The winner of 10 Olympic medals in gymnastics and Holocaust survivor, Agnes Keleti, celebrated her 100th birthday in her native Budapest, punctuating a life of adventure, tragedy, achievement, and perseverance which, she says, passed by in a flash. She says that these 100 years felt to her like they were 60.
Going through a copy of a new book about Agnes’ life, The Queen of Gymnastics: 100 Years of Agnes Keleti, her trademark modesty was on full display. She thinks that the name of the book is an exaggeration.
Keleti’s Incredible Life in Gymnastics
Keleti was born Agnes Klein back in 1921. She had her wonderful career interrupted by World War II and the subsequent cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 Olympics. This forced her off her gymnastics team in 1941 because of her Jewish ancestry. Agnes Keleti went into hiding in the Hungarian countryside where she managed to survive the Holocaust by assuming a false identity and working as a maid.
Her sister and mother survived the armed conflict with the help of the famed Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, however. Her father and other relatives perished at Auschwitz, among more than half a million Jews from Hungaria killed in Nazi death camps and or by Hungarian Nazis.
Keleti then decided to resume her career after the war. She set to compete at the 1948 London Olympics, but an injury dashed her hopes. She made her official debut at the age of 31 at the 1952 Helsinki Games, winning a gold medal in the floor exercise as well as two bronzes and a silver.
When she was 35, she became the oldest gold medalist in gymnastics history in Melbourne. At the same time, the Soviet Union attacked Hungary following an unsuccessful Anti-Soviet uprising. She then immigrated to Israel and worked as a trainer and a coach of the Israeli Olympic gymnastics team until the 1990s.
Keleti was awarded the Israel Prize in 2017. It is the highest possible cultural honor, and she is a recipient of other awards, including being named one of Hungary’s “Athletes of the Nation.”
Agnes Keleti’s Life Today
Today, Keleti follows her doctor’s advice to avoid performing full leg splits. Her infectious laughter and near-perpetual smile are reminders that even in times of great hardship, there remains a huge potential for perseverance and joy in life.
2020 was a difficult year for professional sports, and tennis is a prime example of that. At the start of season 2021, the future seems more uncertain than ever. Here are the top seven questions we hope the new year (and season) will answer!
1. Will Novak Djokovic Continue to Dominate Male Tennis?
Despite tournament delays and cancelations, 2020 sure was a good year for Nole, minus his surprising disqualification from the US Open, of course. He embarked on an impressive 29-match winning spree that resulted in two Masters titles and one Grand Slam. Novak ended at the top of ATP yet again, but with the chasing pack getting closer, the question remains. Will Djokovic keep his No. 1?
2. Will Andy Murray Challenge the Top Again?
It’s been almost exactly one year since Andy lifted silverware and his shaky performance throughout the 2020 tennis season was far from convincing. There were glimmers of hope, however, with his defeat over Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie, so Murray’s future is yet unknown.
3. When Will the Swiss Maestro Return to Tennis?
The question on everybody’s mind, when will Roger Federer grace us with his masterful play again? The delayed 2021 Australian Open will mark a full calendar year since Federer last played a competitive match. With his knee surgery recovery and him being 39 years old, its unclear whether he will focus solely on Wimbledon and the Olympics. After all, this can potentially be Roger’s last year on the tour.
4. Is Rafael Nadal Going to Move Ahead of Roger Federer?
Any tennis lover knows the tight Grand Slam race between the Rafa, Rog, and Nole trio. It’s Federer who holds the current record, but with him out of play for an uncertain period of time, it seems possible that Nadal could overtake him.
5. Will Serena Williams Finally Win Her No. 24?
It’s been three years since Serena started chasing the elusive 24th Grand Slam title, and with 2021 offering four more opportunities, fans are hopeful the moment has finally come. On her journey to number 24, Serena lost four major finals and the US Open semi-final last year. Many pointed to her becoming a mother and the increased psychological pressure to win as the reasons for her inability to equal Margaret Court’s record.
6. Is There Going to Be a 2021 Wimbledon?
Given that Wimbledon was the only Grand Slam tournament that was canceled last year, it’s questionable whether professional tennis will be played at the notorious All England Club again this year.
7. Will 2021 Be Naomi Osaka’s Year of Triumph?
When the star first broke out, many compared Naomi Osaka to Serena Williams in her younger years. The talented Japanese player has won three Grand Slam titles so far in her stellar career, and it looks like her reign in women’s tennis is just getting started. Will veterans Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Petra Kvitova manage to challenge her? Or perhaps, it will be rising stars like Karolina Pliskova who will do it? Only one way to find out…