Shaul Paul Ladany
Shaul Ladany (center), winner of 10-km walk, on podium during 8th Maccabiah Games at Ramat Gan Stadium (1969)
Personal information
Native nameשאול לדני
Born (1936-04-02) April 2, 1936 (age 87)
Belgrade, Yugoslavia
OccupationProfessor Emeritus of Industrial Engineering and Management
EmployerBen-Gurion University of the Negev
Height5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Weight148 lb (67 kg)
Achievements and titles
World finalsGold medal in 100-km walk at 1972 World Championships (9:31:00)
National finalsNational Championships: 28 Israeli, 6 U.S., 2 Belgian, 1 Swiss, and 1 South African.
Highest world ranking
  • World record in 50-mile walk (7:23:50; 1972–present)
  • Israeli national record in 50-km walk (4:17:06; 1972–present)
Personal best(s)50-km walk: 4:17:06 (1972)
Medal record
Men's athletics
Representing  Israel
Olympic Games
Pierre de Coubertin medal 2007
Maccabiah Games
Gold medal – first place Israel 1969 3-km walk
Gold medal – first place Israel 1969 10-km walk
Gold medal – first place Israel 1969 50-km walk
Gold medal – first place Israel 1973 20-km walk
Gold medal – first place Israel 1973 50-km walk
Updated on February 24, 2013.

Shaul Paul Ladany (Hebrew: שאול לדני; born April 2, 1936) is an Israeli Holocaust survivor, racewalker and two-time Olympian. He holds the world record in the 50-mile walk (7:23:50),[2] and the Israeli national record in the 50-kilometer walk (4:17:07). He is a former world champion in the 100-kilometer walk.[3][4]

Ladany survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944, when he was eight years old. In 1972, he survived the Munich Massacre.[5] He is now a Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management at Ben Gurion University,[2] has authored over a dozen books and 120 scholarly papers, and reportedly speaks nine languages. He lives in Omer, Israel.[4][2]

Asked if it would be fair to call him the ultimate survivor, Ladany laughed and answered: "I don't know about that. What I can say is that in my life there has never been a dull moment."[6]

Early and family life

Ladany was born to a Jewish family in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.[2] He has two sisters, Shosh (two years older) and Marta (five years younger, actually his first cousin, adopted by his parents when she was six months old).[7][8] He and his wife Shosh were married for 58 years, until her death in 2019, and have a daughter Danit[2] and three grandchildren who live in Modi'in.[3][9][10]

Concentration camp

During the Holocaust in Europe, Ladany's maternal grandmother and grandfather were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp,[2] where, Ladany has said, they "were made into soap."[11][12]

In April 1941, when he was five years old, the Germans attacked Belgrade and the Luftwaffe bombed his home.[2] His parents fled with him to Hungary.[13] There, when he was eight years old they tried to hide him in a monastery for safekeeping, warning him to keep secret the fact that he was Jewish. He was terrified the entire time that he would be discovered, but says that after that experience he wasn't afraid of anything.[4][6][12]

In 1944, the eight-year-old was captured by the Nazis with his parents, and shipped to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.[4][7][13][14][15][16] Many of his family were killed. But in December 1944, he was saved by American Jews who had paid a ransom to have a number of Jews, including him and his parents, released from the concentration camp, where 100,000 Jews had already been killed.[7][12][16][17][18]

Ladany recalled:

I saw my father beaten by the SS, and I lost most of my family there... A ransom deal that the Americans attempted saved 2,000 Jews and I was one. I actually went into the gas chamber, but was reprieved. God knows why.[7][15]

Describing the concentration camp, Major Dick Williams, one of the first British soldiers to enter and liberate the camp, said: "It was an evil, filthy place; a hell on Earth."[9] Ladany was one of the few of Yugoslavia's 70,000 Jews who survived the Holocaust.[12] He visits the concentration camp every time he is in Europe. He was also there for the 50th anniversary of liberation, and when a Bergen-Belsen museum was dedicated.[4]

He was brought on the Kastner train from Bergen-Belsen to Switzerland.[2] After the war ended, he and his family moved back to Belgrade. In December 1948, when he was 12 years old, the family emigrated to Israel, which had just become a nation state.[4][8][18]


Ladany received his B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 1960, and an M.Sc. from Technion in 1961.[4][15][16][19] In 1964, he earned a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.[4][19] In 1968, he was awarded the Ph.D. in Business Administration by Columbia University,[4][15][16] followed by postdoctoral research at Tel Aviv University.

