A member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Gyenge competed in two Olympiads for the Hungarian swimming team. At the 1952 Helsinki Games, she dominated her competition in the 400-meter freestyle, and easily won the gold medal. After winning her preliminary heat in 5:22.6 and her semifinal heat (5:16.9), Gyenge set a new Olympic record (5:12.1) in the final.
Gyenge returned to the Olympics at the 1956 Melbourne Games and competed in three events. She made it to the final in the 400-meter freestyle, but finished in eighth place with a time of 5:21.0. Valeria also swam the 100-meter freestyle and advanced to the semifinals, where she finished fifth in her heat (1:06.4) and missed advancing to the final by only 0.3 seconds. Her final Olympic event was the 4x100-meter freestyle relay; the Hungarian team finished in seventh place with a time of 4:31.1.
During her illustrious swimming career, Gyenge held three world records -- two relays and one individual. In June 1953, Gyenge broke the world record in the 800-meter freestyle with a time of 10:42.4; she would hold the record until January 1956. Gyenge was also a member of the 1954 Hungarian National Team that won the European Championships. During her career, she held 23 Hungarian National records and was Hungarian National champion 15 times! In 1978, Valeria was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Birth and Death Dates:
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)
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
New York Times, November 23-December 8, 1956