The stories of five legendary Hungarian sportswomen
Hungary’s sport-life started in the 19th century when the first official and professional sports clubs and associations were established in the country. At the end of the century, all Hungarian citizen had the opportunity to take up a sport and lead a healthy lifestyle. When the era of the Modern Olympic Games started, Hungary sent its most professional sportsmen and women to take part in different games. Below you can read about five outstanding Hungarian women who wrote themselves into the history of the Hungarian sport.
Lilly Kronberger (1890 – 1974)
Kronberger was born in Budapest on the 12th of November 1890 to a Jewish family. She dedicated her life to figure skating from a very early age. She was trained by the well-known figure skater Victor Seibert and was only twelve years old when she took part in her first championship and won a bronze medal.
On January 28, 1908, she won the official world championship and became Hungary’s first ever world champion. After 1908 she became a world champion an additional three times in her career.
Her last championship in Vienna was the first figure skating championship in the world where music was played. This idea came from the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. She got married which meant that her figure skating career ended.
In 1997 she became a member of the The World Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Ilona Elek (1907 – 1988)
Ilona Elek was born on the 17th May 1907 in Budapest. She became obsessed with fencing at a very early age, which is the most successful sport in Hungary. She started to take part in competitions in 1928 with great successes. After winning Hungarian and European championships, she took part in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
She won a gold medal, and this achievement made her the first Hungarian sportswoman who ever received an Olympic medal. The Nazis were furious about Ilona Elek’s win because she ended the games ahead of the German fencer Helene Mayer.
Besides the Olympics, she won six world championships, five European championships, and another ten Hungarian champion titles. In 1948 she earned her second gold medal at the Olympics in London.
Ágnes Keleti (1921 – )
She is probably the most successful sportswoman in Hungary. During her incredible career, she won ten Olympic medals including five gold ones in artistic gymnastics. In 1954 she became a world champion in Rome.
She was the most successful athlete at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne where she won four gold medals in a row.
Ágnes Keleti is the oldest Hungarian Olympic icon since the death of Sándor Tarics in 2016 who was a Hungarian water polo player.
Éva Székely (1927 – )
The life of Éva Székely was full of worrying and desperation. She started her career as a professional swimmer in 1940, but she was hardly allowed to enter competitions because she was a Jew. Despite setting up a speed world record in 1941, she was excluded from competitions and only survived the Holocaust because she was a famous swimmer.
She won her first Olympic gold in 1952 in Helsinki. From 1940 until 1956 she won forty-four Hungarian championships and eight European ones making her the greatest swimmer in Hungary of all time.
In 1960 she retired and got a degree as a pharmacist. She also worked as a swimming coach. In 1976 she was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Sarolta Monspart (1944 – )
Born on November 17, 1944, Monspart was the first woman in Europe who ran the marathon in three hours and the first woman who won the World Orienteering Championships back in 1972. She is considered to be the most successful orienteer in Hungary.
Between 1964 and 1977 she won fourteen Hungarian championships. She also won international competitions in Sweden and was also successful at skiing.
Unfortunately, her sports career was stopped because of a serious encephalitis inflammation caused by a tick. After recovering from the disease she persuades women to live a healthy life.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons – Ilona Elek at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games