OMER, Israel (AFP)
A German policeman and five Palestinian militants were also
killed during the tragedy, which is commemorated at each Olympic
Games and will be marked this year in London.
"I have often lived through traumatic experiences," Ladany told
AFP, recalling the bombing of his home by the Luftwaffe in April
1941 in Belgrade, his hometown in then Yugoslavia.
Surviving the bombing, he went into hiding in Budapest but was
rounded up with his parents by the Nazis and shipped to the
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
"We experienced gnawing hunger, and interminable SS roll calls in
the icy wind and rain," he recalls.
But six months later, he and his parents made it onto a list of
1,685 Jews, including 318 children, who the infamous Adolf
Eichmann agreed to release to Switzerland in exchange for $1,000
"I'm sort of eternally defying death," Ladany says.
Years after his Olympic career ended, Ladany has shrunk, his legs
bow slightly and he hunches a little. But he keeps on walking.
At exactly 7:00 am, he sets out on his daily circuit of at least
15 kilometres (9.3 miles), sporting yellow shorts, a blue
windbreaker and a washed-out red hat.
He stretches then starts walking, bursting forward with his chest
and shoulders out, arms pumping by his sides with the rhythm of a
Racewalking's rules are strict: running is forbidden, one foot
must always be on the ground and the supporting leg must be
The constraints produce a slightly unnatural gait, and Ladany
looks almost disjointed, somewhat mechanical as he marches
through his quiet neighbourhood.
But as a regular presence in the streets of Omer, with its houses
buried beneath cascades of roses and bougainvillaea, he no longer
attracts surprised glances.
Back in his living room, where a floor-to-ceiling cabinet holds
hundreds of medals, trophies and certificates, Ladany says his
commitment to training has served him well.
"Any repeated physical effort bears fruit. Thanks to walking, I'm
still on form and I can challenge myself," he says.
"If you take into account strenuous training of around 6,000 to
7,000 kilometres per year (3,730 to 4,350 miles), I've travelled
more than half a million kilometres (311,000 miles)," Ladany
In Tel Aviv, the president of Israel's Olympic Committee, Zvi
Varshaviak, has nothing but praise for Ladany.
"Ladany is one of our greatest athletes. In his time, he was one
of the best in a little-known discipline. And he's not so old,
when you consider that our president, Shimon Peres, is
approaching 90," he laughs.
Ladany emigrated to Israel in 1948, the year the Jewish state
declared independence, where he married and had a daughter. He
now has three grandchildren, and a successful career as a
professor of industrial engineering.
He is the author of 13 scientific works, as well as his
autobiography -- the aptly titled "King of the Road".