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Hungarian Table Tennis "legend" Zoltan Berczik passed away

2011-01-12 15:17:00 ITTF

Zoltan Berczik, the memory lives on

01/11/2011 - It is with great sadness that the death of Zoltan Berczik is announced; he passed away early on the morning of Tuesday 11th January 2011.

He was 73 years old.

The word "legend" is often over-used, but in the case of Zoltan Berczik it is more than accurate; he was a true legend of table tennis and he achieved that status in more ways than one. He was a legend as a player and as a coach.

Determination, mental strength and immense reserves of willpower, combined with a sharp tactically astute brain, enabled him to gain a status reserved only for the precious few in sport.

Maintained Hungarian Pride
Prior to World-War Two, Hungary had been the leading force in table tennis; a decade after the end of hostilities, Zoltan Berczik maintained Magyar traditions when he appeared on the international scene.

However, times had changed. Japan and China were emerging as major forces, adversaries against whom many of his illustrious predecessors had not been required to contend.

New Era
Furthermore, Zoltan Berczik was very much at the vanguard of a new era, his early international career was in the age when table tennis was to change forever; sponge had hit the scene.

The table tennis racket would never be the same again.

European Youth Championships
He played in the first ever European Youth Championships and he left with a medal in his possession; he did not bring the house down but he announced his arrival.

Partnering Sandor Ujvaari, he finished in runner-up spot in the Junior Boys’ Doubles event; the pair losing to West Germany’s Robert Sussman and Franz-Josef Wedig.

European Championships
One year later, at the age of 19, he was somewhat unexpectedly called to duty in the Hungarian Men’s Team, some doubted the selection, Zoltan Berczik proved any retractors wrong.

In 1958, at the inaugural European Championships staged in Budapest, he won no less than three titles.

He was a member of the successful Hungarian Men’s Team, he partnered colleague Gizi Farkas to Mixed Doubles gold and completed matters by winning the Men’s Singles event, overcoming compatriot Elemer Gyetvai in the final.

Repeated Success
Two years later, at the second staging of the European Championships, he repeated the success enjoyed in Budapest; in 1960 in Zagreb, once again he departed with three titles.

Hungary retained the Men’s Team crown, he partnered Ferenc Sido to Men’s Doubles gold and once again he was crowned Men’s Singles champion.

At the final hurdle he beat Romania’s Radu Negulescu, the man who a few years later was to become devastating in the art of “under the table serves”, the ball being thrown directly from floor level on to the racket.

Medal Haul
The late 1950s and early 1960s was the era of Zoltan Berczik as a player; in total he won six gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the European Championships; whilst at the World Championships, his career record read three silver and three bronze

Domestically he was Hungarian Men’s Singles champion an incredible 14 times and represented the national team on no less than 135 occasions.

Undoubtedly, the playing record gave Zoltan Berczik a special status in table tennis, a status that was enhanced even further when playing days came to a close and coaching became his forte.

The year 1979 stands out from all others, at the World Championships staged in the North Korean city of Pyongyang, the team of Istvan Jonyer, Tibor Klampar and Gabor Gergely won the Men’s Team title, the prestigious, Swaythling Cup.

It was a remarkable achievement and even more remarkable in the fact that they beat China twice to clinch gold!

Golden Era
Undoubtedly, it was a special era for Hungary, a golden era with four years earlier in Calcutta, Istvan Jonyer having been crowned Men’s Singles World champion.

Add the names of Janos Takacs and Tibor Kreisz to the trio of Jonyer, Klampar and Gergely; a remarkable Men’s Team was the order of the era.

Under the guidance of Zoltan Berczik, Istvan Jonyer collected a career total of four gold medals at World Championships, Tibor Klampár and Gabor Gergely finished with two each whilst Janos Takacs and Tibor Kreis each owned one.

Leading Ladies
The success was quite unparalleled but it was not just with the male gender that Zoltan Berczik proved himself the master coach. Judit Magos, Beatrix Kisházi, Gabriella Szabó, Zsuzsa Olah and Edit Urban all were advised by Zoltan Berczik.

Outstanding achievements as both player and coach; his contribution to Hungarian table tennis was recognized in 2001 when he was elected Vice-President and later Honorary President.

A character, a true legend has passed away; table tennis was the richer for his efforts, his contributions and his successes.

Our condolences to the Hungarian Table Tennis Association and especially to his family; he is sadly missed but the memory lives for ever.

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