to take up teaching physical education at Tenri University. His wife Kyoko was also a gymnast in 1956, but unfortunately we have been unable to determine if either are still alive.

Aleksandr Zabelin – Member of the Soviet sport shooting delegation to the 1960 and 1964 Summer Olympics

Aleksandr Zabelin, also born December 6, 1931, won a bronze medal for the Soviet Union in the rapid-fire pistol, 25 metres event at the 1960 Rome Games. He attempted to repeat this feat in Tokyo in 1964, but placed 16th. At the World Championships, he was a four-time gold medalist between 1958 and 1966, in addition to winning silver in 1958, all in individual or team pistol 25 metres events. We have been unable, however, to locate information on his life after the 1970s.

(Cortés pictured at En el Viejo Salto)

Ramiro Cortés – Member of Uruguay’s basketball squad at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Ramiro Cortés, born 1931, was a member of the Uruguayan basketball team that won bronze in the tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Games. He also won two medals at the South American Championships, gold in 1955 and silver in 1958. A plaque was unveiled in his honor recently, although it was unclear from the article as to whether or not he was still alive. Additionally, Wikipedia lists his date of birth as July 13, although we have been unable to confirm this either.

In terms of updates to older Olympic medal mysteries, we were forwarded confirmation that Romanian bronze medal-winning wrestler Francisc Horvath, born October 19, 1928, was still alive in 2021. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Adriano Brunelli was able to confirm that Italian bronze medal-winning fencer Roberto Ferrari died October 11, 1996 and thus was never among the oldest Olympians. Finally, after our last post, an article on the 100th anniversary of Elda Cividino’s birth was printed, but it sadly revealed that she had died back in 2014. That is what we have for today, but we should be posting at least one more blog entry before the end of the year, and we hope that you will join us!

The Historical List of Olympic Centenarians

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to provide a quick update on one of our associated projects: the historical list of Olympic centenarians. The list, which can be found here, has had several additions over the past year, in addition to the five Olympians that have (thus far) turned 100 in 2021. We thought it prudent, therefore, to draw some attention to some of the names that have been added that have not yet received any attention.

First, however, wanted to address a surprising removal. We have long listed French gymnast Lucien Démanet, born December 6, 1874, as having died March 16, 1979 at the age of 104 years, 100 days. Démanet won bronze medals in both of the editions that he competed in, individually in 1900 and with the team in 1920, and his lifespan made him the last survivor that we knew of from the former edition. Recent research, however, had indicated that Démanet actually died June 20, 1943 and was therefore never among the oldest Olympians. This leaves Max Décugis, who won a silver medal in doubles tennis in 1900, as the last known survivor of those Games, having died September 6, 1978 at the age of 95. It also means that American gymnast Rudy Schrader was the oldest living Olympian following the death of artist Mary Wesselhoeft on March 23, 1971, holding that title for nearly a decade!

Speaking of last survivor lists, back in April we learned that French athlete Émile Papot was born August 19, 1885 and died April 16, 1986, at the age of 100 years, 240 days. Papot was entered into the high and long jump events at the 1906 Intercalated Games, but only competed in the former, failing to finish in the top eight. Having outlived Turkish athlete Vahram Papazyan by a month, however, he has now became the last known survivor of that edition, as well as the only known centenarian from those Games.

(Francesco Pittaluga, seated center, in a picture from Tuttolevante.it)

Just this week, meanwhile, we learned of a centenarian that had gone completely under our radar: Italian rower Francesco Pittaluga, born October 11, 1913, who died February 10, 2016 at the age of 102 years, 122 days. Pittaluga represented his country in the coxed fours event at the 1936 Berlin Games, just missing the podium in fourth. He had better luck at the 1938 European Championships, where he won the silver medal. We have also learned of a centenarian among Olympic referees. Norwegian skiing referee Wilhelm Nilssen, born March 27, 1915, died on November 10, 2018 at the age of 103 years, 228 days. In addition to being a referee for both Nordic combined and ski jumping events at the 1972 Sapporo Games, he had a distinguished career as a resistance fighter during World War II.

We have one more potential centenarian for 2021, Italian gymnast Elda Cividino, born December 13, 1921. Unfortunately, we have not had an update on her since 2013, and thus it remains to be seen if she is still living. After that, we will be moving into 2022, where we have 11 individuals listed as potentially turning 100. We hope, therefore, that you will join us for more to come!

1948 French Rowing Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to cover French rowing mysteries from 1948. France had a large rowing contingent to the London Games, but we are missing a considerable amount of biographical data on the team. With so many members to cover, therefore, we feel that it is best to just jump right into this topic!