Competitive walking career

Early career and Olympics

Ladany began his competitive career as a marathon runner in Israel, when he was 18 years old.[20] He later said "in the 1950s, when I started running, people also thought I was a nut. Jews didn't run. They would laugh."[4] He also said that "People thought of it only as punishment for soldiers."[18] In his mid-twenties in the early 1960s, he switched to race walking.[7][8][15] Ladany walked his first race in 1962.[4] Commenting on the sport, he said "You need a certain type of mental attitude: a willingness to take punishment, to have a lack of comfort, and pain, to continue and continue. I'm not a psychologist, but was I stubborn, so I entered race walking? Or did I enter race walking, and become stubborn? It's the same in all long-distance events. Quitters don't win, and winners don't quit."[14]

In 1963, he won the first of his 28 Israeli national titles.[7] In 1966, he broke the oldest U.S. track record, which had stood since 1878, in the 50-mile-walk.[20] In April 1968, he again broke the U.S. record in the 50-mile-walk, with a time of 8:05:18 in New Jersey.[21] In 1968, at the age of 32, Ladany competed in his first Olympics – the 1968 Olympics – in the 50-kilometer walk (31 miles, 121 yards) in Mexico City.[7][22] He finished in 24th place,[2] with a time of 5 hours, 1 minute, and 6 seconds.[7][15] He trained and competed without a coach.[22]

At the 8th Maccabiah Games in July 1969, he won a gold medal in the 3-km walk (13.35.4). Then at the 1973 Maccabiah Games, he won the 10-km walk and the 50-km walk.[23][24] In early 1972, Ladany set a world record in the 50-mile walk in a time of 7:44:47, shattering the world mark that had stood since 1935.[8] In April 1972, he lowered his world record to 7:23:50, in New Jersey; a world record time that still stands today.[3][4][7][14][22][25][26] He also holds the Israeli national record in the 50-kilometer walk, at 4:17:07, which he also set in 1972.[3][4][15][25]

In September 1972, he returned as the sole male member of the Israeli track and field team, to compete in the 50-kilometer walk in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.[7][15] He said he wanted to show the Germans that a Jew had survived,[2] and he wore a Star of David on his warm-up jersey.[17][27] When he was congratulated by locals on his fluent German, he responded: "I learned it well when I spent a year at Bergen Belsen".[27][28] Asked about competing in Germany, the Holocaust survivor said: "I don't say I have to hate Germans. Of course not the younger generation, but I have no special sympathy for the older generation who have been accused of what happened in the Nazi period."[16]

Ladany finished his race in 19th place, with a time of 4 hours, 24 minutes, and 38 seconds.[7][15] Asked how he felt, he replied: "Arrogant because of what the Germans did to me; proud because I am a Jew".[16] He then returned to the athletes' Olympic Village and went to sleep.[7][27]

Munich massacre

In the early hours of September 5, 1972, the Munich massacre began.[2] Eight rifle-carrying Palestinian terrorists, who were members of the Black September faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, broke into the Israeli quarters in the Olympic Village to take the Israeli Olympic delegation athletes and coaches hostage.[15][29][30][31] The terrorists captured wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg. They shot and killed Weinberg, and threw his body out of a window onto the sidewalk.[29][32]

Early in the morning somebody wakens me, I open my eyes and that's when my roommate from the Mexico Olympic Games says, 'Get up, Monie was killed by Arab terrorists'. I knew him as a joker but that sounded too serious, so without thinking much, in my pyjamas, I went to the entrance door of the apartment, opened it and looked around. I have seen guards from the village and they were speaking to somebody that was standing in the entrance to apartment number one. I have noticed his dark skin and the hat and I listened, still without being afraid or thinking that something is very dangerous for me, and the guards are asking the permission to let the Red Cross enter apartment one and provide some aid to a wounded person and the man, he refuse. They said, 'Why should you be inhumane?', and the man replied something like either, the Jews or the Israelis 'are not humane either.' At that point I understood that something is going on and I closed the door.[33]

Another team member took Ladany to the window and pointed to the blood stains outside the apartment. They decided to leave the apartment via the rear of their apartment that backed onto a lawn, despite knowing that they would be visible to the terrorists.[34]

