1952 Olympic Gold Medalist Katherine Szoke Domyan Passes Away

Katherine Szoke Domyan, a gold medalist in the women’s 100 free and 400 free relay at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, passed away in late October. She was 82 years old.

Szoke Domyan grew up in Hungary and represented that country in international competition until she requested political asylum along with a group of other Hungarian Olympians after the 1956 Olympics. That is how Szoke ended up in the United States.

Read more about Szoke Domyan in her obituary, available below.

Katherine Szoke Domyan, Kati, as she was known to her friends, passed away peacefully on October 27, 2017 in the presence of her husband, Arpad and son, Bryan. Born in Budapest, Hungary to two-time Olympic Champion Water Polo player, Marton Homonnai, and Hungarian Swimming Champion, Katalin Szoke, she started swimming at the early age of 6 months. After her parents divorced when she was three years old, she took her mother’s maiden name and became known worldwide as Szoke Kato.

Kati followed in her parent’s footsteps and started competing in swimming at the age of six. By age twelve, she was one of Hungary’s premier freestyle swimmers. At the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, Kati gained worldwide recognition for winning gold medals in the 100-meter freestyle and the 4×100 meter freestyle relay in world record time. Two years later, at the 1954 European Championships, she repeated her Olympic accomplishments by winning the same two events.

In 1956, after participating in the Melbourne Olympic Games, she along with 42 Hungarian Olympic Athletes, asked for political asylum from the United States. Because the immigration quota in effect at the time had been filled, the Hungarian athletes were stranded in Melbourne, Australia until Sports Illustrated Magazine picked up the story. With a special invitation from President Dwight Eisenhower, all 42 athletes were granted political asylum in the United States.

In 1957, Kati settled in Los Angeles with Arpad Domyan. The two were wed in 1961. Together they achieved the American dream as they built a successful real estate development company and were active members of the West Los Angeles community. Katherine was a member of ANTA (American National Theatre Association), the Blue Ribbon 400, LA Opera and other charitable organizations. Their only child, Bryan, was born in 1971. In 1985, Kati was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Swimming Hall of Fame honored her and her three teammates as the relay team of the century.

Kati left behind her husband of 56 years, Arpad, her son Bryan and her three grandchildren, George, Zoe and Quincy. She will be greatly missed by all.
Memorial Service will be held at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park (1218 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles) at 12:00 noon on Sunday, November 19, followed by a Celebration of Life at Spago restaurant (176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills).

3 Comments

3 comments

  1. John Razi

    Incredible powerfully-full life. Mega-involved plus giving.

  2. avatar
    dunc1952

    What a wonderful subject for a movie!

    Was Urbancek among the 42?

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Author: David Rieder

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David Rieder is the host of Swimming World TV and a staff writer for Swimming World. A contributor to the magazine and website since 2009, he has covered the NCAA Championships, U.S. Nationals, Olympic Trials as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Championships in Budapest. He is a native of Charleston, S.C., and a 2016 graduate of Duke University.

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