Gérald Maquat – Member of the coxed fours crew

In the past, we were very uncertain as to even Gérald Maquat’s real name, but now we know more about him than any other individual that we will be engaging today. Born July 15, 1912 in Switzerland, he won national championships in 1936 and 1941 and a European title in 1947, along with bronze in 1951. In 1948, he was a member of the coxed fours squad that was eliminated in the semifinals. Given his date of birth, he is definitely deceased, but we have been unable to locate when this occurred, perhaps because he moved back to Switzerland in his later years.

Marcel Boigegrain – Member of the coxed fours crew

Marcel Boigegrain was a teammate of Maquat in both his 1947 European Championship victory and his Olympic coxed fours squad. Contemporary reports of the former event list him as being 18 at the time, which means that he was born c. 1929. This may mean that he is still alive, or that he is the Marcel Lucien Boigegrain who was born July 26, 1929 and died September 12, 1986. Either way, we have been unable to confirm anything with certainty.

René Lotti – Member of the coxed fours crew

The most mysterious member of the Olympic coxed fours squad is René Lotti, who is listed as Jacques Lotti in many sources. We do know that he had a lengthy rowing career and at least some success in the international realm, as he won a bronze medal in the eights at the 1955 Mediterranean Games, but little else is certain. One candidate for his identity is Reno Lotti, born April 17, 1929, died December 29, 2020, but this is speculative as it would require his name having been incorrect in all contemporary reports (which, sadly, is not unheard of).

Aristide Sartor – Member of the coxed pairs crew

For Aristide Sartor, we have at least a date and place of birth, July 28, 1923 in Italy, and we know that he was the brother of Ampélio Sartor, one of his teammates. At the 1948 London Games, he took part in the coxed pairs and was eliminated in the semifinals. Beyond this, we know little about him, including when (and if) he died.

Roger Crezen – Member of the coxed pairs crew

The Sartor brothers’ third teammate was Roger Crezen, who has been listed incorrectly in the past as René Crezen. Aside from his Olympic results, we know little else other than that he was active as early as 1934 and is therefore likely deceased. A possible candidate is Jean-Joseph Roger Crézen, born April 16, 1911 and died April 1, 1995, but we have been unable to confirm a connection.

Robert Léon – Member of the coxed eights crew

Crezen was the cox of the pairs, while Robert Léon was the cox of the eights, which did not start in the round one repêchage and was thus eliminated from the tournament. This squad contains two of the currently oldest living Olympians, Roger Lebranchu and Philippe Fauveau, but unfortunately we know little about Léon. He was active in the early-to-mid 1930s, however, so it seems likely that he is deceased.

Pierre Clergerie – Member of the coxed eights crew

Finally, we have Pierre Clergerie, another member of the coxed eights squad. He too was active in the mid-1930s and therefore seems likely to be deceased. He also competed at the 1947 European Championships, but otherwise we have been able to discover little else about him.

Finally, before we end this entry, we would like to acknowledge and thank Muhammad Afsar Khan, who has provided us with information that has helped us solve some of our previous Olympic mysteries. Most notably, he informed us that Pakistani Olympic hockey medalist Habibur Rehman, whom we covered previously on this blog, died January 19, 1984. He also had information on the death of another hockey medalist, Latif-ur Rehman, who won medals for both India and Pakistan and died February 27, 1987, as well as others. We very much appreciate such contributions!

Tun Maung

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to provide a post on an interesting case, that of Tun Maung, who represented Myanmar/Burma in weightlifting at three consecutive editions of the Games. Thanks to some excellent research by Connor Mah, we know a lot about him, yet still he remains an Olympic mystery.

(Tun Maung, pictured on the left at the Mandalay Bodybuilding Hall of Fame)

Tun Maung, born September 30, 1931, got his start in international weightlifting at the 1951 Asian Games, and then attended the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as a featherweight, placing 14th out of 22 entrants. He won that division at the Asian Games in 1954, and took bronze at the World Championships that same year. In 1955 he switched to the lightweight category and was again third at the World Championships, before placing eighth at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He was later fourth at the 1958 Asian Games and failed to record a mark in the snatch at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

A member of the Burma Amateur Weight Lifting Federation, Tun Maung was also the runner-up to two-time American Olympic champion Tommy Kono in the 1954 Mr. Universe international bodybuilding competition held in Paris, and finished in third place at the Mr. Asia bodybuilding competition in 1951. By all accounts, he seems to have been one of most noteworthy strongmen from Burma in the 1950s.

(Video footage of Maung begins at 1:49)

Aside from a few of the usual uncertain aspects, such as his year of birth, which is sometimes seen as 1928, and whether or not he is living, there are some additional mysteries surrounding Tun Maung. The first is his name, which is complicated by a Burmese naming system that does not follow western structures, can change over time, and is often complicated by indigenous honorifics such as “U” and “Bo”, as well as foreign titles such as “Captain” and “Sergeant”, all of which have been used to refer to Tun Maung. In some databases, he is listed as Nil Tun Maung, although it remains unclear as to whether “Nil” is part of his name or just a shorthand to indicate that he has no surname in the western sense.

