Karoly Takacs shoots to victory - with the "wrong" hand!

There was, perhaps, no more naturally talented shooter than Hungary's Karoly Takacs, yet he had to face some huge obstacles in his career. The first was military rank – despite being a provenly world-class marksman by 1936, he was denied a place in the team for the 1936 Olympic Games on the basis that he was merely a sergeant, and the team was only open to commissioned officers. It was a restriction that was lifted after those Games, so Takacs started preparing, so he thought, to compete in the 1940 Olympic Games.

But even before the start of the Second World War, Takacs suffered another setback, this time one that appeared to have ended his career. During army training in 1938, a faulty grenade exploded and shattered his right hand – the one he used to fire a pistol.

Undeterred, he taught himself to shoot with his left hand. Having spent a month in hospital after his accident, he then spent many more months practising in private and then emerged back into the competitive spotlight in 1939 to win the Hungarian National Pistol Shooting Championship.

Having proved his ability was still intact, he returned to the Hungarian national team that won the World Championship in the automatic pistol category. By now, there was little doubt that shooting with “the wrong hand” had not impeded his ability.

A national title was one thing; an Olympic gold quite another. By the time he got to prove his worth in 1948, Takacs was 38 years old. Yet he beat the world record by ten points and sealed an emotional gold medal. Four years later, he would retain his title.