most innovative water polo coach of his time, Bela Komjadi
Hungary into a World water polo power.
His Olympic teams won a pair of
gold medals and one silver medal. One
of those medals was earned posthumously.
Komjadi’s 1928 Olympic Team took
silver medal honors, edged out for the
gold by Germany. His Hungarian side
returned the favor four years later in Los
Angeles, capturing the 1932 championship
and gold medal, with Germany
returning home with a silver medal.
“Uncle Komi” died in 1933 at the
age of only 41. But his team returned to
the Olympic arena in 1936, half the 10-man roster veterans
of the previous
Olympiad, including the brilliant “goal
defying” goalie, Gyorgy Brody. With
the spirit of Komjadi infusing the determination
of the Hungarians and the
specter of rising Nazism on his home
ground, Berlin, this competition had
more on the line than the gold medal.
In his book Ghetto to the Games, author
Andrew Handler writes: “On a
rainy and chilly 14 August, they (Hungary)
battled the Germans to a 2–2 tie in
the Schwimmstadium, where 20,000
German fans shouted deafening
encouragement.” Thus, the decisive
matches were played the following day.
Germany beat Belgium 4–1. Hungary
had to win by a wider margin of goals
against France to retain its better goal
average and the Olympic title. In a
nerve-wracking match of many missed
opportunities on both sides, Brody
proved unbeatable. Few Hungarians
failed to bring to mind Uncle Komi on
that tearfully joyous day. The late“
Great Master” earned Hungary’s second
consecutive gold medal in water
polo as much as did the players he had
coached to world fame.
Upon returning home from Berlin,
the water polo Olympians held a memorial
salute to Komjadi at his graveside.