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When left became right for Takacs

EYES ON THE TARGET: Karoly Takacs didn't let tragedy affect his shooting by winning the rapid fire pistol gold in 1948 London and successfully defending it at 1952 Helsinki.  

A sergeant in the Hungarian army, Karoly Takacs was a member of his country’s world championship pistol shooting team. During a training exercise in 1938, a defective grenade blew up in his right and shooting hand. The 28-year-old lost half his forearm.

After a month in hospital, he practised with his left hand but behind closed doors. When he turned up for the Hungarian National championships in early 1939, other shooters offered him their sympathy.

They assumed he had come to watch the competition. Not only did he participate in the country’s premier tournament, the right-hander recently turned southpaw even won it.

The ecstasy of victory soon soured to agony with the outbreak of the Second World War. The 1940 and 1944 Summer Olympics were cancelled. Already 38, Takacs arrived for the 1948 London Olympics to perhaps the most austere games, with Britain especially recovering from the debris of destruction. That trait seemed to have rubbed off on him too.

When the current world champion and record holder Carlos Enrique Diaz Saenz Valiente asked him why he was in London, the Budapest-born crackshot’s reply was cryptic. “I’m here to learn,” he said. Not only did Takacs strike gold but he bettered the world mark by 10 points.

A chastened Valiente wasn’t exactly charitable during the medal ceremony. “You have learned enough,” the Argentine remarked testily.

Egged on perhaps by his rival, Takacs successfully defended his title at the 1952 Helsinki Games. In the process, he became the first rapid-fire pistol shooter to accomplish such an encore. He was not finished though, at age 46 giving the event a parting shot at the 1956 Melbourne Games, ending up eighth. Through tragedy and triumph, Takacs went on to coach and mentor other Olympians from Hungary to shooting honours.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 7:00:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/When-left-became-right-for-Takacs/article14511392.ece

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