Karoly Takacs was a member of the Hungarian pistol shooting team in 1938 when, while serving as a sergeant in the army, a defective grenade exploded in his right hand - his pistol hand -and shattered it completely. After spending a month in the hospital, Takacs secretly taught himself to shoot with his left hand.
Olympic participation at 38 years old
The following year he won the Hungarian pistol shooting championship and was a member of the Hungarian team that won the automatic pistol event at the world championships. The next two editions of the Games, in 1940 and 1944, were cancelled because of war, but in 1948 Takacs qualified for the Hungarian Olympic team in the rapid-fire pistol event. He was 38 years old.
Here to learn
Before the competition, the favourite, world champion and world record holder, Carlos Enrique Díaz Saenz Valiente, asked Takacs why he was in London. The Hungarian replied, "I'm here to learn." Takacs won the gold medal and beat the world record by ten points. During the medal ceremony, Díaz Saenz Valiente, who finished second, turned to his opponent and said, "You have learned enough." Four years later in Helsinki, Takács successfully defended his Olympic title to become the first repeat winner of the rapid-fire pistol event.
He also participated in the Games in 1956, this time without winning the title.