A promising gymnast, Agnes Keleti survived the Nazi invasion of Hungary and won the most medals of any athlete at the 1956 Summer Olympics. Keleti began training in gymnastics at age four and won her first national title by age sixteen. In 1944, when the Germans invaded, Keleti bought fake identification papers and both worked in a munitions factory and served as a maid for a Nazi-sympathizing family. During the battle for Budapest that winter, she carried the bodies of the dead to mass graves every morning. After the war, she returned to gymnastics, winning nine more national titles and competing internationally, but an injury sidelined her for the 1948 Olympics. In the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, she won a gold medal, a silver medal, and two bronze medals, but the high point of her career was the Melbourne Olympics of 1956, where 35-year-old Keleti won four gold medals for uneven parellel bars, balance beam, floor exercise and combined exercise-team, as well as two silver medals for the individual and team all-around competitions. With a Communist takeover of Hungary looming, Keleti did not return home after the Games, but defected to Australia, then settled in Israel in 1957. There she coached the Israeli national gymnastics team and taught at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport. She was awarded the Israel Prize in 2017.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Agnes Keleti." (Viewed on July 3, 2020) <https://jwa.org/people/keleti-agnes>.