BUDAPEST (Reuters) – The former captain and coach of Hungary’s water polo team Tibor Benedek, who won three straight Olympic golds as a player in the 2000s and a world championship as coach, died on Thursday aged 47, the Hungarian Water Polo Federation said.
Benedek suffered from pancreatic cancer, according to several sources. He resigned from his last job, as head coach of the UVSE water polo club in Budapest, in early May, citing personal reasons.
“For his family, team mates, water polo society and fans he has left behind an incomprehensible void that cannot be filled,” the federation said on its website.
Benedek began playing water polo as a way of shaking off a childhood spinal condition.
His coach Denes Kemeny, who guided the Hungarian side to Olympic gold at the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Games, said while Benedek lacked world-class natural talent, his willpower was unique.
“In the water he set an example that infected and pulled the rest of the team,” Kemeny told news website 24.hu last month. “The team would not have achieved these results without him.”
Benedek played in Italy, in Rome and Recco, for 13 years, and 10 years in his native Hungary. He won club championship gold medals in more than half of his active years, while the national team dominated the world.
He added a World Championship and a European championship to his three Olympic golds, and various other trophies.
During a four-year tenure as national team head coach, he won another World title in 2013. He resigned after a disappointing fifth-place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
He spent the last three years coaching the UVSE side in Budapest.
Vendel Vigvari, a young UVSE player, told 24.hu that Benedek could show, as well as tell, players moves, earning him the nickname “Master”.
Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Toby Davis
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