TEAM EVENT STREAKS

In the US sporting media much is being made of the USA women’s basketball team, which could win its 7th consecutive gold medal in Tokyo (1996-2020), equalling the record of the USA men from 1936-68, when they won 7 straight Olympic basketball titles. However, there are a number of other national winning streaks on the line in Tokyo in team events, as opposed to just team sports, which I discussed yesterday in relation to Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi and women’s basketball, and several of them involve USA winning streaks.

The longest streak is by the USA men in swimming medley relay. They have now won the event at 9 straight Olympics, going back to 1984. This is an absolute Olympic record for the longest streak by any nation in a team event in any sport, and they will be going for 10 in Tokyo.

Korea (South) also has a long ongoing streak, with their women having won the team archery gold medal at each Olympics from 1988-2016 – 8 straight. They share this mark with three others although none of the streaks are ongoing. The USA won the men’s 4×100 metre relay in athletics at each Olympics from 1920 to 1956. United States’ rowers also won the men’s coxed eights at the same Olympics – 1920-56, for 8 straight. And finally, the Soviet Union women gymnasts won the team title consecutively from 1952-80. A case could be made for adding the USA again to this list with their men’s swimming short freestyle relay team, which won every year from 1904 to 1996 – 8 consecutive golds. The event was not raced from 1908-60, was not contested in 1976 or 1980, and in 1904 it was swim at 4×50 yards, rather than the traditional 4×100 metres.

There are several other long national streaks on the line in Tokyo. The USA women have won 6 consecutive gold medals in the 4×400 relay in athletics. There are 5 team events in which nations have a 5-gold winning streak coming into Tokyo, all won from 2000-16: Russia in artistic swimming in both duet and team, Russia again in rhythmic gymnastics group competition, China in women’s synchronized platform diving, and Great Britain in men’s fours rowing. One could argue that Russia cannot extend their streak technically, as they will not be competing in Tokyo as the Russian Federation, but rather the Russian Olympic Committee.

WHO IS AN OLYMPIAN?

Coco Gauff, the young American tennis phenom who recently went to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and the fourth round at Wimbledon, was named to the 2020 USA Olympic team, but she then tested positive for COVID-19 and had to withdraw. Is Coco Gauff an Olympian?

At Sochi in 2014 Heidi Kloser was selected for @TeamUSA in freestyle skiing, but in training the day before her competition she fractured an ankle and could not compete. Videos of the injury showed her poignantly crying out, “Am I still an Olympian?” Is Heidi Kloser an Olympian?

Basically, the question is “What defines who is or who is not an Olympian?” Shortly over a year ago the IOC started promoting the policy of Olympians being able to add “OLY” after their names, similar to how doctors add MD, research doctorates use PhD, or lawyers use JD. But who exactly gets to use the “OLY” designation? You might think its an easy answer but it’s not.

The IOC has no strict definition for an Olympian. The term is not mentioned in the Olympic Charter, as only the word athlete is used.

There is an “alumni” group of Olympians termed the World Olympians Association (WOA). They have had definitions for their members in the past but those definitions have changed with time. When contacting Dick Fosbury, past President of the WOA, and Willie Banks, former President of the US Olympians Association, both agreed that there is no strict definition that is agreed upon. Banks said that “This has been a sticky problem for as long as there has been the Olympic Games. … However, traditionally, an Olympian is someone who has ‘participated’ in the Olympic Games.”

National Olympic Committees (NOCs) often have different policies about who is an Olympian. I can assure you that the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) considers the members of the team they named for the 1980 Olympic Games as Olympians, even though they never competed, never were entered, and never came close to Moscow. But per the USOPC they are Olympians, and many NOCs consider their reserves and alternates as Olympians.

At Olympedia we originally used the policy to only include athletes who actually competed in the Olympics – who stepped onto the field of play. Then around 2003, IOC President Jacques Rogge changed IOC protocol somewhat. Previously, athletes in team sports (football, basketball, etc) who were on medal-winning teams did not receive medals if they did not compete in any matches or games. Rogge, a former rugby player and sailing Olympian, thought this was wrong as all team members contribute to the success of the team in team sports. So, he changed the policy and non-starters in team sports started receiving medals.