A final complication is Tun Maung Kwye, born October 15, 1931 in the same place as the other Tun Maung. This individual was always a featherweight weightlifter: he was 14th and 7th in that division at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics respectively, and came in 5th at the 1958 Asian Games. What connection between the two, if any, is unclear but their similarities in date and place of birth, as well as weight classes and periods of activity, suggests that there might be some confusion in their results. At least one source claims that there were only two weightlifters at the Melbourne Games, which would indicate that the two Tun Maungs were one and the same and somehow competed in two different weight classes at the same Olympics.

Whatever the case, we hope that you have found this blog interesting and we will be back in a week with another topic. We hope that you will join us! We also wanted to point out one removal of an Olympian thanks to Mah’s research that might have gone under the radar: Norwegian alpine skier Jack Nielsen, Jr., born October 7, 1923, died May 8, 2020 in Switzerland at the age of 96.

Egyptian Olympians from 1928

Recently at Oldest Olympians, the Egyptian delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Games has been on our mind because we discovered that one of the competitors, wrestler Ibrahim Sobh, later became known as a poet, and thus we were able to uncover more of his life story. We have also been wanting to feature some of the lesser-known competitors from this edition, and thus today we have decided to feature a few of the Egyptian participants for whom we lack dates of birth and death.

(Ali Kamel, left, and Ibrahim Kamel, right, pictured in Al-Ahram)

Ali Kamel – Member of Egypt’s wrestling delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Ali Kamel represented Egypt in the Greco-Roman, featherweight competition at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, where he lost his first bout, won his second match, and was then eliminated in round three by the upcoming gold medalist Voldemar Väli of Estonia. Domestically, he had a successful career and was one of Alexandria’s best-known wrestlers during the 1920s, winning several national titles, but unfortunately his common name has made it difficult to track any details of his later life.

Ibrahim Kamel – Member of Egypt’s wrestling delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Much the same can be said of Ibrahim Kamel, who competed in the Greco-Roman bantamweight wrestling event in 1928 and lost his first two bouts, leading to his elimination from the competition. Competing out of Giza’s Tersana Club, he was of no relation to Ali Kamel, but saw similar domestic success in the Cairo region. Furthermore, just like Ali, his common name has made it difficult to know his ultimate fate.

Saul Moyal – Member of Egypt’s fencing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics

We know much more about fencer Saul Moyal, who represented Egypt in individual and team events in both foil and épée. The Egyptians were eliminated in the first round of the team foil and the quarterfinals of the épée, while individually Moyal was eliminated in the semifinals of the foil and placed 10th in the épée. He had better luck at the 1932 Maccabiah Games, where he won medals in all disciplines, and also performed well domestically, including being Egyptian foil runner-up in 1928 and third place in 1936. By career he was an employee of the Vacuum Oil Company of Cairo, but we have been unable to trace his activities after World War II.

(Mohamed Gamal)

There were also several members of the football team that we have been unable to uncover much information about, although some are relatively better known. Mohamed Shemais, for example, played with Tersana during the 1920s and was a member of the administrative committees for both the delegation to the 1948 London Olympics and the 1951 Mediterranean Games. He was still alive and living in Shubra, Cairo, in May 1960, although we have not been able to uncover his age at the time. Similarly, we know that El-Olympi player Mohamed Gamal was still alive and coaching in January 1949, but nothing further.

(Abdel Hamid Hamdi)

About other players, such as Ahmed Soliman and Abdel Hamid Hamdi, both of Al-Ahly, we know nothing. Furthermore, for at least one of the alternates on the team, Sid Ahmed, we do not even know what club he was a member of, or if there are errors in his name as presented by the relevant sources. Thus, as you can see, there is a lot to explore about the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, and so we hope that you will join us for future blogs as we continue to explore some of the lesser touched-upon aspects of these Games!

Missing Biographical Data from the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

After travelling back to 1904 for our last blog post, today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to approach an edition that is (relatively) more recent: the 1952 Helsinki Games. In particular, it was brought to our attention that out of all those who participated, only four are missing their complete birth data on Olympedia. Since there is more known in general about these athletes, given the era in which they competed, we felt that it would be worth featuring them here.

(Jehangir Naigamwalla, pictured on page 29 of the March 8, 1998 edition of The Times of India)

Jehangir Naigamwalla – Member of India’s water polo squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Jehangir Naigamwalla represented India in the water polo tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where his country was eliminated in the qualification round after being defeated by both Italy and the Soviet Union. He was also entered in swimming’s 200 metres breaststroke competition, but did not start. He had better luck at the 1951 Asian Games, where he won bronze medals in that event, as well as the 3×100 metres medley relay, and he was active in the postwar period until at least 1955. He was still alive in 1998, but unfortunately we have seen no updates since then and have no indication of his age.

