This Saturday, January 9, he celebrated his 100th birthday in his native Budapest, the Hungarian capital to which he was only able to return a short time ago. Is about Agnes Klein-Keleti, the oldest living Olympic champion to date, who accumulated 5 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals between the Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956) Games. The most extraordinary thing is that he did it beyond his thirty years of age in a discipline such as artistic gymnastics, generally reserved for adolescents and youth. And even more extraordinary, that it survived the Holocaust, a life of a movie, almost incredible. “I love life, health is the essence. Without that, there is nothing, “he said now, full of that life with his first century.
Agnes started practicing gymnastics when she was just four years old. But in 1937, at the age of 16, she became the national champion of her country. It could be a good candidate for the podium in the Olympic Games of 1940 or 1944, but World War II forced the cancellation.
With Hungary under the Nazi yoke, Agnes’ mother and sister – a Jewish family – managed to emigrate due to the efforts of that hero called Raoul wallenberg, Swedish diplomat, then disappeared when the Red Army. But Agnes’s father was deported to Auschwitz. Agnes, on the other hand, was protected by a Hungarian family in a field, with a false identity.
Agnes Keleti and her five gold medals. Photo: AP
After the war, he returned to training: he won the first of the 1946 national championships on uneven bars and the following season he dominated gymnastics during the European Championships. I was hoping to participate in the London Games. However, an ankle injury, suffered shortly before that appointment, prevented him from attending. In addition to its sporting virtues, it also excelled as music, he played the cello and gave concerts.
She was recovered a year later for the University Games in Modena, where she won six medals (four gold). And already at the Melbourne Olympic Games, where he was one of the stars of artistic gymnastics after his coronation in Helsinki, he became -with 35 years- the oldest champion in gymnastics history; There he won on the balance beam, floor and parallel bars, but a low performance on the trestle prevented him from the first place in the general contest, won by the Soviet Laryssa Latynina.
In the capital of Finland he had obtained the title in the exercises on the ground, in addition to a silver medal and two bronze. And the Melbourne Games were held shortly after Soviet troops invaded Hungary, putting down a rebellion. There Agnes decided to emigrate: she applied for political asylum in Australia and finally settled in Israel, where she worked as a coach for the Olympic gymnastics team until the early 1990s.
Agnes Keleti is an Olympic sports legend. Photo: AP
She previously worked as a physical trainer for the Orde Wingate Institute. She just returned to Budapest in 2015. Since then, she has been honored by the Hungarian (“Nation Athlete”) and Israeli (“National Award 2017”) governments.
Withdrawal from competitions, he warned about the excessive rigor that very young gymnasts feel, both due to the harshness of the preparation and the pressure of the competitions. “They shouldn’t start so early, first you have to develop the mind among the boys, not their bodies. The medals are not the most important thing, but the experiences lived to achieve them, ”he said.
In the celebration of his birthday, he expressed: “These 100 years seemed 60 to me.” And he moved away from those qualifiers of “queen of gymnastics.” “It strikes me as an exaggeration,” he said. He also highlighted that “the experiences that world travel gave me are my most precious asset, more than the medals. I loved sports because it allowed me to travel ”. But, surrounded by the press at the celebration, she concluded: “I live well, it’s great that I still feel so healthy. I love life”.