Scharerer-Elek, Ilona : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Scharerer-Elek, Ilona

Ilona Elek


Country Represented:

Years Competed:
1936, 1948, 1952

Medals Received:
gold, silver

Olympic Info:
One of the greatest female fencers in the history of the sport, Scharerer-Elek competed for Hungary in three Olympiads, winning three medals. At the 1936 Berlin Games, she captured the gold medal in the individual foil event, becoming the first Hungarian woman to win Olympic gold. In the process, Elek defeated a German Jew, Helene Mayer, who was one of only two Jews allowed to compete by the Nazis.

Scharerer-Elek returned to the Olympics in 1948 at the London Games (there were no Games in 1940 or 1944 during World War II). Incredibly, she repeated as Olympic champion, becoming one of only two women to repeat as champions in 1948. Her sister Margit Elek placed sixth at the London Games.

Scharerer-Elek then went on -- at the age of 45 -- to win the silver medal at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Ilona appeared headed for a third consecutive gold medal, but after winning her first five matches in the final pool, she seemed to run out of energy, losing to Maxine Mitchell and then two consecutive 4-3 matches to Irene Camber of Italy; the second of which was for the gold medal.

Career Highlights:
Elek is considered one of the greatest female fencers in the sport's history. Besides her Olympic triumphs, she was very successful at the World Championships, capturing the gold medal in the women's foil in 1934, 1935, and 1951 (at the age of 44). She also won the silver medal in 1937 and 1954, and the bronze in 1955. Scharerer-Elek was the Hungarian foil champion in 1946-1947, 1949-1950, and 1952.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. May 17, 1907 - d. July 24, 1988

Budapest, Hungary

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
New York Times, July 21-August 2, 1952