(Juan Bizama, pictured at the Chilean National History Museum)

Juan Bizama – Member of Chile’s shooting delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Juan Bizama represented Chile in two small-bore rifle, 50 metres events at the 1952 Helsinki Games, placing 25th in the prone and 28th in the three positions. He had much better luck at the 1951 Pan American Games, where he took silver in the small-bore rifle, three positions team event and bronze in both the army rifle three positions and standing competitions. An army sergeant, he was active as early as 1940, but unfortunately we have been unable to locate any information about his age or activities after the 1950s.

(Karl Hofstetter, pictured in the archives of HC Olten)

Karl Hofstetter – Member of Switzerland’s field hockey squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Karl Hofstetter represented Switzerland in the field hockey tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where his country was eliminated by Austria in round one. A forward with HC Olten, we have been unable to uncover much else about him, as is often the case with individuals who participate in team sports. There is, however, certainly a possibility that he is still alive, and perhaps even under the age of 90.

Pradip Bose – Member of India’s cycling delegation to the 1952 Helsinki Games

Pradip Bose, born c. 1935, represented India in cycling’s road race at the 1952 Helsinki Games, but since no members of the team completed the course, they did not place in the event. Unfortunately, we know of no other results or life events, although he was aged only 17 at the Olympics, which means that he could very well still be alive.

Although these are the only four individuals completely missing biographical data for their birth, there are nearly 100 more competitors for whom only their year of birth is known and for whom their subsequent fate remains a mystery. With that in mind, it seems very likely that we will address this topic again sometime in the future, so we hope that you will join us!

The 1904 Gold Medal-Winning Tug-of-War Team

Today Oldest Olympians is going all the way back to the 1904 St. Louis Games, where the United States would have the largest number of athletes representing it until 1992. Of course, this is not too surprising when one considers that it was held in the midst of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and most of the competitors did not even know that they were taking part in the “Olympics”, as there were no official national delegations at the time. Thus Olympic historians have had to work hard in determining which events were Olympic and which were not and this had led to the appearance of many athletes whose identity is unknown, as they were not otherwise famous.

Milwaukee Athletic Club. Tug of War Olympic champions. [L-r, H. Seiling, C. Magnussen, P. Flanigan, B. Johnson, O.G. Olson]. [1904 Olympics]. [Louisiana Purchase Exposition]. LPE 917. Photograph, 1904. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. WF 0743. NS 16179. Scan © 2004, Missouri Historical Society.

One example that we have chosen to explore today is the Milwaukee Athletic Club’s gold medal-winning entry to the tug-of-war contest. Despite the team’s name, they were all actually members of the Columbian Knights Athletic Association in Chicago, which has made tracking them down even more difficult. One newspaper article stated that two of the members were originally from Milwaukee but had moved to Chicago, without specifying which ones. Despite the team’s victory in their event, the coverage in newspapers was relatively limited, without many identifying clues or sporting histories of the individual members. In terms of biographical data, only one, the Norwegian-born Conrad Magnusson, is complete.

(Oskar Gustave Olsen)

For two of the members, frequent contributors Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore have been able to at least identify a candidate. In addition to competing in the tug-of-war event, Oscar Olson was also one of four participants in the two-handed weightlifting event. Newspaper accounts seem to confirm that an O.G. Olsen was a member of the Sleipner Athletic Club (later known as the Norwegian-American Athletic Association) during the 1900s in Chicago, alongside Magnusson. Census research suggests that Oskar Gustave Olsen, born December 15, 1875 in Oslo and died December 5, 1962 in Chicago was likely the athlete. This Olsen was a machinist who had immigrated from Norway in 1881 and spent his life in Chicago. Although this Oskar Olsen’s picture resembles that of the Olympian, there is no concrete evidence tying the two together. 

(Henry Conrad Sieling)

Similarly, a later-in-life photo of Henry Conrad Sieling, born February 5, 1869 in Hanover Germany and died February 6, 1949 in Chicago resembles that of the Olympian Henry Seiling. He was a laborer who had lived in Chicago since immigrating as an infant, and research of census records suggests that he is a likely candidate, though we have not been able to verify this with certainty. As for Sidney Johnson (whose name is sometimes listed as “B. Johnson” or “B. B. Johnson”) and Patrick Flanagan (also spelled “Flannigan” in some sources), we have essentially nothing except for their photos above, due to their common names and lack of other mentions in newspapers. Olson, Magnusson and Johnson seem to have competed together again in a tug-of-war event at an athletics meet in Chicago under the Milwaukee Athletic Club banner in March 1905; this is the last certain mention that we have been able to find. Even though we have nothing to go on, however, we still wanted to share this as a reminder that even some of the most decorated American Olympians can be lost to obscurity, and we hope that at some time in the future we can uncover the stories of their lives once more.

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