Karoly Takacs (21 January, 1910- 5 January,1976) became the World’s best shooting hand twice, both in 1948 London Olympics and 1952 Helsinki Olympics. He was the first man who consequently won Olympics twice. This is just a part of his incredible story and his determination.
Born in Budapest, Karoly joined the Hungarian army. He had won all the national championships that took place in Hungary and he had a dream and an ardent desire to make his hand the ‘best shooting hand’ of the World. By 1936, he was a world-class pistol shooter, but he was denied a place in the Hungarian shooting team for the 1936 Summer Olympics on the grounds that he was a sergeant, and only commissioned officers were allowed to compete. This prohibition on Hungary came to an end after the Berlin games, and Takacs focused on 1940 Olympics which were scheduled to be held in Tokyo.
In 1938, he became a victim of an unfortunate mishap. While training with his army squad, a hand grenade exploded in Karoly’s right hand, and his shooting hand was blown off. His dream came to a standstill for once. Now he had two options: either to feel sorry for himself the whole life, or make a new start. But, winners like Karoly Takacs know in their heart that quitting is not an option. He recovered in one month after all his surgeries and started practising with his only hand. At that moment, he rather attempted to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed. He still carried the same dream of making his hand the ‘best shooting hand’ in the world. Nobody knew what he is up to, maybe because he didn’t want gluing discouraging eyes and believed in the principle of ‘Action speaks louder than words.’ In 1939, after one long year of passionate and focused practice sessions, he showed up at the Hungarian Pistol Shooting Championship. Other shooters came forward to sympathise with Karoly and congratulate him for displaying the true sportsman spirit to come watch them shoot and increase their morale and confidence. But, his reply astonished everyone. He said, “ I didn’t came to watch, I came to compete.” All the shooters competed with their best hands whereas on the other hand, Karoly used his only hand. And guess who won? The man with the only hand. He didn’t rest, his aim was clear; to make his end the best shooting hand of the world.
His life’s challenges were yet not over. The 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled due to World War II. He was ageing and his time was running out. It looked like he will never be able to conquer his dream. But, finally, he surprised the world by winning a gold medal in the Olympics.
Even now, he didn’t stop. He again appeared in 1952 Olympics and the man with the only hand made a world record of simultaneously being the Olympics champion twice. He also attended the 1956 summer Olympics in Melbourne, finished eighth and failed to win the third time.
His story gave him a place among the ‘Olympic heroes’ of the International Olympic Committee. He is the third known physically disabled athlete to have competed in the Olympic games after George Eyser and Oliver Hallassy followed by Liz Hartel and Neroli Faizhak. After his shooting career, Takacs became a coach. He trained Hungarian Szilard Kun who won the silver medal at 1952 summer Olympics. He ended his army career as a lieutenant Colonel.
Karoly’s life is a set example for all those who blame circumstances for their failures. Unlike others, he is a man with the mental toughness to recover back quickly from anything. Life was cruel to him, but it is hard to beat a person who never gives up. If he would have wallowed in misery, he would have lost his mental edge –the eyes of a tiger and the determination of an ant. Truly quoted, ‘Champions are not the people who never fail, but the people who never quit.’
His life is a testimony of how firm determination can help us to cross all obstacles, however difficult they may seem.
His story reminds me of the golden words of C.W. Longenecker,
“When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill.
Rest if you must, but NEVER QUIT.”
Let Karoly’s life be an example for all those who opt for excuses and blame circumstances for their downfall. Be firm, and work for your dreams because nothing is impossible.