Ágnes Keleti is a Hungarian-Israeli Olympic and World Champion artistic gymnast and coach. She is the oldest living Olympic champion and medalist, turning 102 on January 9, 2022.
Five-time Olympic champion and one-time world champion gymnast just a few years ago displayed a balancing act with grace and no difficulties.
Her life was full of agony and ecstasy moments. Full of tough times, disruption, chaos – war, premature death, Holocaust, exile, political asylum – along with substantial international recognition – Olympic medals, some gymnastics exercises named after her name – and a pearl of amazing wisdom, vitality and longevity.
She was a Holocaust survivor, but she was very traumatized by her father’s death at Auschwitz. After surviving World War II, she works in the fur industry. Then she returned to gymnastics and won her first Hungarian championship in 1946, on the uneven parallel bars. Her favorite gymnastic exercise was the floor exercise – „the place where I do what I want, and I can be myself”.
After serving as an alternate in 1948, Agnes won 10 medals, including 5 gold, in the 1952 – Olympics Games in Helsinki – and the 1956 – Olympic Games at Melbourne.
After this impressive success in Melbourne, war and politics again interfered in her career. On 4 November 1956, Soviet tanks entered Budapest. Before that, in October, Israel invaded Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The two events led to a small boycott of the Olympics that affected Agnes’s career.
She asked for political asylum in Australia and finally settled in Israel in 1957, and worked as a physical education teacher and later became the national women’s gymnastics coach.
As a woman with outstanding achievements in sports, she declared having to fight harder than men to be able to achieve results and recognition.
Photo: Wikipedia, Reddit