Holocaust survivor Hungarian gymnast Ágnes Keleti, the world’s oldest living Olympic Champion, is still showing off as she looks forward to turning 100 on Saturday.
“I feel good, but I don’t like to look in the mirror, that’s my trick to remain young!” she told in her midtown home in Budapest last week.
A five-times Olympic champion, Keleti, who celebrates her birthday January 9, is also Hungary’s most successful gymnast, and among women the most decorated Jewish athlete in history.
Her apartment is full of mementoes and Olympic memories, photos and cups are on display everywhere
She is extremely happy while leafing through a fresh book “The Queen of Gymnastics, 100 years of Agnes Keleti” (published in Hungarian and in English as well) to mark her centenary birthday.
The authors of the book are professional journalists reporting on many Games with rich Olympic experience, Sándor Dávid and Dezső Dobor.
Keleti’s life story, including her fantastic Olympic history (not to forget about her two additional world championships victories) and Holocaust escape, appears like a movie script.
Born in 1921, she won 10 gymnastics medals in all, these victories occurred after she turned 30, including five golds, one in Helsinki (1952) and four in Melbourne (1956). She has a unique and spotless record in Hungarian Olympic history by winning three gold medals on the same day and all together four Olympic gold medals at one Olympic Games.
A high-circulation newspaper once called her „the eighth wonder of the world”, though not at the time when she was a shining star of the gymnastics world, but decades later, when she taught gymnastics and trained young people.
Even so, no one challenged this rather exaggerated description.
Her gymnastic talent raised Ágnes Keleti to Olympian heights, but it was her life as a whole and her caring personality that made her deserving all the recognition she received from around the world, especially from her “two” homelands, Hungary and Israel.
Those who had seen her performing gymnastics at least once will never forget this graceful female figure – her movements were comparable to a musical performance, all her muscles played music, the harmony of power and ease almost turned her into a supernatural phenomenon.
And those who have met the intelligent and well-prepared trainer and college teacher will never forget the effect she had on her students with her deep affection for the subject, her stimulating presentations, and, if needed, her practical demonstrations.
In spite of all of these positives, due to the dark historical periods of the last 100 years, the life of Ágnes Keleti has been full of suffering.
Thanks to her strong spirit, she has always managed to get through these times, and found ways out to lead to happiness. She has lived her life in two countries: she won her Olympic medals for her birth homeland, Hungary, and she gave birth to two great sons in her chosen homeland, Israel. She had worked in this country for decades and finally earned the proud title of “the creator of gymnastics of Israel”. She also received the highest award that country can bestow, the Israel Prize.
The book “The Queen of Gymnastics, 100 years of Agnes Keleti” by Sándor Dávid and Dezső Dobor newly published, strives to thoroughly document the life of Ágnes Keleti, as this great gymnast by the time of her 100th birthday. Ágnes, a hundred times Happy Birthday!
Source: Press Release