Race Walking an 80k for his 80th Birthday, Shaul Ladany, also a Holocaust survivor, represented Israel in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics. He a true icon in the race walking community, as well as, athletics as a whole.
Ladany is a well noted professor of engineering based at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Ladany is a two time Olympian. He is a former winner of the world 100km title and holder of the 50 mile world record since 1972 at a time of 7:32:50
Just now ten years ago, he became the first 70 year old to go sub 24 hours for the 100 walk, which happened in Ohio walking 21:45:34.
However, his story doesnt begin there. This man, a true survivor and warrior was born in Belgrade in 1936. When he was only five years old, the Luftwaffe bombed the Yugoslav city where he lived bombing his home. After that he, and his family, spent the next three years on the run. Unfortunately, this would last forever as he ended up in a concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen.
After six months being held captive in the concentration camp in north-west Germany, his family was able to escape to Switzerland as part of an exchange deal between the Nazis and the Zionist movement. This was an extremely big blessing as his grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz.
Because of small stature, size, and form, Ladany was ignored by many coaches and officials. Little did they know he was a main contender for such a high degree of competition.
In 1948, Ladany’s family moved to Israel. Regardless of early failures in running, Lanady kept pushing harder in training and in competition.
Finally, in 1968, at the age of 32, he made the Israeli team for the Olympic Games in Mexico for 50k race walk where he finished 24th.
A year later at the 8th Maccabiah Games in 1969, Lanady won gold medals in the 3k walk, the 10k walk, and the 50k walk.
In the early 1972, the year of the Munich Games, Ladany set thr world record in the 50mi walk. He reached a time that stood since 1935.
Ladany now qualified to again represent Israel at the 1972 Games in Munich, a tragic Games as many Jewish people will remember.
As the Palestinian terrorist took over the Israeli house in the Olympic Village, Ladany was awakened by the shouting warning of the Israeli Head Wrestling Coach, Yossef Gutfreund.
Lanady escaped the Munich Massacre by jumping out of his bed room window as the terrorists shot toward him. Incredible.
After escaping, he ran to the American house in the Olympic Village to warn the American track coach Bill Bowerman. Bowerman alerted the German Police and called upon the marines to protect the Jewish Americans.
Only five members of the Israeli team were able to escape. Tragically, ten other Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches were kidnapped and killed by the Palestinian terrorists.
However, Ladany also attainted Olympic success in the race walk placing 19th in the 50k. To show the older generation of Germans that a Jew had survived of Holocaust, he wore a Star of David on his warm-up jersey.
After competing in the 50km walk at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics. In 1972, set a 50-mile world record of 7:23:50 in New Jersey which still stands today. He won the 100k world title in 1973. With also winning the London to Brighton race in 1970, 1971 and 1973. In May 2006, set a 100-mile world record in the over 70 age group.
This a amazing career and legacy, Lanady captured many gold medals along side his world records, here is a list of his expansive gold medal count career.
Gold Medal Count:
Gold medal – first place, 1972 , 100k walk
Gold medal – first place Israel, 1969, 3k walk
Gold medal – first place Israel ,1969, 10k walk
Gold medal – first place Israel, 1969, 50k walk
Gold medal – first place Israel, 1973, 20k walk
Gold medal – first place Israel, 1973, 50k walk
Since turning 50, Ladany has marked birthdays by walking a kilometer for each year of his life. At 71, on a five-kilometer loop, at 75…75k, and this year an 80k. This man never stops! He is truly a role model for every athletes mentally and academically. His determination and work ethic is something to be looked up to for centuries to come.