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Agnes Keleti, Holocaust survivor and world’s oldest living Olympic champion, turns 99

Agnes Keleti (born Ágnes Klein, 9 January 1921, Hungary), the world’s oldest living Olympic champion and a Holocaust survivor, marked her 99th birthday.

Keleti, whose celebrated her birthday on Thursday, told the Associated Press in an interview in her Budapest apartment that she did not want to talk about the past. “Let’s talk about the future,” Keleti said. “That’s what should be beautiful. The past is past but there is still a future.”

Of her 10 Olympic medals, she said: “It’s not the medals that are significant but the experiences that came with them.”

Keleti, who left Hungary in 1957 and lived in Israel, is celebrated as a national hero in Hungary, where she returned four years ago to be with one of her two sons.

The outbreak of World War II, when Keleti was 18, halted her athletic progress.

She survived the Holocaust thanks to falsified identity papers, pretending to be from the countryside and having little education.

Keleti resumed her training as a gymnast in 1946. She was prevented from competing at the London Olympics in 1948 because she broke her collarbone in training.

Four years later she won her first Olympic gold medal, in the floor exercise, at the 1952 Helsinki Games, at the age of 31. She also won a silver medal and two bronze medals in other events. At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, when she was 35, she earned four gold medals and two silvers.