Hungarian Becomes Oldest Living Olympic Champion in World

  • 11 Sep 2023 5:55 AM
Hungarian Becomes Oldest Living Olympic Champion in World
Five-time gold medal-winning gymnast Ágnes Keleti is now the world’s oldest living Olympic champion.

To mark the occasion, Hungary’s State Secretary for Sport Ádám Schmidt visited Keleti at her Budapest home, along with representatives from her former club, Újpest, including Judit Juhász, current director of its gymnastics department.

Keleti emphasised that she still exercises every day, eats plenty of fruit and chocolate, watches gymnastics broadcasts on the internet without having to wear glasses, and critically assesses all the routines.

The longest-living Olympic participant is Félix Sienra, a Uruguayan sailor who competed in the 1948 Games. He passed away at the age of 107 years and nine days.

Born in Budapest on 9 January 1921, Ágnes Keleti was raised in the Jewish faith. Forced to go into hiding during the war, Keleti survived, though close members of her family were murdered by the Nazis.

In 1946, he resumed her sporting career and became the oldest female gymnast to win an Olympic gold when competing for Hungary at the 1956 Games.

She also won three silver and two bronze medals, making her the most successful athlete at the event, which took place during the Hungarian Uprising against Soviet rule.

Along with 44 of her sporting compatriots, Keleti decided to stay in Australia after the Games, claiming political asylum and coaching young Australian gymnasts. A year later, she emigrated to Israel, where she worked at the physical education department of Tel Aviv University.

In 2015, she left Israel to live out her golden years back in her native Hungary, which allowed filmmaker Kata Olah to make an acclaimed documentary about her remarkable life, Conquering Time.

Inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1981, Keleti was included in the Hungarian Sports Hall of Fame ten years later, and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

Recently, on 7 August, Keleti broke the record for the longest living Olympic champion of all time, surpassing her compatriot, Sándor Tarics, a member of Hungary’s successful water polo team at the Berlin Olympics of 1936.

Having attended the London Games in 2012 when presented as the oldest living Olympic champion, Tarics later passed away in 2016 in San Francisco at the age of 102.

Keleti has two children, Dániel and Rafael, by the Hungarian physical education teacher she met soon after arriving in Israel, Robert Biro.

MTI Photo: Tamás Kovács

Words by Peterjon Cresswell for
Peterjon has been researching the byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website

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