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Ilona Elek

Ilona Elek
London, August 1948, Games of the XIV Olympiad: medal ceremony for the women's foil event: Ilona ELEK of Hungary, gold, Karen Vilhelmine LACHMANN of Denmark, silver, and Ellen PREIS-MÜLLER of Austria, bronze. Credit: IOC Olympic Museum Collections/Lothar Rübelt

Other names: ELEK-SCHACHERER, Ilona

Born: 17 May 1907

Deceased: 24 July 1988

Birthplace: N/A

Nationality: Hungary

Sport: Fencing


Berlin 1936

London 1948

Helsinki 1952


Olympic medals:

Gold: 2

Silver: 1

Other results:

World Championships

Gold: 6 (37, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55)

Silver: 4 (37, 48, 51, 54)

Bronze: 2 (55, 56)

Veteran fencer

Ilona Elek was already 29 years old when she competed in fencing (foil) in her first Olympics, the 1936 Berlin Games. In the final pool, she faced and defeated the winners of the last two Olympic championships, bettering Helene Mayer of Germany 5-4 and Ellen Preis of Austria 5-3 to gain the gold medal. The next two Olympics were cancelled because of war, but when the Games resumed in London in 1948, Elek became one of only two champions from 1936 to successfully defend her title. To do so after a 12-year interlude was a tremendous achievement in itself. But the manner in which she won added to the drama. In her next-to-last bout she trailed Maria Cerra of the United States 2-0 before scoring four straight hits. Then, with the winner earning the gold medal, she defeated Denmark's Karen Lachmann 4-2 as well. Elek's sister, Margit, placed sixth in the same event. Ilona returned to the Olympics one more time in 1952. Despite being 45 years old, she won her first twenty bouts, but was finally defeated by Irene Camber of Italy in the gold-medal barrage by the slim margin of 4-3.

(Credit: IOC. Click here for further information.)

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