Bergmann, Richard : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Bergmann, Richard

Bergmann won seven world championships, including four singles titles during his illustrious table tennis career. Considered by many to be the greatest defensive player in the sport's history, Bergmann became the world's first professional table tennis player in the 1950s and toured extensively with the Harlem Globetrotters.

In 1970, the year of his death, the Swaythling Club International (SCI) renamed its Fair Play Award to "The Richard Bergmann Fair Play Award." The SCI encourages "fair play" and "sporting gestures" at international championships, and the award is presented to the individual who has made the best sporting gesture at each world championships.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. 1920 - d. 1970

Career Highlights:
Born in Austria, Bergmann began playing table tennis at the age of 12 and won his first world championship in 1936, at the age of 16, as a member of the Austrian team. That year, he also captured the bronze medal in the men's singles event. One year later, Bergmann became the youngest player in history to win the gold medal in the men's singles competition. He also won the silver medal in the men's doubles, although the Austrian team did not finish in the top three.

In 1938, Bergmann captured the silver medal in the men's singles event. When the Nazis invaded Austria later that year, Richard fled to England and began competing for that country. In 1939, he won his second World Singles crown, as well as the World Doubles title (pairing with legendary Jewish player, Viktor Barna). The world championships were not held again until 1947 due to World War II.

Bergmann showed little rust when the table tennis world championships resumed following the war. In 1948, he won his fourth world men's singles title, won the bronze in the mixed doubles, and finished fourth in men's doubles (again with Barna). The following year, Bergmann and Barna led England to a bronze medal in the team event and Richard won the bronze in men's doubles with Swedish player, Tage Flisberg.

In 1950, Bergmann won his fourth, and final, men's singles world championship at the age of 30 (13 years after his first). He also led the English team to the bronze medal. Two years later, he won two silver medals (in the team and men's doubles events), before leading England to the gold medal in the team competition in 1953, his seventh and last world championship.

Bergmann continued to compete and won a couple of bronze medals in 1954 (team and men's singles). His final medal in world championship play came in 1955 when the English team won the bronze. Bergmann became the first professional table tennis player during the decade. He is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Vienna, Austria

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)