With Olympedia we were now left with the problem of not including athletes who did not compete, but who still received medals, so we had to change our policy and we began adding DNS = did not start athletes. Our policy is fairly strict, however, as the athletes must be listed in the Official Results as DNS, or in the final Official Entry lists, both of which we have now – but not always in the early days of the Olympics. Because we did not want to discriminate against athletes by sports, we changed this policy for all DNS athletes in all sports, not simply team sports.

A problem along those lines has recently arisen with our data. In 1976, many African nations boycotted the Montreal Olympics because New Zealand was competing and New Zealand’s rugby team, ironically named in this case the All-Blacks, had recently toured South Africa, at that time a nation known for its policy of apartheid. However, the African nations’ athletes were entered – they are in the final Official Entry lists. Should we list them as Olympians and include them in Olympedia? We’ve been debating this among ourselves. If we include them, we are including athletes whose nations (in most cases) officially did not compete at the Games, but they could be counted as Olympians despite that. For now we have not added them.

One other thing we see all the time is what we term “Triple O’s”, standing for “Obituary Only Olympians”. We see obituaries of former athletes that list them as Olympians, yet they are not in our database and we can find nothing about them even being entered. Probably they were alternates to some NOCs Olympic team at some team. Are they Olympians? Should alternates or reserves to an Olympic team be considered Olympians?

So it’s a tricky problem. We get asked a lot “Who is an Olympian?” And we don’t have a good answer to the question.

SUE BIRD AND DIANA TAURASI AND GOLD MEDAL STREAKS

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have made the US women’s basketball team for the 5th consecutive Olympics. They have won gold medals at their previous 4 Olympics, and the US women are favored to repeat as Olympic Champions for the 7th straight Games. Where does that put the US women and Ms. Bird and Ms. Taurasi historically?

If the USA women win the title in Tokyo, Bird and Taurasi will win their 5th consecutive gold medal in basketball. Five gold medals would move them to =13th on the list of gold medal winners among Olympic women. The list is led by Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won 9 gold medals in 1956-64. Three women – Marit Bjørgen of Norway in cross-country skiing, Birgit Fischer-Schmidt of Germany/East Germany in sprint canoeing, and Jenny Thompson, an American swimmer – have won 8 gold medals, followed by Czechoslovakian gymnast Věra Čáslavská with 7.

But if successful, Bird and Taurasi will have won 5 gold medals in 5 consecutive Olympics, a feat surpassed among women only by Valentina Vezzali of Italy in fencing, who won 6 gold medals in 5 consecutive Olympics. Bird and Taurasi would become the only Olympians, women or men, to win 5 gold medals in team sports. They currently share the record of 4 with three other American women basketballers, Lisa Leslie, Theresa Edwards, and Tamika Catchings; and with three Canadian ice hockey players – Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford, and Caroline Ouellette.

Among men and women, Bird and Taurasi would also join Aladár Gerevich, a Hungarian fencer who won 7 golds in 6 consecutive Olympics; Pál Kovács, another Hungarian fencer with 6 golds at 5 consecutive Olympics; and Steven Redgrave, a British rower who won 5 golds at 5 straight Olympics.

As to the USA women’s team, if they take their 7th consecutive gold medal, they would also reach Everest-like air in basketball and Olympic team sports. A 7th gold would match the Olympic best for team sports set by the USA men in basketball from 1936 to 1968. Besides the USA hoopsters, India also won 6 consecutive Olympic titles in a team sport – hockey (field) – from 1928-56; and in ice hockey both Canada and the Soviet Union had 4 gold medal streaks – Canada in 1920-32 by their men, and 2002-14 by their women, and the Soviet men in 1964-76.

