Tibor Benedek, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, world and European champion water polo player and former head coach of the Hungarian national team, passed away at the age of 47 on Thursday morning after a long battle with a terminal illness. The legendary sportsman was commemorated by his friends, fellow players, and pupils.
“I knew about Tibor’s health problems, but I hoped to the very end that he would be able to fight the disease with his well-known fighting spirit. We lost not only a great athlete, but an amazing professional, and a father. He was the best in all aspects, “said Tamás Märcz, the head coach of the Hungarian water polo team, to news site Origo.
Legendary Water Polo Player and Coach Tibor Benedek Dies at Age 47
Three-time Olympic champion head coach, later president of the Hungarian national men water polo team Dénes Kemény said to Inforádió that although one could somewhat prepare mentally for the worst during a long-term illness, he still felt in connection with Tibor’s death that the “order of nature has been overturned,” as he had never thought it possible that any of his Olympic champion players would “depart this life sooner” than him.
Photo: Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI
“Tibor is an international legend of the sport; it was an honor to be his clubmate at Recco. He was a family man and a true captain of the team. I was amazed when I saw how much love he had for the sport and how hard he trained every day even after so many years. He was an example to all of us, not just as a player, but as a man. It is an awfully sad day for the water polo community, my condolences and deep sympathy to the whole family,” stated his former Pro Recco teammate Felipe Perrone.
Photo: Balázs Czagány/MTI
“Rest in peace Tibi!! You were the one who invited me to the national team and I can thank you for being able to represent Hungary at the Olympics! Thank you for everything Coach! ” World Championship silver medalist and European champion Krisztián Manhercz said in a farewell.
Photo: Anikó Kovács/MTI
“A role model, he was a true role model, both as a player and as a coach. A role model as a person. It is difficult … very difficult … We have suffered an irreplaceable loss. Tibi, I promise, we will continue the wonderful work you have started, to train and raise young athletes with the others! You will be in our hearts! Farewell, my friend!” wrote Attila Vári, president of the Hungarian Water Polo Federation in his commemoration.
Even some of Tibor Benedek’s greatest rivals commemorated the Hungarian legend. “Tibor was a man I played against for almost 15 years,” Serbia’s former water polo star Aleksandar Šapić writes. “He is left-handed, he was always across from me and we had thousands of direct duels. We played against each other both on the national and club levels. Tibor was the only water polo player I truly admired, whom I loved and respected in a strange way and who was one of the biggest drivers and motivators of my fanatical work and spartan water polo life, which I led throughout my career.”
Photo: Attila Kovács/MTI
Another former Serbian water polo icon, Danilo Ikodinović, also revealed that he had great respect for Benedek: “I don’t like to do things like this in public, but this time I have to. Tibor Benedek died. One of the greatest water polo players, athletes ever! Above all, he was a brilliant man! It was an honor to know you, Tibi! Eternal glory to you!”
The Ministry for Human Capacities, the Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB), as well as the Hungarian Water Polo Federation all revere Benedek as one of their own.
Featured photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI