Ágnes Keleti

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Ágnes Keleti
Ágnes Keleti 1960.jpg
Keleti (right) training a student at the Wingate Institute in Israel
Personal information
Full name Ágnes Keleti
Country represented  Hungary
Born (1921-01-09) 9 January 1921 (age 96)
Budapest, Hungary
Discipline Women's artistic gymnastics
Level Senior international
Retired 1958
Spouse(s) Robert Biro
Children Dániel

Ágnes Keleti (born Ágnes Klein, 9 January 1921) is a Hungarian-Israeli retired artistic gymnast and coach. While representing Hungary in the Summer Olympics, she won 10 Olympic medals including five gold medals, and is considered to be one of the most successful Jewish Olympic athletes of all time. Keleti holds more Olympic medals than any other individual with Israeli citizenship, and more Olympic medals than any other Jew, except Mark Spitz.[1][2] She was the most successful athlete at the 1956 Summer Olympics. In 1957, Keleti immigrated to Israel, where she currently resides.[3]


Keleti is Jewish,[4] and was born in Budapest, Hungary. She began gymnastics at the age of 4 and, by 16, was the Hungarian National Champion in gymnastics. Over the course of her career, between 1937 and 1956, she won the Championships title ten times.[2][5][6] Keleti was considered a top prospect for the Hungarian team at the 1940 Olympics, but the escalation of World War II canceled both the 1940 and the 1944 Games. Keleti was forced to go into hiding to survive the war. Because she had heard a rumor that married women were not taken to labor camps, she hastily married Istvan Sarkany in 1944. Sarkany was a Hungarian gymnast of the 1930s who achieved national titles and took part in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. They divorced in 1950. Keleti survived the war by purchasing and using Christian papers and working as a maid in a small village. Her mother and sister went into hiding and were saved by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Her father died in Auschwitz.[1][2][5][6]

After the war, Keleti resumed training. She qualified for the 1948 Summer Olympics, but missed the competition due to injury. She is listed on the Official List of Gymnastic Participants as Agnes Sarkany. She continued training and finally competed at the Olympics for the first time at the age of 31 at the 1952 Games. She earned four medals: gold in the floor exercise, silver in the team competition, and bronze in the team portable apparatus event and the uneven bars. Keleti continued on to the 1954 World Championships, where she placed first on the uneven bars.[1][5] At the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Keleti won gold medals in three of the four individual event finals: floor, bars, and balance beam and placed second in the all-around. The Hungarian team placed first in the portable apparatus event and second in the team competition. At the age of 35, Keleti became the oldest female gymnast ever to win gold.

The Soviet Union invaded Hungary during the 1956 Olympics. Keleti, along with 44 other athletes from the Hungarian delegation, decided to remain in Australia and received political asylum. Keleti emigrated to Israel in 1957 and was able to send for her mother and sister.[1][2][5][6] Following her retirement from competition, Keleti worked as a physical education instructor at Tel Aviv University and the Wingate Institute for Sport in Netanya. She also coached and worked with Israel's national gymnastics team well into the 1990s.[1][6] Keleti was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1981,[1] the Hungarian Sports Hall of Fame in 1991,[2] and the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2002.[6] In 2017, she was announced laureate of the Israel prize in the field of sports.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Agnes Keleti" International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
  2. ^ a b c d e "Agnes Keleti profile" Jews in Sports
  3. ^ Heller, Aaron (August 14, 2012). "10-medal Olympian quietly living her golden years in Israel". The Times of Israel. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  4. ^ Taylor, P. (2004). Jews and the Olympic Games: The Clash Between Sport and Politics : with a Complete Review of Jewish Olympic Medallists. Sussex Academic Press. p. 196. ISBN 9781903900888. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Whatever Happened to Agnes Keleti?" Gymnastic Greats, December 22, 1999
  6. ^ a b c d e "Agnes Keleti, Honoree" International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, 2002
  7. ^ Agnes Keleti to receive the Israel Prize, from i24news

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Hungary Margit Korondi
Most career Olympic medals by a woman
Succeeded by
Soviet Union Larisa Latynina