The other best streaks in the various team sports on the Olympic Program are as follows: Beach Volleyball (3) – 2004-12 by USA (Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh) (women); Curling – 2006-14 by Canada (men); Handball (3) – 1996-2004 by Denmark (women); Polo (3) – 1900-20 by Great Britain (men); Softball (3) – 1996-2004 by the United States (women); Volleyball (3) – 1992-2000 by Cuba (women); and Water Polo (3) – 1908-20 by Great Britain (men) and 2000-08 by Hungary (men).

Addressing More Recent Removals

Because it has been over a year since we last did this, today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to address three of the recent removals from our list that were not discussed in a separate post on our Twitter or Facebook. Usually this happens when an individual we believe to be alive turns out to have been deceased for a long period of time, so we cannot devote an individual post to them. While we are at it, we also wanted to point out some of the updates that we had on previously featured cases.

Theresa Offredy – Member of the British fencing delegation to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Theresa Offredy, born May 4, 1930, represented Great Britain in the team foil fencing event at the 1964 Tokyo Games, where her country was eliminated in round one. We covered her in an earlier blog post with information that she was still alive in 2010, just at the edge of when we would list someone as living on our tables. Unfortunately, we learned through probate research conducted by Ian Morrison that Offredy died April 17, 2017, at the age of 86.

(Bechara Abou Rejalie, pictured at Abdo Gedeon)

Bechara Abou Rejalie – Member of Lebanon’s wrestling delegation to the 1948 London Olympics

Bechara Abou Rejalie, born in 1922, represented Lebanon in the lightweight, freestyle wrestling competition at the 1948 London Games, where he withdrew in the second round. We last had confirmation of his being alive in 2015, and thus for many years we have listed him as the oldest living Lebanese Olympian. We recently discovered evidence, however, that he died at some point between April 2019 and April 2021, although we do not know the exact date. This makes Abdallah Sidani, his wrestling compatriot at the London Games, the oldest living Lebanese Olympian that we know of, and he was also last known to be living in 2015, in Saudi Arabia.

(Styrczula, kneeling on the left, at Dziennik Polski)

Stanisław Styrczula – Member of the Polish biathlon delegation to the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics

Earlier this year, on what we believed to be his 92nd birthday, we featured Stanisław Styrczula, born January 26, 1929, as the oldest living Olympic biathlete. Styrczula represented his country in the 20 kilometer event at the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, where he placed 35th. He also took part in the 1958, 1961, and 1962 World Championships and won two national titles in the 4×10 kilometer competition in 1951 and 1954. We learned recently, however, that Styrczula actually died August 17, 2020, at the age of 91. This makes Great Britain’s Norman Shutt (another individual who has been featured on our blog), born November 9, 1929, the oldest living Olympic biathlete.

In terms of updates, thanks to his son Bassam Zakaria Chehab, we learned that Lebanese Olympic silver medal-winning wrestler Zakaria Chihab, who we featured in this blog as having an uncertain date of death, died November 1984 in Kuwait. Earlier in the year, we chronicled the mysterious J. Basham, who represented Great Britain as a welterweight at the 1924 Paris Olympics, and whose identity might have been conflated with several others. Thanks to some aid from a relative, we learned that the Olympian was James George Basham, who was born May 12, 1903 and died in 1977. Finally, research by Connor Mah, who contacted the Olympian’s granddaughter, was able to verify the identity of one of the mystery Indian competitors from the 1928 Amsterdam Games. It turns out that “R. Burns” was actually Ronald Bertram Chesney Burns, born October 9, 1903, who died June 7, 1985. A biography of him is now available at Olympedia.

That is all that we have for you today! We were happy to tie up some loose ends, and we hope that you enjoyed reading them as well! Join us next week when we will pursue another topic at Oldest Olympians!

The 1932 Egyptian Weightlifting Delegation

Today on Oldest Olympians we are returning to the topic of a theoretical Egyptian delegation to the 1932 Los Angeles Games by looking at a sport in which the nation would not only have participated in, but in which it would almost certainly have claimed medals: weightlifting. Unlike track and field athletics, Egypt was an international power in weightlifting during this era, but the national boycott prevented it from adding more laurels in Los Angeles.

