Walter Walsh

World’s oldest-ever Olympian passes away

1 Comment

Walter Walsh, the world’s oldest-ever Olympian, passed away Tuesday, six days shy of his 107th birthday.

Walsh finished 12th in the 50m free pistol event at the 1948 London Olympics at age 41. He died of natural causes with his family by his side at his home in Northern Virginia, USA Shooting said.

Walsh eclipsed another American, Rudy Schrader, as the oldest Olymipan ever on Jan. 18, 2013. Schrader was a gymnast at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics.

The oldest living Olympian is now Swiss Hans Erni, who participated in art competitions at the 1948 Olympics. The oldest living Olympian in a current Olympic sport is believed by Olympic historians to be 1936 Chinese discus thrower Guo Jie, who is 102.

USA Shooting has a detailed biography of Walsh here. Some of the highlights:

Walsh grew up in New Jersey, learning to shoot with a BB gun, hitting clothespins off his aunt’s clothesline. He later shot a smoothbore .22 caliber rifle at rats in the city dump, where the Meadowlands would later be built.

Walsh joined the Civilian Military Training Corps and the New Jersey National Guard, winning marksmanship awards, graduated from Rutgers law school and, in 1934, joined the FBI.

He discovered the body of Chicago gangster Baby Face Nelson as a rookie FBI agent, and then helped apprehend Arthur “Doc” Barker and shot and killed gangster Rusty Gibson on the same day.

In 1937, he took a shot to the chest and the right hand while posing as a salesman in Bangor, Maine, helping bring down the Brady Gang, shooting a gang member and the gang leader after he was shot.

In 1938, he took a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve. He went on active duty by 1942 and was later drawn into the front lines of World War II.

He returned to the FBI, competed at the 1948 Olympics and then served another 20-plus years in the Marine Corps as a shooting instructor before retiring.

He served as a team leader for USA Shooting at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where American shooters won four medals.

Walsh was inducted into the USA Shooting Hall of Fame in 2013.

First U.S. female Olympic champion to reach 100 years old

Ashley Wagner ‘sick’ of hearing about her age

Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY — Ashley Wagner can become the oldest U.S. women’s figure skating champion in 90 years, but it would not be wise to tell her that.

“I think that this sport focuses on age way too much,” the three-time U.S. champion Wagner, 25, said in a press conference after Thursday night’s short program at Sprint Center (recap, videos here). “I’m so sick of hearing about my age. I’m so sick of it guys. If anybody asks me one more question about my age, I’ll just stop talking. It’s ridiculous.”

Wagner placed third in the short program, 1.88 points behind leader Karen Chen, who is 17 years old. She’ll try to surpass Chen in the free skate Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Chen sat in Thursday’s press conference between Wagner and second-place Mirai Nagasu, a 23-year-old who won the U.S. title way back in 2008.

“They’re my role models,” Chen said. “I watched them skate for years and years.”

Wagner then interjected before the next question.

“You just made both of us feel so old,” Wagner said, drawing laughter.

Truth is, Wagner is often asked about her age, her experience, her highs and lows, and answers respectfully and with wisdom. She did again after competing Thursday night for the first time in nearly two months, under the pressure as U.S. Championships favorite.

“I choose to view the word ‘veteran’ as experienced, and experience is never a bad thing, because I’ve gone through the good experiences and the brutally terrible awful experiences,” said Wagner, who last season earned world championships silver, ending a 10-year U.S. women’s drought.

NBC Olympics analyst Tara Lipinski was surprised to learn Wagner wasn’t particularly interested in questions about her age.

“Age is definitely a factor,” Lipinski said Friday. “You can pretend it’s not, but it is. I tried to pretend that it wasn’t, but it was. It was talked about a lot. I was too young [winning the Olympics at age 15]. Whether it’s the opposite [age] range, age is a factor.”

Wagner competes in a sport where, in other top countries, crops of teens are replaced by the next crop of teens. At last month’s Japanese and Russian Championships, the oldest women’s podium finisher was 18 years old.

Wagner may be past the usual prime years for skaters, but Lipinski pointed out that being (very) young has its disadvantages.

“I felt that I didn’t have a lot to draw on,” said Lipinski, who at 14 became the youngest U.S. women’s champion in 1997. “I didn’t have a lot of outside perspectives. Skating was my life. So any small mistake took me so down, and it was very hard for me to put this sport in perspective.”

Wagner was asked if she worried she may have peaked with that 2016 World Championships silver medal.

“If I peaked,” she said, “I would have retired.”

If Wagner makes the PyeongChang Winter Games, she would become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928. Which would actually be an incredible accomplishment in a teen-dominated sport.

That sort of statistic was probably furthest from her mind in Thursday’s press conference.

“We definitely need a new crop of girls to come in,” Wagner said, cracking a smile, “because I will die one day.”

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating head says Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang

How to watch U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Friday

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2016, file photo, Nathan Chen of the United States, competes in the men's short program at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating final in Marseille, southern France. The 17-year-old's revelatory performance at last month's Grand Prix final in France has made him American figure skating's bright new star. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
AP
Leave a comment

U.S. Figure Skating Championships coverage continues Friday, live on NBCSN, Universal HD and streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, starting at 6 p.m. ET.

The short dance and men’s short programs are scheduled in Kansas City.

The NBC Sports All-Access page will provide live scoring and more all week.

Short dance
6-8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app
STREAM LINK | SKATE ORDER | PREVIEW

Men’s short program
8:30 p.m.-midnight ET, Universal HD
SKATE ORDER | PREVIEW

In dance, defending champions Maia and Alex Shibutani take on two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. They’re heavy favorites for the three world championships berths.

Nathan Chen leads the men’s field, seeking to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 1966. He faces past champions Jason Brown and Max Aaron with two worlds berths at stake this weekend

The free dance will be Saturday and the men’s free skate Sunday, both on NBC and streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss says Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang