The amazing story of the late Geza Farkas is not only inspirational, but reveals how his wonderful spirit, strong will and determination lead to incredible achievements.
He was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1932. His grandfather was the Minister of Defense for the country and his father was a successful business man. The family was considered to be affluent, but once the Communists invaded Hungary, their fortunes changed.
One of his great honors while growing up was serving as an alter boy for Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty.
Farkas became interested in gymnastics around the age of 12 and from that point on, put in long, grueling hours of training that began early in the morning before school. Once school was over, he took a bus back to the training facility and worked for several more hours before heading home for dinner.
Although he was small in stature, his gymnastic abilities improved and he was selected for training with the Hungarian National Olympic team. He and other hopeful young boys lived at the facility, being taught what to eat, how to eat and when to eat in addition to learning proper training techniques.
He attended college between 1952 and 1956 and eventually was selected to be part of the Hungarian Olympic Gymnastics Team. His best event was the rings.
At the age of 20 in the 1952 Oslo Olympics he finished 25th in All-Around and in 1956 at the Melbourne Olympics, he finished 15th in All-Around. His Hungarian team won the '56 bronze medal, but the team wore black arm bands at the closing ceremonies instead of carrying the Communist flag and were stripped of their medals.
Those medals are now on display in Hungary where full honors were eventually bestowed the entire team.
Due to the intense political unrest in Hungary, Farkas, with little training in the English language, defected to the United States in 1956 and began coaching gymnastics at Kent State University. He was befriended by a group of other Hungarian refugees who lived in the Akron area and got a job in the furniture industry in Akron.
After meeting a man from Jamestown who was a supervisor at the former Frank Chase Cabinet Company, Farkas was offered a job there, moving to the city in 1960. He later worked for many years at Crawford Furniture as a foreman.
Sadly, in the late 1970s, he suffered a stroke and also lost the lower portion of his left leg, but his spirit helped him to fully recover and gain full use of an artificial leg.
In 1982, he was finally able to return to his homeland to see his family.
He was selected the YMCA's National Coach of the Year in 1996 as a contract employee and joined the coaching staff formally in 1998 and continued in that role until his death at 69 in March 2002. He is survived by his daughter, Robin and his son, Miki.
In 2004, the Geza Farkas Achievement Award was established by Stroup's Gymnastics and is now given to a gymnast who has overcome situations that would deter most gymnasts from continuing to compete in the sport.
Geza Farkas died in 2002. He was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
Visit the CSHoF Exhibit HallHall Hours: Generally 12:00 - 3:00pm
Location: 15 West Third Street, Jamestown, New York 14701
Arrangements can be made for a group to tour the hall anytime it would like by contacting Bill Rollinger at 716-763-8229.