Éva Székely

Éva Székely (3 April 1927 – 29 February 2020)[1] was a Hungarian swimmer.[2] She won the gold medal at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki and the silver medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics, set six world records, and won 44 national titles.[2] She held the first world record in the 400 m individual medley in 1953.[3]

Éva Székely
Éva Székely 1956.jpg
Éva Székely in 1956
Personal information
Born(1927-04-03)3 April 1927
Budapest, Kingdom of Hungary
Died29 February 2020(2020-02-29) (aged 92)
Budapest, Hungary
ClubNeményi MADISZ
BVSC, Budapest


Székely was born in Budapest, Hungary.[4]

In 1941 Székely set a national speed record, although she was barely allowed to start because she was a Jew.[5] As a child, she competed for a local swim team.[4] In 1941, at 14 years of age, she was expelled from the team because she was Jewish.[4] She was excluded from competition for the next four years, and survived the Holocaust partly because she was a famous swimmer.[2] Towards the end of World War II, she lived with 41 people in a crowded two-room “safe-house” in Budapest run by the Swiss, and to keep in shape, every day she ran up and down five flights of stairs 100 times.[4][6]

At the end of World War II she met her husband, Dezső Gyarmati, from whom she was later divorced and who in 2013 predeceased her, who was a three-time Olympic water polo champion (1952, 1956, and 1964) in water polo.[4][2][7] Her daughter, Andrea Gyarmati, born in 1954, was a backstroke and butterfly swimmer who won two medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.[4][2] After the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 the family defected to the US but they didn’t stay, returning to Hungary to care for Székely's parents.[2]

She won three gold medals at the 1947 World University Games.[4] She won five gold medals at the 1951 World University Championship.[4]

She won the gold medal in the 200-meter breaststroke (setting a new Olympic record) at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, and the silver medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics.[8][2][4] She also set six world records, and won 44 national titles.[2] She held the first world record in the 400 m individual medley, in 1953.[3]

After retiring from competitions Székely worked as a pharmacist and swimming coach, training her daughter among others.[4]

In 1976 she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.[3] She was named as one of Hungary’s Athletes of the Nation in 2004, and received the Prima Primissima award in 2011.[2][6] She was also inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.[4]


Székely died on 29 February 2020 at Budapest at the age of 92.[9]


She authored three books, one of which was translated into other languages:

  • Only winners are allowed to cry! (Sírni csak a győztesnek szabad!) Budapest, 1981, Magvető Kiadó
  • I came, I saw, I lost? (Jöttem, láttam… Vesztettem?) Budapest, 1986, Magvető Kiadó
  • I Swam It/I Survived (Megúsztam) Budapest, 1989, Sport Kiadó

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Joó, Gábor (29 February 2020). "Meghalt Székely Éva olimpiai bajnok". Index (in Hungarian). Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bull, Andy (3 March 2020). "Holocaust survivor to Olympic gold: the remarkable life of Eva Szekely". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  3. ^ a b c EVA SZEKELY (HUN). ishof.org
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Jacov Sobovitz. "Eva Szekely". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  5. ^ Hall of fame - Székely Éva. sportmuzeum.hu
  6. ^ a b "Holocaust survivor to Olympic gold: the remarkable life of Eva Szekely | Sport". The Guardian. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  7. ^ Éva Székely. sports-reference.com
  8. ^ Andrews, Travis M. "Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  9. ^ "Elhunyt Székely Éva olimpiai bajnok úszó". Bumm.sk. Archived from the original on February 29, 2020.

External linksEdit