(Attia Mohammed)

Of the five national champions, we have already covered three in this blog as individuals who won medals at the Games. In the featherweight division, an 18-year-old Attia Mohammed won with a total lift of 285.0 kg. Had he repeated this feat in Los Angeles, he would have taken home the silver medal. Unfortunately, he would have to wait 16 years to make his Olympic début at the 1948 London Games. By then he was competing as a lightweight and took silver in that division, losing the gold to his compatriot Ibrahim Shams by virtue of Shams’ equal total lift, but lower body weight.

(Anwar Mousbah)

The winner of the national championships in the lightweight category in 1932, meanwhile, was 19-year-old Anwar Mousbah, with a total lift of 315.5. This also would have been good enough for silver in Los Angeles, but thankfully Mousbah got the chance to compete four years later and capture gold, albeit with a much heavier lift of 342.5. The Egyptian heavyweight winner in 1932 was Sayed Nosseir, who had been the Olympic light-heavyweight champion in 1928. His winning lift in 1932, however, would only have placed him in fifth in the Los Angeles heavyweight tournament.

(From left to right, Moukhtar Hussein, Sayed Nosseir, and ‘Antar ‘Arafa, pictured in the April 25, 1932 edition of Al-Ahram)

The winner of the light-heavyweight competition was Moukhtar Hussein, who had competed as a lightweight at the 1928 Amsterdam Games and placed seventh. He had moved up to light-heavyweight in 1932 and won the nationals with a total lift of 276. He had been the 1931 European Champion, but would have placed last in the field in Los Angeles with his Egyptian championship-winning lift. Nonetheless, he went on to set three light-heavyweight world records and placed fifth as a heavyweight at the 1936 Berlin Games.

The final lifter, and winner of the middleweight division, was ‘Antar ‘Arafa. ‘Arafa set several world records in the first half of the 1930s and his winning lift in 1932, 355.5, would have won him gold at the Los Angeles Olympics. His case is perhaps the most unfortunate of all, as not only was he deprived of the opportunity to become an Olympic champion by the boycott, but he never appeared at the Games at all and cannot even claim status as an Olympian.

That is all that we have for today, but we hope that you will join us again next week for a new topic (we’ve learned to stop predicting what we might write about)!

Four March 2021 Deaths

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to look at those Olympians aged 90 and above who died in March 2021 because, during that month, we lost 13 individuals in this category. We have covered nine of these athletes on our page already: Michèle Angirany, József Gurovits, Ursula Happe, Ulisses dos Santos, Aulis Sipponen, Hans Standl, Josy Stoffel, Suzanne Zimmerman, and Lennart Larsson. The other four, however, have only just come to our attention, and we wanted to pay a brief tribute to each of them in this blog entry.

(Yevgeny Kadyaykin, pictured in his obituary)

Yevgeny Kadyaykin – Member of the Soviet athletic delegation to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Yevgeny Kadyaykin, born August 15, 1928, represented the Soviet Union in the 3000 metres steeplechase at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where he was eliminated in round one. He was eighth in that event at the 1954 European Championships and earned five national titles during his career. After retiring, he worked as a coach and sports professor, and played billiards nationally at the masters’ level. He died on March 5 at the age of 92.

(Yevgeny Morozov, pictured in his obituary)

Yevgeny Morozov – Member of the Soviet coxed pairs squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Yevgeny Morozov, born January 12, 1929, represented the Soviet Union in the coxed pairs rowing event at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he was eliminated in the semi-finals repêchage. This was his only major international competition, but he did win a Soviet title in 1950 and later gained notoriety for his five decade-long coaching career, training dozens of national and international champions at his rowing school. He died on March 23 at the age of 92.

