The prime ministers of both her native Hungary and her chosen second homeland, Israel, congratulated the world’s oldest living Olympic champion, Ágnes Keleti, on her 100th birthday, news and opinion portal Mandiner reports.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the 63rd Athlete of the Year Awards ceremony via video link and Keleti was also congratulated by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Romanian gymnast legend Nadia Comăneci Conner, and U.S. Olympic champion Mark Spitz.
Keleti, born Ágnes Klein in Budapest on Jan. 9, 1921, to a Jewish family, began training as a gymnast at the age of four and at age 16 became Hungarian National Champion. The intervening World War II led both the 1940 and 1944 games to be cancelled, thus preventing her from competing at the highest level in her prime.
While Keleti found refuge in Hungary during the Holocaust, her father and other relatives died in Auschwitz, and her husband, István Sárkány, barely survived. Her first post-war chance came in 1948, when she qualified for the London games, but eventually missed it due to a torn ligament.
Not one to give up, she continued training and reached the top at the 1952 Helsinki games, with one gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the age of 31 when most female gymnasts are long retired.
But she exceeded that performance at the next Olympic Games in Melbourne, coming home with four gold and two silver medals. After the Melbourne Olympics she emigrated to Israel and returned to Hungary in 2015.
She is the Israeli citizen with the most gold medals and is second on the list of Jewish Olympic Champions behind Mark Spitz.
Title image: Ágnes Keleti with her Olympic medals. (Index/Ferenc Isza)