Karoly Takacs – The Man Who Refused to Give Up

Karoly Takacs – The Man Who Refused to Give Up

Karoly Takacs had already reached the status of the best pistol shooter in the world around the year 1936. Yet, he won the Olympic gold medal only 12 years later in 1948.

What took the shooter so long to bag the coveted gold medal? The story of Takacs and his journey to the podium is nothing short of inspiring.

Karoly Takacs

Karoly Takacs was part of the Hungarian army. By the year 1936, he was a renowned pistol shooter and considered the best already. But since he was only a sergeant and not a commissioned officer, Hungary denied him permission to participate in the Olympics. However, the management lifted the rule soon after the event allowing Takacs to take part in the next Olympics. People vouched for Takacs as the favorite to win the gold in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics.

High on hopes and dreams, the marksman practiced relentlessly. In 1938, during his army training, a faulty grenade exploded, blowing away his hopes and dreams. The detonation did not kill him but injured his right hand to the extent that he could not use it ever again.

Takacs spent a month in the hospital, devastated not just for the loss of his right hand but also the opportunity to win Gold at the highest level of the sport.

A month after he left the hospital, he spent a lot of time alone and maintained a low key profile. In the spring of 1939, the Hungarian National Pistol Championship took place. When the other shooters saw that Takacs had arrived, they consoled him for his loss and mentioned they were happy to see him show up to view the event.

To everyone’s surprise, Takacs said he was there not to spectate but participate.

When the event began, everyone expected Takacs to make a feeble attempt to pull the trigger with his right hand so that he could quench his emotional thirst for shooting again.

But when it was Takacs’ turn, the man picked up the pistol with his left hand. He fired shot after shot with his non-dominant hand as the audience watched with their jaw dropped open. And what was shocking was every shot hit the bullseye. Takacs came out as the winner of the event.

After his time at the hospital, Takacs had practiced in private. He thought, “Why should I worry about the right hand I do not have. Let me see what I can do with the left hand I have.” That was it. The learning took some practice but a few months of dedicated effort later, he was back in the game.

But his dream of winning the Olympic gold was again shattered. This time because the Olympic Committee canceled the Olympics of 1940 due to the World War. Takacs, though disappointed kept hanging on. He waited for four long years hoping to fulfill his incomplete dream in 1944.

Unfortunately, the Olympics of 1944 had to be canceled too due to the continued war. But Takacs was not a man who would hang up his shoes.

By 1948, Takacs was 38. In the Summer Olympics held in the same year in London, he was no longer considered the favorite to win the event.

Before the event, the reigning world champion asked Takacs what was he there for. Takacs said he was there to learn. To everyone’s surprise, Takacs went on not only to bag the Gold medal but also set the world record in the rapid-fire pistol event.

Olympic gold medal

His moment of glory had arrived. His years of wait was finally over when he finally stepped on to the podium. He proudly bent down to allow a gold medal to be put around his neck.

The previous champion congratulated Takacs by jokingly saying he had learned enough. Takacs went on to win the Gold medal in the same event in the 1952 Olympics too. His neverending effort for the piece of metal earned him a place in the Olympics Heroes list of the International Olympic Committee.

Karoly Takacs ended his career as the legend who never gave up.

Lessons to learn from the story of Karoly Takacs’

A story considered as an inspiration has many learning elements within it. Considering a story as an inspiration and doing nothing to improve yourself serves no purpose.

We can all learn from some of the many takeaways from this story of Takacs.

1. Stop blaming circumstances

Blaming circumstances

Most people in Takacs’ shoes after the grenade explosion would have complained. Some would blame the Government, few others would abuse the grenade manufacturer and a bunch of people would curse their hard luck.

Only the ones with tough mental grit can put a serious event behind, start with the other hand and reach the world-class level again. Most shooters would have not even bothered trying with the left hand. But not Takacs. He blamed nothing, went back to practice and came back strong.

Things go wrong with every single person. When they do, you have a choice to blame it on the circumstances or you can choose to see what you can improve.

The sooner you stop blaming circumstances the faster you will improve.

2. Try with whatever you have

Keep trying

You might curse the Government for the bad economy, the society for unclean streets and your employer for a poor hike. But you forget to do better with what you have. Takacs did the best with what he had. He operated purely within his circle of control.

Stop worrying about what the rest of the world does or does not do for you. Do not expect somebody else to help you achieve success in life. You are your own master and you are a superpower. Focus on what you have and improve yourself.

3. Your body does what your mind believes

Limits of your mind

As explained in the shark bait story, your mind, not your body, instills many of the barriers towards your goals. If your mind believes it cannot, your body does not even try.

Whether you think you can or you cannot, you’re right.

Henry Ford

When Takacs was injured, he could have believed that winning the championship again was impossible. If he did, his left hand would remain weak as before, all his life. But Takacs believed the opposite. He challenged himself that he has the ability to be the best even with his left hand. His mind believed and his body followed.

Do not limit yourself by the boundaries set by the society, organizations or the mediocre world around you. People are eager to tell you that dreaming big is unrealistic. But only if you dream big will you take action to reach that goal.

4. Winners refuse to give up

Do not give up

You might begin a challenge with a lot of enthusiasm, but do you persist when you do not see results? Most people give up, thinking it is too much of an effort.

When the Olympics of 1940 were called off, Takacs could have said, “four years is too long to wait”. When the 1944 Olympics was canceled too, most people would have surrendered. But Takacs kept waiting for his victory until he got it. He never budged and kept his eyes always on his target.

It is not about how hard you can hit but how much can you get hit and keep moving forward.

Rocky Balboa

5. Refusing to say I can’t

Takacs practiced in private because he did not want the world to offer him condolences. He already believed he was capable of getting back to the level of world-class. He did not want the kind words of his good wishers deterring him from his belief.

He refused to say I can’t and stayed away from people who would tell him so.

When life pins you down, do not succumb to the tap out. Push yourself, kick your way back, get up on your feet and fight back.


Takacs made history by doing what nobody else had done before. He managed to achieve his goals only because of his belief in himself.

Remember the inspirational story of Karoly Takacs when you face an uphill battle.

The level of success you achieve in life is directly proportional to the size of your dreams. If you dream big, you will win big. You if you dream mediocre you will not even achieve that.

Think big, dream big, achieve big.

My goal is to help people 1 million people pursue their dreams. Share the article and help me with this mission.

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