The story of Károly Takács. He was refused to participate in the 1936 Olympic Games because during pre-war in Hungary, only officers could opt for it. He was determined, so Takács set his sights on the next Games in 1940. However, in 1938, a grenade destroyed his right hand, which was the one with he fired. He trained only to shoot with the left, but the Olympic Games of 1940 and 1944 were cancelled because of the war that was ravaging Europe. Finally, in 1948, at the age of thirty-eight, Takács competed for the first time in the Olympic Games and he won the gold medal in the shooting competition while he set a new world record.
Extracted from Legacy, by James Kerr
Who was Károly Takács?
Takács (January 21st, 1910, Budapest) was a sergeant of the Hungarian army with a dream: to participate in the Olympic Games and doing it in the rapid-fire shooting category. What was the problem? Hungarian army, in 1936, only allowed the officers to compete, and he was not an officer. This is how he saw the train of the Berlin Olympic Games going away without him.
His next goal was the Tokyo Games in 1940. With that goal, he trained tirelessly and he had three years to prepare it. He took advantage of all the free moments that the army left him to work out, however, while doing a military exercise, a defective grenade exploded in his right hand, destroying it. They had to amputate it. And Takács was right-handed.
Although the incident could have been fatal, he only had in mind that he could not compete again. His Olympic dream vanished in a hospital ward. After a few weeks of wondering why he finally changed his mind and began to focus on what he had and not on what he had lost. And that’s when his coach, Laszlo Torok, gave him the key that would change everything: you can learn to do it with your left hand. That phrase gives back hope and begins to train and learn from zero.
Only one year later, Takács signed up for the national shooting tournament. For the attention of those present, especially competitors, who came to him to say hi and sorry, he participate in the championship when they thought he had only come as an observer. Against the odds, his desire and determination make him win. In fact, he could recover his best level with a hand, which a year before he did not know how to shoot. However, the main event was approaching: the 1940 Olympic Games. It seemed that the Olympic dream was slipping away again, the Tokyo Games were cancelled, like those in London that were to be celebrated in 1944. It was as if the Games and Takács they were not destined to meet, until the London Games in 1948.
“He was a right-hander who fired with his left hand”
At that time, Takács was 38 years old and that gave him some doubts, but he did not hesitate to go to the British capital and play the games with the conviction that he could win. Everyone around him was suspicious of his chances since by losing his good hand in an accident, they thought that he could not be a great shooter again.
The Argentinian Carlos Valiente, current world champion, asked him why he had come to London and Takács answered: “I came to learn”. However, when the competition began, he confirmed that his left hand had reached the same level of his right hand. Takács won the gold medal and set a world record. “You have learned enough”, was what Carlos Valiente, told him on the podium.
Four years later, the appointment was in Helsinki (1952), and Takács would repeat the Olympic gold at his 42 years. He became the first shooter to win that competition in two consecutive Olympic Games. On that occasion, Carlos Valiente told him “You have already learned a lot. It’s time to retire and teach me”. Carlos finished fourth. In fact, the silver medal in Helsinki went to Szilard Kun, whom Takacs had started training at the end of the London Games.
It was not until he was 56 years old, that Károly Takács retired. He won 35 national championships in Hungary, where he is a hero, not only for his records and for being one of his most successful athletes, also for his story after everything he overcame. With his tenacity, he managed to fulfil his Olympic dream more than ever.
He died 5th of January, 1976, at the age of 65, in Budapest, Hungary.
Károly Takács teaches us that we do not choose any of the circumstances, limitations and conditions that stand in the way of pursuing our dreams. Even so, all these situations, only serve to test us and show us how much we wanted what we were fighting for.
He could leave, do something else, quit the sport or become a coach, but no. Because he had a dream that was worth enough to continue fighting. That’s why he decided to adapt, learn new skills, train, train and train.
His mentality and determination overcame all obstacles. And probably when his Olympiad came, no one wanted it so much, valued it and fought it as much as he did. That is why he went further than the others.