The terrorists from the second floor, from apartment number one, had a clear view from the window and we moved out, walked along the lawn without running or zigzagging but in strong and confident legs. Maybe it was stupid? But we had done so....we left the apartment through the lawn.[33]

Surviving terrorist Jamal Al-Gashey revealed that Ladany was spotted racing away from the building leading the terrorists to believe that they were too late to take any hostages in Apartment number two, though several were still inside the apartment.[35] Ladany ran around to the building housing the U.S. team and banged on the ground-floor apartment belonging to the team coaches.[36] He awoke the American track coach Bill Bowerman, who alerted the German police. Bowerman called for the U.S. Marines to come and protect American Jewish Olympians swimmer Mark Spitz and javelin thrower Bill Schmidt.[37] Ladany was the first person to spread the alert as to the attack, and was one of only five Israeli team members to escape. Weinberg and 10 other Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches were kidnapped and killed by the terrorists.[7][4][8][15][30]

A number of television, radio, and newspaper reports listed Ladany as one of those killed.[12] One headline stated: "Ladany Could Not Escape his Fate in Germany for a Second Time".[12] Ladany recalled later:

The impact did not hit me at the time, when we were in Munich. It was when we arrived back in Israel. At the airport in Lod there was a huge crowd – maybe 20,000, people – and each one of us, the survivors, stood by one of the coffins on the runway. Some friends came up to me and tried to kiss me and hug me as if I was almost a ghost that came back alive. It was then that I really grasped what had happened and the emotion hit me.[12]

Three Black September members survived and were arrested at a Munich prison, but the West German authorities decided to release them the following month in exchange for the hostages of hijacked Lufthansa Flight 615[38][39] Two of the released Black September members were later killed, as were others who organized the Munich massacre, during a campaign of assassinations by the Israeli Mossad.[14][38] In 1992, speaking of the massacre, Ladany said: "It's with me all the time, and I remember every detail".[40] He visits the graves of his murdered teammates in Tel Aviv every year, on September 6.[41]

In 2012, the International Olympic Committee decided to not hold a minute of silence before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games, to honor the 11 Israeli Olympians who were killed 40 years prior. Jacques Rogge, the IOC President, said it would be "inappropriate". Speaking of the decision, Ladany commented: "I do not understand. I do not understand, and I do not accept it."[14]

In September 2022 he returned to Munich, Germany for the commemorations of the Israeli deaths, at the Olympic Village and Furstenfeldbruck airfield, where he wore the same Israeli Olympic team blazer he wore in 1972.[2]

Later career

Ladany returned to competition two months later, against the wishes of the Israeli track and field authorities. The specialist in ultra long distance walking competed in the 1972 World Championships, in Lugano, Switzerland.[42] He won the gold medal in the 100-km walk,[2] in a time of 9:31:00.[7][8][15][43]

At the 1973 Maccabiah Games, he won the 20-km and 50-km walks.[15][24] In 1976, Ladany set the U.S. record in the 75-kilometer walk for the second year in a row.[44] He became the first person ever to win both the American Open and American Masters (40 years and over) 75-kilometer walking championships.[15] He repeated the feat in 1977 and 1981 (by which time the event had become a 100-km race).[15]

He won the Israeli national walking championship 28 times from 1963 to 1988.[4] He won the U.S. national walking championship six times (from 1973 to 1981; including the 75-km championships in 1974–77, and the 100-km title in 1974), won the Belgian national walking championship twice (1971 and 1972), won the national walking championship in Switzerland (1972), and won the South Africa national walking championship (1975).[15] His personal best in the 50-kilometer walk is 4:17:06 (1972).[7] He has continued to compete with considerable success at the masters level into his seventies.[7] In 2006, he became the first 70-year-old to walk 100 miles in under 24 hours, setting a world record in Ohio of 21 hours, 45 minutes, 34 seconds.[31][45]

In 2012, at the age of 75, he was still competing in 35 events a year, and claimed to walk "[...] a minimum of 15 kilometers a day", and participates in "[...] a four-day, 300-kilometer walk from Paris to Tubize, near Brussels."[4][18][46]

On every birthday he walks his age in kilometers, so on his birthday in 2012 he went on a 76-km walk in Israel's southern Negev desert.[14] After reaching age 80 he elected to cut the distance, walking half his years to celebrate.[2]

He estimates he has walked 6,000–7,000 miles a year, for a lifetime total of over half a million miles.[47] In his career, Ladany has never had a coach.[48] When asked what he enjoyed most about walking, he answered "Finishing".[49] Ladany completed 83 km on his birthday in 2019, but was unable to do 84 in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.[50]

