The Slovenia Times

120th birthday of gymnastics legend Štukelj to be marked


The ceremony remembering the six-time Olympic medallist and five-time world champion at the emerging velodrome in Novo Mesto will be broadcast live by national television and addressed by President Borut Pahor.

It will be preceded by the opening of an exhibition on Štukelj, who in addition to being a top-class athlete was also a cosmopolitan and humanitarian. It will be on display at the Dolenjska Museum Novo Mesto, presenting his life and work.

Štukelj was born in 1898 in Rudolfovo, the name of Novo Mesto at the time, and died in 1999 in Maribor as the oldest living Olympic gold medallist at the time, four days short of his 101st birthday.

He was 26 when he won his first Olympic gold medal in Paris in 1924. He actually won two golds - in all-around and on the horizontal bar, which he followed up four years later in Amsterdam with the Olympic gold medal on the rings.

What makes his achievement especially impressive is the fact that he badly injured his wrist during the Yugoslav trials for the Olympics. The leadership of the team decided to take Štukelj to Paris nevertheless and obviously did not regret it.

Štukelj also won bronze medals at the 1928 Olympics in all-around and in the team competition with Yugoslavia. He was 38 when he won his last Olympic medal in Berlin in 1936, finishing second on the rings.

After winning his third Olympic gold medal in 1928, he was received and decorated by King Alexander I of Yugoslavia.

Before becoming the Olympic champion, he dominated the 1922 world championships in Ljubljana, winning gold medals on the parallel bars, the horizontal bar and the rings, and silver medal on the pommel horse.

He defended his golds at the horizontal bar and the rings at the 1926 world championships, also adding bronze on the parallel bar.

After finishing his sports career, Štukelj became a judge, first in Novo Mesto. Later he moved to Lenart, and then to Maribor, where he lived until his death.

He was presented at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta as the oldest living Olympic gold medallist at the time, alongside other Olympic legends such as Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis and Dawn Fraser.

Štukelj, the longest living individual Olympic gold medallist, exercised regularly until even just before his death.


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