(Enrique Martínez, pictured in his obituary)

Enrique Martínez – Member of the Spanish equestrian delegations to the 1960, 1964, and 1972 Summer Olympics

Enrique Martínez, born July 13, 1930, represented Spain in the equestrian tournaments at three editions of the Olympic Games. In 1960 he competed in eventing, while in 1964 and 1972 he took part in jumping, although he never reached the podium individually or with the team. He was a gold medalist at the 1969 World Military Championships and retired from the sport in 1974, later turning to administration, judging, and coaching, in addition to his professorship at the Military Riding School. He died on March 24 at the age of 90.

Mihai Bîră, Sr. – Member of the Romanian alpine skiing delegations to the 1948 and 1952 Winter Olympics

Mihai Bîră, Sr., born September 5, 1929, represented Romania in the alpine skiing tournaments at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Olympics. In 1948 he only appeared in the downhill, placing joint-71st, while in 1952 he took part in all three events, with a best finish of joint-35th in the downhill. He was a gold medalist at the 1951 Winter World University Games and earned three more at the 1958 European University Championships, in addition to capturing the European Cup in alpine skiing in 1952. He was later involved in the administration of the sport internationally and within Romania and worked as a writer and television commentator. His son, Mihai Bîră, Jr., represented Romania in alpine skiing at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. Bîră Sr. died in March, on the 15th or earlier, at the age of 91.

The 1932 Northern Ontario Curling Team

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to share a different kind of mystery from 1932, one focusing on the winter edition, held in Lake Placid, rather than the summer. It concerns the curling demonstration event, the “Northern Ontario” team that won two of its games and lost another two, and one mystery competitor.

(Coverage of the 1932 curling demonstration event from Vancouver’s The Province, February 5, 1932, pg. 18)

We place “Northern Ontario” in quotations because while that was the team’s official designation, research by Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore has demonstrated that none of the members were actually from that region of the province. Cecil George was a member of the Orillia Curling Club, while Johnny Walker and Peter Lyall were from Montreal. It is with the fourth competitor, therefore, listed as W. W. Thompson, that the mystery lies.

(W.W. Thompson of Winnipeg, as pictured in the Annual Bonspiel of the Manitoba Curling Association – Vol 61 – 1949)

If his name were accurate, as listed in the Olympic Report, William Winfred “Wynn/Winn” Thompson of Winnipeg, born January 19, 1885 in Bethany, Ontario and died in 1957, would be the likely candidate. This Thompson was well-known in curling circles as a player and executive and became an honorary life member of the Manitoba Curling Association for his services in 1948. Given that none of the other players on the team were from Northern Ontario, his home base of Manitoba does not present too many concerns. Some sources, however, leave ambiguity to other important questions: did Thompson play in all four of the team’s matches? Did he even play at all?

(Clip about W. G. Allen from the February 5, 1932 edition of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, pg. 17)

Winnipeg sportswriter William George Allen would have answered at least the first question as a “no”. Allen, born April 5, 1880 and died January 9, 1939, was well-known as a local sportswriter who claimed in a 1932 article that he had played in one of the Northern Ontario team’s matches in Lake Placid. This is supported by at least one contemporary report, from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, which notes that Allen and Lyall “filled in the gap” on the squad and competed in a match against a New York rink.

One additional source complicates matters even further. It suggests that the original lineup of the Northern Ontario team was a no-show, and that Cecil George and another Orillia curler, E. E. Webb, attended the Games as visitors, only to answer the call to help replace the Northern Ontario squad and actually compete in the event. With all of this, it seems that all we can say for certain at this point is that Lyall and George certainly competed, Walker (mentioned briefly in reports) almost certainly did, and Thompson and Webb may have taken part in at least one match each. To go back to the second question, however, it is possible that Thompson never actually took part, and that the Olympic Report was merely reflecting an outdated entry list.

That is what we have for today, but we intend to continue our look into the depression-era Olympics by returning to the absent Egyptian national delegation. We hope that you enjoyed today’s post and that you will join us next time as well!

The 1932 Egyptian Athletics Delegation

After last week’s blog post on a theoretical Egyptian football squad at the 1932 Los Angeles, we got to thinking – what if Egypt had sent a full delegation to those Games? Unlike with football, other sports held national championships that year that would give a strong indication as to who might have represented the country in various events. Thus, we have decided to spend a little bit of time writing about each sport and who might have been an Olympian had Egypt not boycotted the Games.

