Komjadi coached Hungary's silver medal winning water polo team at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and the gold medaling squad at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. At the 1932 Olympics, Bela also served as a referee of water polo matches and had a run-in with the Brazilian team.
Short of funds, the Brazilians paid for their trip by selling coffee beans at ports along their ocean voyage route. The team arrived late to the competition and with rules that differed from those accepted by the rest of the world. They appeared shocked when fouls were called against them in their 6-1 loss to the United States. In their second game, early goals by the Germans soured their team disposition even more and they began to blame the referee, Komjadi.
During the game, 40 fouls were assessed against the Brazilians while the Germans were called for only four. When the final whistle blew, ending the fray, Dr. De Cilva (the enraged six-foot-six-inch Brazilian goalie), and his teammates jumped out of the pool and gave chase to Komjadi. They eventually caught him in the fifth row of the grandstand when De Cilva landed a vicious punch on Komjadi's chin. At this point, police officers stepped in to quell what was sure to become a full-scale riot. Komjadi regained his sense of humor after things had quieted down. "I guess I don't know the Brazilian rules," he commented. Olympic officials banned the Brazilian team for the rest of the Games.
Although he died in 1933 at the age of 41, the team he had brought together and coached won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics. Andrew Handler wrote about the 1936 Berlin Games in his book From the Ghetto to the Games: "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 had beaten 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 [Hungarian-Jewish goalie Gyorgy 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 water polo gold medal as much as the players he had coached to world fame." After winning the gold in 1936, the Hungarian water polo team visited Komjadi's grave and placed a wreath on it.
Komjadi is considered by experts to be the most innovative water polo coach of his time. He developed Hungary into a world water polo power and established the educational and organizational system which allowed Hungary to maintain its dominance. He also coached the Hungarian team to the world championship in 1932. Komjadi was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1995, and is also a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. 1892 - d. 1933
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)
From the Ghetto to the Games: Jewish Athletes in Hungary, by Andrew Handler (Boulder: East European Monographs, No. 192, 1985)