Last NameSportCountryYear Inducted

Sport: Gymnastics
Inducted: 1981
Country: Hungary
Born: June 9, 1921, in Budapest, Hungary

Gymnast Agnes Keleti won 10 Olympic medals over three Olympiads, including 5 gold medals. She ranks third all-time among women athletes for most Olympic medals and fourth all-time as a winner of Olympic gold medals.

A budding champion on the eve of World War II, Keleti’s Olympic hopes were scotched when the 1940, then 1944 Games were cancelled. Nazi Germany invaded Hungary in 1944 and Keleti’s father and other relatives were sent to Auschwitz where they perished. The gymnast and her mother went into hiding and escaped a similar fate with the aide of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who provided documents permitting them to flee Hungary.

After the war, Keleti resumed her gymnastics quest, but a last minute injury prevented her from competing at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Nonetheless, she was awarded a Team silver medal for having been a member of the runner-up Hungarian team.

At the 1952 Olympics, now the ‘ancient’ gymnastics age of 31, Keleti won her first Olympic gold medal in Floor Exercises, plus bronze medals in Team Hand Apparatus and Uneven Parallel Bars, plus a Team silver medal. She also finished sixth in the Individual All-Around.

Between Olympics, Keleti captured three medals at the 1954 World Championships, winning the Uneven Bars gold medal, a silver medal in Team Exercises (portable apparatus), and a bronze on the Balance Beam.

At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, the 36-year-old Keleti won four gold and two silver medals––golds on the Balance Beam, Parallel Bars, Free Standing event (tie) and Team Combined Exercises (portable apparatus); silvers in the Individual All-Around (missing the gold medal by thirty one-hundredths of a point), and Team Combined Exercises (nine exercises).

Following the Games, the Olympic champion did not return home. Instead, she defected to the West. (1956 was the year of a major Hungarian uprising against the ruling Communist government.) She has lived in Israel since 1957, and served as a coach for the Israeli gymnastics team.

From 1947 to 1956, Keleti won the All-Around Hungarian championships ten times.

In 2002, Keleti was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. She is the most successful Jewish female athlete in Olympic history. Only one Jewish male athlete owns more Olympic honors than Keleti‘s 10 medals––swimmer Mark Spitz, who captured 11 Olympic medals.

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