Hungary mourns its water polo legend Istvan Szivos Jr. who died on Sunday, aged 72. The most successful nation in the discipline’s history has many great players but only a few had such an impact on water polo as Istvan Szivos, who took part in four Olympics, medalled in each (bronze in 1968, silver in 1972, gold in 1976, bronze in 1980), claimed a world title in 1973, two more silvers in 1975 and 1978, a World Cup gold in 1979 and two European Championship victories in 1974 and 1977. He was not only a giant, 202cm high centre-forward – the rules had to be modified because of his unparalleled abilities – but also a man and player of wisdom. He claimed all titles available both with the national team and his clubs (Ferencvaros and OSC) – then he went on gaining as much success as a player.
He became a dentist, lectured at the medical university, coached Ferencvaros to national titles and the Hungarian junior teams to age-group triumphs, later became president of Ferencvaros and led Hungary’s biggest and most popular club to unprecedented heights.
As member of the water polo federation’s executive board he single-handedly convinced the leadership to hire Denes Kemeny as the new head coach of the men’s national team (then unknown for many without any bigger achievements) who then clinched three back-to-back Olympic titles with the mighty Magyars. Once retiring from active work, Szivos still played an active role in his beloved sport, oversaw the federation’s junior development programmes and presided the water polo teams of KSI (Central Sports School), the country’s most successful water polo academy.
The name, Szivos, has long become a trademark in the world of water polo. Istvan Szivos Sr. was a two-time Olympic champion from 1952 and 1956, and Istvan Jr’s son Marton is still an active player who inherited the majestic sense of the game and ball-touch from his grand ancestors – he was world champion in 2013, a two-time Olympian, protagonist a series of outstanding matches.
The Hungarian water polo community was shocked upon learning the sudden passing of its legendary member whose long-term views, experience and deep knowledge of water polo and also sport in its entirety shall be missed badly.