Mystery Surrounds the Youngest-Ever Olympian

'The great mystery of Olympic history'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2016 1:36 PM CDT
Updated Aug 11, 2016 12:03 AM CDT
Mystery Surrounds the Youngest-Ever Olympian
Rowers are seen through a screen decorated with the Olympic rings as they practice at the rowing venue in Lagoa at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016.   (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The youngest-ever Olympian may have been an 8-year-old boy who was recruited from the audience to serve as coxswain for the Netherlands in the rowing event during the 1900 games in Paris—but no one really knows for sure, reports the Wall Street Journal in a look at what one Olympic historian calls "the great mystery of Olympic history." In 1960, a Dutch historian found a picture of the Dutch rowers who were in the two-man boat—Francois Brandt and Roelof Klein—with a little boy between them. No other photographs of him have been found, there were no entry forms submitted at the 1900 Games, and the winning rowers never mentioned his name. Historians have also looked for mentions of him in rowing magazines and have circulated the photo, to no avail. (His age isn't officially known, of course: The Irish Examiner, which notes that the boy was called in after the original cox gained too much weight, puts his age at 12, not 8.)

This summer, finally, came a crack in the case—maybe. A Georgian historian and journalist sent a 26-page paper to the International Society of Olympic Historians claiming that the boy was actually Georgian: Giorgi Nikoladze, the child of a prominent family touring Europe while the Games were taking place. The historian spoke to Nikoladze's sister, who recalled him once winning "a boat race in France," to come up with his hypothesis. But the society isn't convinced, noting that the historian has mostly circumstantial evidence and that pictures he submitted of Nikoladze only somewhat resemble the picture of the mysterious young Olympian. "This is a mystery and it remains a mystery," says the historian who first discovered the 1900 picture. Not a mystery: The youngest known Olympian, a 10-year-old Greek athlete who competed on the parallel bars in 1896. (More Olympics stories.)

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