(Part one of the results of the 1932 Egyptian national athletics championships, from the April 11, 1932 edition of Al-Ahram)

Today we are looking into track and field athletics, arguably the highlight of any edition of the Summer Olympics. Egypt, however, has never been a powerhouse in this sport; its best result in the history of the Games came when Hassan Badra placed 11th in the triple jump at the 1984 Los Angles Olympics. This, however, provides us with an opportunity to delve into the ostensible focus of this blog, Olympic mysteries, since those Egyptians who did compete in track and field in the earliest editions of the Games tend to be relatively obscure.

(Part two of the results of the 1932 Egyptian national athletics championships)

The task is complicated slightly by the fact that Greek clubs tended to dominate this sport prior to World War II. From 1920 on, however, Egypt’s delegations to the Olympics were composed almost exclusively of indigenous Egyptians. As we mentioned in the previous post, Egypt boycotted the 1932 Los Angeles Games precisely because they were represented by a Greek, rather than an Egyptian, on the IOC, and thus it seems highly unlikely that they would have sent any individuals of Greek ancestry to the Games if they had participated.

This leaves us with only five Egyptians who earned individual medals at the national championships in 1932, thus limiting the pool of who might have been on the team. This is not surprising: Egypt had two athletics competitors in 1920, one in 1924, and none in 1928. What is a little more unexpected is that the 1924 competitor, Mohamed El-Sayed of Alexandria, was still in good form in 1932. El-Sayed had represented Egypt in the 1500 and 5000 metres events at the 1924 Paris Games, but was eliminated in the heats of each. Born in 1905, he was in his late-20s in 1932 and still performing well domestically: he won the 1500, 5000 and 10,000 metres and was runner-up in the 800 metres.

Thus we suspect that El-Sayed would have represented Egypt in at least the former three events in Los Angeles. His 1932 winning time of 15:45 in the 5000 would not have allowed him to exit the qualification round, while even his best time of 15:23.4, set in 1928, would have left him well outside the medal range. As for the 10,000 metres, he won the nationals with 35:57, far off of podium time. His best event was the 1500, and he has a personal best set that year of 4:12.4. Even this, however, although perhaps qualifying him for the final in Los Angeles, would not have been sufficient for a podium finish. Unfortunately, given how common his name was, and the limited attention given to athletics in Egypt during this era, we have no further biographical details about him and know nothing about his later life.

At the 1932 national championships, the runner-up in the 1500 and the winner of the 800 metres was Abu Al-Yazid El-Halawani, born in 1907, who represented Haras Galalat Al-Malik (King’s Guard). His winning time at the nationals, 2:04.4, would have been the slowest time in the event in Los Angeles. El-Halawani, however, would hit the peak of his career a few years later, when on May 16, 1936, he set an Egyptian record of 1:52 in the 800 and was selected to represent his country in that event, as well as the 400 metres hurdles, at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His 800 time would have put him in contention for gold at the Games (which makes us suspicious that this result was a misprint or error), but he was, per the August 4, 1936 edition of the Egyptian Gazette, “unfit” in Berlin and did not start either competition. Nonetheless, he continued to compete and was the Egyptian runner-up in the 400 metres and the 400 metres hurdles in 1939. Unfortunately, we were unable to discover what happened to him after World War II.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Abu Sobea of Cairo, born in 1907, was the runner-up in the 5000 and 10,000 metres events at the 1932 national championships. Like El-Halawani, he was a member of Haras Galalat Al-Malik and reached his peak a few later when he was selected to represent Egypt in the 1500 and 5000 meters in Berlin. While he did not start the 1500, he did compete in the 5000, but was eliminated in the heats. He set a personal best of 15:41.6 in 1938 and was runner-up in that event again in 1939, which led to his selection to represent Egypt at the 1940 Summer Olympics. That tournament’s subsequent cancellation meant that Abu Sobea likely missed out on two editions of the Games that he would otherwise have been eligible for. Unfortunately, details of his later life are also unknown.

The final competitors are more mysterious. An individual by the name of Sadiq Muhammad, of Haras Al-Hadud (Border Guards), was runner-up in the discus, with 35.19 metres, and javelin throw, with 49.385 metres, and third in the 400 metres. Neither of his field marks would have placed him in contention for the final. As his name is very common and he never participated in the Olympics, we know nothing else about him. Finally, ‘Id ‘Abd Al-Saadiq, of the Cairo Club, came in third in the 10,000 metres. He also competed into the late 1930s, but does not appear to have been a contender for the Berlin Games.

We suspect, therefore, that the first three on this list certainly would have taken part in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics if given the chance. Perhaps if they had, we would know more about them today, although it is equally possible that they would have remained just as forgotten due to the lack of attention paid to Egyptian track and field athletics at the time. Regardless, we hope that you found this post at least a little interesting and hope that you will join us when we look at other possibly make-ups for the 1932 Egyptian sports!

WHAT WILL KATIE DO?

So Katie Ledecky will swim at her third US Olympic Trials tomorrow, starting her Olympic campaign in the 400 metre freestyle. What can she accomplish at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in terms of her Olympic legacy?

Ledecky will swim 4 individual events at the Trials – the 200, 400, 800, and 1500 metre freestyles – and is almost a lock to make the US team in all 4 events. Making the team in the 200 freestyle will put her on the 4×200 freestyle relay team, and she may also be placed on the team as a prelim swimmer for the 4×100 freestyle relay. That would be 6 events in an ideal scenario.

Ledecky currently has 6 Olympic medals – 5 gold and 1 silver. If she were to win 6 gold medals, which I think is an extreme long shot, she would equal the Olympic record for women set by East German swimmer Kristen Otto at the 1988 Seoul Olympics who had, shall we say, some assistance.

Just winning 6 medals would put Ledecky in elite company, giving her 12 Olympic medals. That would be equal 3rd all-time among female Olympians, trailing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina (18) and Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen (15). She would then tie 3 American swimmers – Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres, and Natalie Coughlin – and East German canoeist Birgit Fischer-Schmidt.

I think its more reasonable to think Ledecky could win 4 Olympic medals, as a medal in the 200 free or the 4×100 free relay are by no means guarantees. That would give her 10 medals and bring her to equal 9th on the list for female Olympians.

However, Ledecky has a better chance to assault the Olympic record book for most gold medals among women. She has 5 gold medals, and the record for women is 9 by Latynina, with Bjørgen, Thompson, and Fischer-Schmidt next with 8 gold medals.

Ledecky could win 5 gold medals in the 4 freestyle races and the 4×200 free relay, but that is a long shot. She will be favored in the 800 and 1,500, and the USA will likely be favored in that relay, but she is not expected to win the 200 free. In the 400 free, she has been dominant but Australia’s Ariarne Titmus swam the 2nd fastest time ever yesterday at the Australian Olympic trials, and is the world leader for 2021. Titmus defeated Ledecky at the 2019 World Championships, although Ledecky was sick there, but Titmus and Ledecky will battle it out in the 400 free.

If Ledecky could win 5 gold medals, she would become the all-time leader among Olympic women with 10 gold medals. She would also become the second female Olympian, after Otto, to win more than 4 gold medals at a single Games. Even if she wins 4 gold medals she would tie Larisa Latynina for the most Olympic gold medals won by a woman.

The 1932 Egyptian Olympic Football Squad

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to engage in some speculation: in an alternate timeline, who might have been on Egypt’s football squad had they played at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics? The question is problematic for two reasons, the first being that there was no football tournament at these Games, as FIFA wanted to promote the World Cup instead. Even if there had been, however, Egypt would not have been there as they boycotted these Olympics due to their lack of proper representation at the International Olympic Committee, where their member was Angelos Bolonaki, a Greek in all but residence, rather than an Egyptian. So why bother to even ask this question? Speculative history can be fun, and we have seen this very inquiry pursued for other teams that might have made the Games. Since Egypt is our area of expertise, we felt that it might be worthwhile in engaging in a little bit of “what if?”

