May 22 2013 Latest news:
by Denise Roland
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Susan Halter was 21 when she swam for Hungary at London’s last Olympic Games in 1948.
Now 85, she was welcomed back into the Olympic fold for a lunch at Holland Heineken House in Alexandra Palace on Monday.
Looking back on her 100m freestyle race at the old Wembley Arena, she said: “I did very badly. I didn’t even get a personal best. It was all a bit much and I think I was confused.”
The veteran swimmer, of Dickenson Road, Crouch End, has had to watch the 2012 Games on television after missing out on tickets, but nevertheless enjoys contrasting the two events.
“Our swimming costumes were made of black stocking material and we had to wear cotton underpants too. I still don’t know why,” she said.
Despite it being known as the Austerity Games, the team still brought their own chef along to prepare traditional Hungarian food, she recalls.
“It was very important to us, but it wasn’t like nowadays where the athletes control their diets so carefully. We just wanted to eat meals we liked.”
Food was not the only provision they supplied themselves – athletes were expected to be completely self-sufficient at the post-war Games.
For the Jewish Hungarian the 1948 Games also marked a turning point in her life.
She had fled Nazi soldiers while being marched to a concentration camp and never returned to Hungary following the Olympics.
She took up secretarial studies in London and moved to Crouch End, where she has lived ever since.
Mrs Halter reckons she is the only Olympian in Haringey and enjoys a touch of celebrity status at her local pool in Park Road Leisure Centre, which she uses every day.
The last London games were her only Olympics, but she remains a competitive swimmer, winning three gold medals at last year’s European Masters Championships.
And despite recently having a pacemaker fitted, the lifelong athlete hopes to enter the British Masters later this year.