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World's Oldest Olympian Dies


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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.

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