Holocaust Survivors' Network
The Hungarian Olympian and Holocaust Survivor, Éva Székely (Gyarmati)
(b. 4/3/1927 Budapest, d. )
One of the greatest Olympic Swimmers...
Székely competed in three Olympiads for Hungary. At the 1948 Games, Székely finished fourth in the 200-meter breaststroke, fifth in the 4x100-meter freestyle, and sixth in the 400-meter freestyle. She returned to the Olympics four years later at the 1952 Helsinki Games, competed in two events, and won her first Olympic medal. In the 200-meter breaststroke, Székely won her preliminary heat and then set an Olympic record in the semifinals. In the final, Éva won the gold medal and lowered her Olympic record again.
Székely 's final Olympic Games occured in 1956, when she and her husband, Dezsö Gyarmati (Hungary's water polo captain and "Greatest Waterpoloist of All Time") left for the Melbourne Olympics during the first days of the Hungarian revolt against Communism. Éva later explained that the world turned upside down when: "...we arrived in Melbourne, we learned that the Russians had come into power...we had no word of our two-year old daughter, or my parents. I didn't get any real sleep for a week before I was due to race and lost over 12 pounds. My husband also was extremely worried, of course..." At the Games, Éva won the silver in the 200-meter breaststroke (2:54.8). She said of her silver medal: "...even though it was one of the few times that I have been beaten in competition, considering everything, I am very proud of the silver medal..."
Between 1940-1958, Székely set 10 World records and 5 Olympic swimming records. Her World Records included the 100-meter breaststroke (1:16.9) in 1951, the 400-meter individual medley (5:50.4) in 1953, and the 400-meter freestyle relay (4:27.2) in 1952. Éva also won 10 World University Championships, 68 Hungarian National Titles, and held 107 Hungarian National records! In 1952, the definition of breaststroke was such that the arms had to move in parallel. Székely was the first to use the butterfly stroke when she won the gold at Helsinki. By 1956, the definition had changed and the butterfly was a medal discipline of its own.Trivia:
* In 1957, Dezsö was beaten and left for dead when the communist puppet regime heard about the family's intention of defecting. He survived and took Éva and daughter Andrea with forged passports and fled Hungary to the United States. They returned to Hungary the following year because they were concerned about Éva's parents (who remained in Hungary). Dezsö continued to compete for the national water polo team. Andrea Gyarmati, was a 1972 Olympic silver medalist in the 100m backstroke bronze medalist in the 100-meter butterfly. She later married Mihaly Hesz, the 1968 Olympic canoeing champion.