One of the very few physically disabled athletes to have competed in the Olympics, Károly Takács, was the first to win two Olympic gold medals in the 25-metre rapid fire pistol event, that too with his left hand as his right hand was severely injured. By the time he ended his career, he had become a household name in Hungary, and quite popular worldwide too, owing to his two consecutive golds at Olympic games, his success as a coach and his service as an army man.
Born in 1921, in Budapest, Takács joined the Hungarian Army in his youth. A sergeant in the military, he was an excellent pistol shooter, and always hoped to participate in the world-level events like Olympics. Unfortunately, he did not get a spot in the country’s shooting team for the Summer Olympics, 1936, because he was a non-commissioned rank officer and only commissioned officers were allowed to compete. However, this rule was changed after the Berlin Games, and Takács was all set to take part in the coming Olympic games of 1940 which were to be hosted by Tokyo.
Member of Hungary’s national shooting team, Takács was seen as the favorite contestant from the country to hit the gold. But, a bolt from blue struck him much before the Games. During a military training session in 1938, Takács got his right hand fatally injured, caused by a grenade explosion. It was a most unfortunate accident that could happen to any such man of genius. With his shooting hand wounded and affected, it was impossible for Takács to continue his shooting dream.
The Resurrection of a Genius
‘Out of difficulties grow miracles.’ So that happened in the case of Takács too. A resolute Takács was least to be discouraged by any situation or tragedy. In his willingness to continue his shooting career, Takács decided to shoot with his left hand, as the half of his right forearm was mutilated. After his discharge from the hospital, Takács started practicing in secret. Naturally a right-handed shooter, Takács went on a mission to condition his left hand accordingly to shoot just like he did with his right one. It was no less than a Herculean task. It was not only about training one’s hand; it was training one’s mind, defying all odds and making a grand comeback.
Surprisingly enough, Takács appeared in the national shooting tournament the following year of his most disheartening accident. He received sympathy from his fellow participants who earlier thought he was there to watch the event. Much to their astonishment, Takács was to participate in the shooting tournament. No one other than Takács himself would have believed then that a man could shoot accurately with other than his shooting hand, let winning the event keep aside. But, Takács’s determination to achieve his goal realized what people could not even think of. The audience witnessed a marvel as Takács won the national pistol shooting contest. He also was a member of the Hungarian team that won the 1939 UIT World Shooting Championships in the event.
An Olympic Legend
To the dismay of Takács, the Olympic Games were canceled between 1940-1944 as the Second World War had jeopardized the Europe. However, after the war, London hosted the Summer Olympics in 1948. Takács was selected to represent Hungary in the pistol shooting. The opportunity was at hand, and Takács did not fail to make the most of it. Takács beat the reigning world champion, Carlos Valiente, securing a gold medal and making his name into the history of Olympics. Later, Takács successfully defended his title, winning another gold medal in the same event at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
Takács also participated in the 1956 Olympics but did not secure a medal. His feats have earned him a place among the ‘Olympic Heroes’ of the International Olympic Committee.
Famous for the rapid fire pistol shooting, Takács also got a bronze medal at the 1958 World Shooting Championship in 25-metre center-fire pistol. He has got some 35 national shooting championships to his record. After his athletic career, Takács took up the job of a coach. Even as a coach, he was successful as his trainee Szilárd Kun won the silver medal at the 1952 Olympics.
This story of a man, who was once close to losing everything he dreamt of but never surrendered to the direst situations, is just epical. From losing his shooting hand to winning gold medals in Olympics, Károly Takács saw many hurdles on his way to success. But his resolved mind and unflinching believe in himself overcame everything between him and his dreams. The incredible feats of Károly Takács reaffirm the power of Will and that there is always a possibility.