The personal story of museum founder János Angyal about this sport relic

The story of the very first pair of sports shoes in the Museum intertwines with the story of one of the most special relics of the collection: the T-shirt signed by world famous stars. Starring two American stars: Charles Austin and Michael Jackson.

Heading to the 10th Jumping Gala Salgótarján, Charles Austin, fresh Olympic Champion of Atlanta, arrived in Budapest on 10 September 1996. The high jumper read on the plane that as part of the History World Tour, Michael Jackson is giving a concert that night in Népstadion. He called me right from the airport and told me that he was a huge fan of the pop star but had never been to his concerts before and he would be really happy if he could be there that night, if I could help him. Needless to say, the tickets – at the cost of HUF 4,900 – had been sold out weeks before the event, it seemed hopeless to get one, but I tried. I called my friend, Zoltán Molnár who was the Managing Director of Népstadion asking for his cooperation. Zoli called me back 10 minutes later and happily told me: my friend, you’re lucky, because when the manager of Michael Jackson found out for whom I was asking for tickets, they provided me with two VIP tickets and invited Austin for the banquet after the concert in Hotel Kempinski.

Austin arrived in Salgótarján and was happy to hear that he could go to the concert. Before he set out to Budapest with our companion, I put the official T-shirt of the Jumping Gala in his hands and asked him to have it signed by Jackson. The concert was fantastic, the crowd of 50 thousand people kept celebrating Jackson for several minutes after he played the final song “Heal the World”. After the concert, at the banquet a miracle happened for us. Right in the middle of the party Jackson kneeled down before Austin, put the T-shirt on the marble floor and signed it while saying: Charles, my friend, I am a megastar but you are an Olympic Champion American high jumper which I can never be. Thus, the unique signature was written on the T-shirt: “Love always, Michael Jackson”.

Austin won the Jumping Gala with 230 centimetres and gave a real spectacle by jumping over the legendary basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the starting height. The 218-centimetre-tall, 6 time-NBA Champion, 6 time-MVP and record holder basketball player of the NBA with 38,387 points came to Budapest for the streetball final on September 12. He visited us thanks to the support of our sponsor, Adidas and showcased his trademark ‘sky hook’ during his presentation at the mobile court that was set up in the Main Square of Salgótarján.

The women’s high jump event at the Jumping Gala was won by the World Record Holder, World and Olympic Champion Stefka Kostadinova with 201 centimetres, whereas the men’s pole vault event was won by Maxim Tarasov, Olympic Champion of Barcelona with 580 centimetres. They also signed the T-shirt, this one-of-a-kind relic which is thus embellished by the signatures of five world famous stars.

Austin won the Jumping Gala and left for his next competition in Tokyo the following morning. We said our goodbyes in the hall of Karancs Hotel in Salgótarján, he hugged me and said: János, I had a fantastic experience here, I would like to thank you for it. He opened his sports bag and handed me over his signed spike shoes which read “Charles Austin “96” Olympic Champ, OR: 2.39”. Thus, he laid the foundation stone of the Museum of Sports Shoes.