From today's point of view, Agnes Keleti was far too old a gymnast when she arrived in Melbourne for the 1956 Olympic Games. But these were other times, times in which even a woman at the age of 35 could claim Olympic gold. Keleti (picture: Maccabi.org) did it four times on December 5th and 7th, becoming the most successful competitor of these Games, together with her big rival, Russia's Larissa Latynina.
While Latynina prevailed in the team and individual all-around and at the vault, Keleti came out on top at the uneven bars, the beam and with Hungary's group in the apparatus event. In the floor exercise, the two best gymnasts of their time shared the gold. When the national anthems were played, they shortly held each other's hand, thus showing some piece of good sportsmanship in contrast to the political upheaval both countries were involved in (picture: Public Record Office of Victoria).
As unique as her sporting achievements in Melbourne, so was the life of Keleti. Born of Jewish ancestors, she had to hide during World War II in Nazi occupied Hungary as a christian maid. Her father was killed in Auschwitz, her mother and sister survived the war luckily. After 1945, Keleti picked up gymnastics again and made her first impression in Helsinki in 1952, winning to silvers and a bronze. In Melbourne, it was only due to her bad performance in the vault that she could not challenge Latynina for the individual all-around title.
After Melbourne Keleti, like many other Hungarian athletes, did not return back home. She got political asylum in Australia and worked as a gymnastics teacher at the Hungarian University for a short time. Then Keleti went to Munich and in 1957 to Israel. It was there were the Jewish gymnast found a new home, teaching at the Wingate Institute near Netanya - for 29 years. Until today, she is the oldest woman to ever win Olympic gymnastics gold.