Academic career

In his academic life, Ladany was a Lecturer of at the Tel Aviv University Graduate School of Business and, for over three decades, a Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, where he was formerly Chairman of the department and is now emeritus professor.[4][7][11][15][19] He has had visiting appointments at Columbia University, University of California, Irvine, Georgia Tech, Emory University, Rutgers University, City University of New York, Temple University, University of Cape Town, Science Center Berlin, Singapore University, and CSIRO (Melbourne).[4][19]

He focuses on quality control and applied statistics.[42] He has also authored over a dozen scholarly books and 110 scientific articles.[7][11][15][31] He holds U.S. patents for eight mechanical designs.[4][10]


Ladany is a philatelist. His collection of telegraph stamps and associated material was sold by Spink & Son in Lugano in 2015.[51]


In 1997, his autobiography was published in Hebrew, entitled The Walk to the Olympics.[7][15] In 2008, it was published in English, entitled King of the Road: The Autobiography of an Israeli Scientist and a World Record-Holding Race Walker (Gefen Publishing).[4] In 2012, a biography was written about him in Italian by Andrea Schiavon, and published under the title: Cinque cerchi e una stellaShaul Ladany, da Bergen-Belsen a Monaco '72 (ADD Editore, Torino).[52]

Hall of fame and awards

In 2007, Ladany was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for outstanding service to the Olympic Movement.[3][25] He was cited as a special person with "unusual outstanding sports achievements during a span covering over four decades."[25]

Ladany said he would set up a 10,000 Olympic race-walking fund, and offer 1,000₪ to any Israeli who can complete the 50-kilometer race in less than five hours.[25]

In 2008, the Israeli Industrial Engineering Association awarded Ladany with its Life Achievement award.[3] He was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.[8]

In 2023 the Jupiter Trojan asteroid with the temporary designation 2001 UV209 was named (247341) Shaulladany.[53]

Selected publications


See also


  1. ^ "Shaul Ladany". Saturday Live. March 7, 2009. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Schaap, Jeremy (September 21, 2022). "A life of remarkable resolve: The story of Shaul Ladany, survivor of the Holocaust and Munich massacre". Outside the Lines. ESPN. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Renee Ghert-Zand (January 31, 2012). "The Healthiness of a Long-Distance Walker". The Jewish Week. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Green, David B. (January 14, 2009). "Questions & Answers/A conversation with Shaul P. Ladany". Haaretz. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  5. ^ Grieshaber, Kirsten (September 4, 2022). "Survivor of Holocaust, Munich Olympic attack heads back to Germany". CBC Sports. The Associated Press. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  6. ^ a b Blavo, John (December 21, 2008). "Shaul Ladany: The long walk through horrors of 20th century". The Independent. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Shaul Ladany Bio, Stats, and Results". Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Shaul Ladany profile". Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Tears as day of deliverance from Belsen recalled". April 16, 2005. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  10. ^ a b Yocheved Miriam Russo (January 15, 2009). "Setting the record straight". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  11. ^ a b c Simon Reeve (2011). One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and the Israeli Revenge Operation "Wrath of God". Skyhorse Publishing Inc. ISBN 9781611450354. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Turnbull, Simon (January 27, 2012). "Shaul Ladany: Still king of the road – Olympics". The Independent. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Charly Wegman (June 14, 2012). "Israeli champion's long march". Maccabi Australia. Archived from the original on September 17, 2018. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d e f James Montague (September 5, 2012). "The Munich massacre: A survivor's story". CNN. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Ladany, Shaul". Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Joe Henderson (2011). Going Far. ISBN 9780985019556. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  17. ^ a b "Belsen Survivor Escapes Death Again". The Miami News. September 6, 1972. Retrieved February 24, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ a b c d Renee Ghert-Zand (January 31, 2012). "The Healthiness Of A Long-Distance Walker". The Jewish Week. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  19. ^ a b c d "Developing Formulas for Setting an Improved Double-Sampling Plan". Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  20. ^ a b "Israeli Olympian Decries Walkout at Olympic Games". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. February 6, 1973. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  21. ^ "Ladany Wins Record Walk" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 27, 2022. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  22. ^ a b c Ira Berkow (May 10, 1972). "Dr Shaul Ladany is Entire Israeli Olympic Team". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  23. ^ Shaul P. Ladany (2008). King of the Road: The Autobiography of an Israeli Scientist and a World Record-Holding Race Walker. Gefen Publishing. ISBN 9789652294210. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  24. ^ a b Robert Slater (2000). Great Jews in Sports. J. David Publishers. ISBN 9780824604332. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  25. ^ a b c d e "Sports Shorts – Israel News". Haaretz. September 12, 2007. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  26. ^ Seymour S. Smith (August 19, 1974). "Ladany training to win Olympics in a walk". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  27. ^ a b c Owen, John (July 24, 2008). "Olympics Flashback: 1972: Terror and turmoil". Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  28. ^ Stan Isaacs (2008). Ten Moments That Shook the Sports World: One Sportswriter's Eyewitness Accounts of the Most Incredible Sporting Events of the Past Fifty Years. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. ISBN 9781602396289. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  29. ^ a b Kenny Moore (April 2006). Leading Men. Runner's World. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  30. ^ a b Levi Soshuk, Azriel Louis Eisenberg (1984). Momentous Century: Personal and Eyewitness Accounts of the Rise of the Jewish Homeland and State, 1875–1978. Associated University Presses. ISBN 9780845347485. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  31. ^ a b c Neil Amdur,"Ladany, an Ultimate Survivor, Recalls Painful Memories", New York Times, July 13, 2008.
  32. ^ Nigel Cawthorne (2011). Warrior Elite: 31 Heroic Special-Ops Missions from the Raid on Son Tay to the Killing of Osama Bin Laden. Ulysses Press. ISBN 9781569759691. Retrieved February 2, 2011.
  33. ^ a b "Shootings at the Munich Olympics, Sporting Witness - BBC World Service". BBC. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  34. ^ "Shootings at the Munich Olympics, Sporting Witness - BBC World Service". BBC. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  35. ^ Reeve, Simon (2000). One day in September : the full story of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and the Israeli revenge operation "Wrath of God" (1st U.S. ed.). New York: Arcade. p. 10. ISBN 1559705477.
  36. ^ Reeve, Simon (2000). One day in September : the full story of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and the Israeli revenge operation "Wrath of God" (1st U.S. ed.). New York: Arcade. p. 10. ISBN 1559705477.
  37. ^ Prefontaine, Steve. "Leading Men". Runner's World (April 2006): 104.
  38. ^ a b Peter Chalk (2012). Encyclopedia of Terrorism. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313308956. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  39. ^ Greenfeter, Yael (November 4, 2010). "Israel in shock as Munich killers freed". Haaretz. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  40. ^ Joel Greenberg (September 6, 1992). "Olympics; Memory of Massacre Is Kept Alive". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  41. ^ "Munich attack survivors return with mixed feelings". Jerusalem Post. February 23, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  42. ^ a b Sagi, Yehoshua (September 1, 2003). "Fame was a long walk away, and he made it". Haaretz. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  43. ^ Al Levine (March 1, 1973). "World will Forget Munich – not Everyone is Jewish". The Miami News. Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  44. ^ "Ladany Walks to U.S. Mark". Spokesman-Review. April 12, 1976. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  45. ^ Nancy Harrison. "Olympics movement honors Israeli race walker". San Diego Jewish World. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  46. ^ Renee Ghert-Zand (January 31, 2012). "The Healthiness Of A Long-Distance Walker". The Jewish Week. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  47. ^ "La longue marche de Shaul Ladany, rescapé de l'attentat des JO de Munich en 1972". Le Point (in French). July 6, 1972. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  48. ^ Yocheved Miriam Russo (June 29, 2007). "The extraordinary grit of the long-distance walker". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  49. ^ Sinai, Allon (March 16, 2011). "A stroll down memory lane with Shaul Ladany". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  50. ^ Albertson, Keith. "Racing through a life of problems and solutions." ISE Magazine. November 2020. pp. 39-43.
  51. ^ "Forthcoming event", Spink Insider, No. 23 (Winter 2015), pp. 60-62.
  52. ^ Andrea Schiavon (2012). Cinque cerchie e una stella. Shaul Ladany da Bergen-Belsen a Monaco (in Italian). ADD Editore, Torino. ISBN 9788896873922. Retrieved March 6, 2013.
  53. ^ "WGSBN Bulletin" (PDF).
Records Preceded by. (1935) Men's 50-Mile Walk World Record Holder April 1972 – present Succeeded byincumbent