The logical place to search for answers in this regard would be to look at the surrounding international tournaments and see who would have been in their prime in 1932. Thankfully, we have three of the four major data points in this regard, as Egypt took part in the 1928 and 1936 Olympic tournaments, as well as the 1934 World Cup. What about the 1930 World Cup? Egypt was definitely invited, even though they ultimately did not attend, so it stands to reason that there may have been a squad prepared that would give us more clues.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case. According to Yasser Ayoub’s excellent and detailed Arabic-language work “Egypt and Football”, no confirmed account of why Egypt did not participate in 1930 has survived, leaving three common explanations: that the distance to Uruguay was too far, that a squad was prepared but missed their boat, and that the British blocked Egypt’s participation. Ayoub ultimately rejects all of these answers, speculating instead that there simply was not enough interest in Egypt to send a team to the first World Cup, outside of a small faction of diehard football fans. Thus, there was no 1930 lineup from which we can draw more information.

(Mokhtar El-Tetsh)

One obvious inclusion would be Mokhtar El-Tetsh, one of Egypt’s most famous footballers of the era and a powerful striker. El-Tetsh attended all three of the aforementioned tournaments (as well as the 1924 Paris Olympics) and would almost certainly have been on the 1930 World Cup squad had such a team existed. It was during a review of his career, however, that we came across an interesting series of matches, ones that did not involve him.

(Announcement of the squad to face the Hungarians from Al-Ahram, January 31, 1932)

In February 1932, a Hungarian team visited Egypt for a series of matches to test the mettle of the two national squads. A little archival research helped us locate the Egyptian lineup for those games, the first squad of which is listed as follows:

Goalkeeper: Mukhtar Amin

Backs: Kamel Masoud, Ahmed Salem

Other Defense: Amin Sabry, Hassan Raghab, Hassan Al-Swifi

Attackers: Latif, Mansour, Ramzi, Mustafa Kamel, Mahran

(Mohamed Latif)

Ahmed Salem is probably Ahmed Mohamed Salem, who represented Egypt at both the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics. Latif is almost certainly Mohammed Latif, who debuted on the national side in 1932 and would go on to play at the Olympics in 1936, while Mansour is likely the Ahmed Mansour who was a reserve for Egypt at both the 1924 and 1928 editions. Mustafa Kamel must be Mustafa Kamel Taha, a well-known player who also appeared at the 1936 Berlin Games. Four of the listed individuals represented Egypt at the 1934 World Cup: Latif, Mustafa Kamel, Kamel Masoud and Hassan Raghab. Additionally, Amin Sabry was part of the team that helped qualify Egypt for the World Cup, although he had no playing time in the tournament itself.

As for the others, Mukhtar Amin never appeared at the Olympics or the World Cup, but he had a lengthy career that stretched back to the first half of the 1920s and extended to at least 1935, so he certainly could have been on the 1932 squad (he may be the same individual as Ahmed Mokhtar, a non-starter on Egypt’s 1928 Olympic team, but this is not confirmed). Hassan Al-Swifi had a lesser-known career, but he did earn domestic titles at the end of the 1920s and first half of the 1930s. “Mahran” is most likely Mahmud Mahran, another domestic title holder of the late 1920s and early 1930s, and all would certainly be candidates for a theoretical 1932 squad. The only individual we were not able to identify was “Ramzi”; although there was a player with the name active at the time, we have not been able to uncover any details about his life or career.

This list gives us a good window into what a potential 1932 squad may have looked like, but there are too many variables to know for certain, especially since the same article lists a “second” and “third” team that includes many more players who were well-known at the time. We feel, however, that this has gone on for long enough without looking into these additional lineups, so we will stop here. We hope, however, that you found this to be at least a little interesting, and that you will join us next time for another Olympic blog post!

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