The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

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Ilona Elek

May 17, 1907–July 24, 1988

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Ilona Elek until we are able to commission a full entry.

Olympic gold medalist Ilona Elek in the early years of her fencing career. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hailed as one of the greatest female fencers of all time, Ilona Elek won her first Olympic gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In 1934, Ilona Schacherer Elek won her first two gold medals at the World Championships, repeating her success the following year. By the time of the 1936 Olympics, she was 29 years old, already mature for an athletic career, but became the first Hungarian woman to ever win Olympic Gold. Both the World Championships and the Olympics were cancelled during the war years, and Elek was 41 by the time of the 1948 Olympics, but successfully defended her standing, winning a second Olympic gold medal. In 1952 she won silver at the Helsinki Olympics at age 45. Despite the long interruption to her athletic career, she earned a total of ten gold, five silver, and two bronze medals at the World Championships in addition to her three Olympic medals, earning her final honors at the London World Championships in 1956.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ilona Elek." (Viewed on September 18, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/elek-ilona>.

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