Insatiable Gyarmati claims one last water polo gold
Do you ever get tired of winning medals? Probably not if you have the sort of competitive spirit that drives on so many Olympic athletes, and clearly not in the case of the Hungarian water polo player Dezso Gyarmati. In Tokyo, he won a medal for the fifth Games in a row, cementing a reputation that continues to this day of being one of the greatest water polo players in history.
Gyarmati had first competed in the Games back in 1948, when he was part of the team that won a silver medal. Four years later, Hungary won gold in Helsinki and retained their title four years later in Melbourne. There was a blip in 1960 when, for the only time in Gyarmati’s Olympic career, his side finished out of the top two and he had to settle for bronze. Now, at the age of 36, he was entering his final Olympic Games and keen to sign off by seeing his team return to the top step of the podium.
He had played handball and boxed as a youngster and had the rare talent of being ambidextrous, although he tended to play left-handed. His nickname, ironically, was “Clumsy”, but he was no such thing – skilful, tenacious and fast.
At his peak, Gyarmati had been a notably fast player, able to swim the 100m in 58.5 seconds. Now, though, he relied less on out-and-out speed and more on experience and tactical excellence. His calm was needed in the crucial match against Yugoslavia, Hungary’s closest challenger, who were leading going into the final minute. With 25 seconds left on the clock, Hungary equalised, a result that turned out to be vital in the standings. Without that last-gasp score, the gold would have gone to the Yugoslavs.
Instead, Gyarmati did sign off with the third gold of his remarkable career. He later became Hungary’s Head Coach and led his side to a gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, as well as bronze medals in both 1972 and 1980. He married gold medallist swimmer Éva Székely.