Hungary’s three-time Olympic champion water polo player György Kárpáti, one of the best water polo player of all time and a holder of the “Athlete of the Nation” title, has died after a long illness aged 84.
His death was announced by the Association of Immortal Hungarian Athletes on Wednesday.
He won an Olympic gold medal in Helsinki in 1952, in Melbourne in 1956 and in Tokyo in 1964, and an Olympic bronze in Rome in 1960, making him the most successful Hungarian player in his field of sport. He was just 17 when he won gold at the 1952 Helsinki Games, becoming the youngest-ever water polo champion. He was also a four-time national swimming champion.
György Kárpáti played and scored in the infamous match, dubbed “Blood in the Water”, against the Soviet Union at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, just a month after the Communist superpower brutally crushed the Hungarian revolution. Telling the story of the match, a documentary movie entitled Freedom’s Fury was created in 2006 by Kristine Lacey and Thor Halvorssen for the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution.
In Memoriam 1956 – Hungary's Legendary Water Polo Team Spill Blood To Defeat Soviet Union – Video!
In 2006, a Hungarian history movie also attempted to reconstruct the events. The romantic drama entitled Children of Glory was directed by Krisztina Goda, and produced by Andy Vajna.
In 2002, Kárpáti told The Associated Press that they had considered the Soviet players symbols of an oppressive regime.
“In the strained political situation we were in, it was a body-to-body encounter with our opponents. Now I have to admit that I’m convinced even the referee was pulling for us. We were from a small country battling the huge Soviet Goliath.”
György Kárpáti played 162 matches for Hungary and retired from the national team in 1969.
Kárpáti would have celebrated his 85th birthday on June 23.
Featured photo by Tibor Illyés/MTI