Did you know...as of 2016, Hungary ranks 8th in the world in medals at the Summer Olympic Games despite its being torn apart after WWI and losing half her population and 2/3 of her territory. This does not include an additional 6 medals won in the Winter Olympics nor the Hungarians that won medals as nationals of other countries after borders were redrawn or after large-scale emigration.
The beginnings of the Olympic movement in Hungary go back further than the Games in Athens. Ferenc Kemeny, a great pacifist and member of the International Peace Bureau, was one of Pierre de Coubertin's first kindred spirits, with whom he struck up a friendship in the 1880's.
Kemeny took an active part in the Congress for the re-establishment of the Games held in Paris in 1894 and was one of the founding members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Coubertin supported Kemeny's suggestion to hold the first Olympics in Budapest in 1896 in honor of Hungary's 1000 years of statehood. While the dream of hosting an Olympics is not yet realized, Hungary has won more Olympic medals than any other nation that has never hosted the Games.
Hungary in the Olympics - Select a Year:
1964 Tokyo Highlights
Search all 1964 medalists (in Hungarian)
A Triumphant "Handicapped" Icon,
winner of 7 Olympic Medals, and still a Champion in 1999!
Born deaf, Ujlaky-Rejto Ildiko became the best female fencer in the world, peaking in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She began fencing at the age of 15 and coaches communicated with her by instructions written on a piece of paper between her fencing sessions. Ildiko won the junior world foil championship in 1956-57, was the Hungarian foil champion in 1958, and was the World foil champion in 1963.
She has continued to compete and in 1999, Ildiko won the women's foil (over 60 years old) at the World Veterans Championships! Rejto's name is sometimes mistakenly spelled as Rojto.
Ildiko Rejto is not the only "handicapped" Hungarian Olympic Medalist. Shooter Karoly Takacs, the "Right-Handed Shooter Who Won With His Left Hand,"... became the first repeat winner of the rapid-fire pistol event, taking Gold Medals in 1948 and 1952. A Sergeant in the Hungarian Army, Takács lost his right hand when a grenade malfunctioned. He was unable to compete in 1940 and 1944 as the war interrupted the Olympic Games and first competed at the age of 38. Amputee Oliver Halassy won two Gold Medals in Waterpolo in 1932 and 1936 and a Silver in 1928.
She dominated like no other...
Her 1961 record of 1.91 metres remained unbeaten for ten years. She captured Olympic titles in 1960 and 1964 by huge margins, and such was her supremacy that at the time she cleared 1.91m, no other woman had gone higher than 1.78m. Some of her luckless contemporaries complained that they had no chance against her because she was so very tall (1.85m, or nearly 6ft 1in) with particularly long legs even for that height. But that physical advantage was largely cancelled out by her inability to master the more efficient straddle and western roll techniques of the pre-Fosbury Flop era. She explained: "My style is quite obsolete but it suits my body structure." She is now a leading international official.
Read more at the International Association of Athletics Federations or at the International Olympic Committee's Olympic Heroes
The punitive and ill-conceived Treaty of Trianon cost Hungary 2/3 of her territory and half her population, 1/3 of which were ethnic Hungarian. Not only was a huge pool of athletic talent cut off from the mother country, the now small, weak Hungary would not be able to resist future Soviet expansion. In a twist of Olympic fate, a now Soviet-dominated Hungary would bow to pressure and boycott the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
One thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups in Central and Eastern Europe on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes, creating many historic nation-states. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for a 1000 years and her borders were unchanged.... Until 1920 where new states were drawn by Western powers aiming to expand their own hegemony rather than respect the right to self-determination.
These "Hungarian Olympic Triumph" pages contain many examples of Hungarian Olympic Champions that were born within the boundaries of historic Hungary. But many of these cities, towns, and villages are no longer within Hungary. Historic communities declined. Forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920 ethnic cleansing, and continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, continue to take their toll. Ironically, Ferenc Kemeny, one of the founders of the Olympic Movement and the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) first Secretary, was born in Nagybecskerek, Hungary in what is now known as Zrenjanin in the Vojvodina part of Serbia after the Treaty of Trianon.
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