Number of medal events: 2
History of water polo
The game originates from Scotland in the late 19th century as a sort of "water rugby". William Wilson is thought to have developed the game during the same era. Water polo evolved with the formation of the London Water Polo League and has since expanded, becoming widely popular in various places around the world, including Europe, the United States of America, Brazil, China, Canada and Australia.
Men's water polo at the Olympics was the first team sport introduced at the 1900 Games, along with cricket, rugby, football, polo (with horses) and tug of war. Women's water polo became an Olympic sport at the 2000 Sydney Olympic.
Men’s water polo is a core part of the FINA World Championships since its first edition in 1973. Women's water polo was added in 1986. A second tournament series, the FINA Water Polo World Cup, has been held every other year since 1979. In 2002, FINA launched the sport's first premium tournament, offering substantial prize money, the FINA Water Polo World League.
Water polo champions in Hungary are considered heroes: the Hungarians are the world’s most successful nation in this discipline with nine Olympic victories, three World and 12 European titles being the men’s tally while the ladies also won two World Championships.
The first great run of the Hungarians came between the wars when the mighty Magyar side remained unbeaten through 110 matches between 1928 and 1939, amassing two Olympic and three European titles during these years.
The 50s saw more golden generations, among its members the most successful player, Dezső Gyarmati, with five Olympic medals, three of them gold – this is also a stand-alone achievement in the world’s water polo. He was a protagonist of the most famous water polo game in history, the so called Bloodbath of Melbourne, contested at the 1956 Summer Olympics final round match between Hungary and the Soviet Union. Soon before the athletes left for the Games, the Hungarian revolution had begun but later the Soviet army crushed the uprising. Weeks after this brutal act, the Hungarians defeated the Soviets 4–0, however, the game was called off in the final minute to prevent angry Hungarians in the crowd reacting to Valentin Prokopov punching Ervin Zador. However, few are aware of the fact that this match was a milestone in water polo’s history for another reason: the Magyars applied the first form of zonal defence in that game.
The next big era started in the 70s when the national team featured such giants as Tamas Farago, Gabor Csapo and Istvan Szivos Jr., they captured each titles on offer at least once between 1973 and 1978.
Water polo has never been so popular as after the turn of the Millennium when the Hungarian men’s team achieved victory at three consecutive Olympic Games (2000, 2004, 2008). Six players – Tibor Benedek, Péter Biros, Tamás Kásás, Gergely Kiss, Tamás Molnár, Zoltán Szécsi – stood on the top of the podium in all three occasions while coach Dénes Kemény, the mastermind behind all this success, is the Federation’s current President.
Equipment: goal, ball, field layout
Gear: swimwear, caps
Competition venue: Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Pool