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Tibor Benedek, 3-time Olympic water polo champ from Hungary, dies

This file photo taken on July 27, 2014 shows Hungary's coach Tibor Benedek speaking to his players during the Water Polo European Championships final in Budapest. Mr. Benedek died at age 47, the local federation said in a statement Thursday.
This file photo taken on July 27, 2014 shows Hungary's coach Tibor Benedek speaking to his players during the Water Polo European Championships final in Budapest. Mr. Benedek died at age 47, the local federation said in a statement Thursday.Peter Kohalmi/AFP via Getty Images

BUDAPEST — Tibor Benedek, a three-time Olympic water polo champion from Hungary who captained and later coached his country’s national team, has died. He was 47.

The death was announced by the Hungarian water polo federation on Thursday.

Mr. Benedek was a prolific scorer and won dozens of national and international titles with Hungary and club teams including Hungary’s UTE and Honved and Italy’s Roma and Pro Recco. He retired from all sporting activities in May because of an undisclosed illness.

Besides gold medals at the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympics, Mr. Benedek also won a world championship in 2003, a European championship in 1997, two World League titles, and a World Cup.

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He also won the Italian championship seven times, the Hungarian championship six times, and was a five-time winner of the Euroleague, once with UTE and four times with Pro Recco.

As Hungary’s coach, his biggest success was winning the 2013 world championship.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban called Mr. Benedek “one of the greatest champions of Hungarian sports,” adding that “there is black water in the pool.”

Former Serbian water polo player Aleksandar Sapic, now a politician, described Mr. Benedek’s passing as “one of the saddest in recent years.”

‘‘Tibor was the only water polo player whom I truly admired, whom I loved and respected in a strange way,” said Sapic, who won a silver and two bronze medals at the Olympics and played against Mr. Benedek dozens of times.

Mr. Benedek was extremely popular in Hungary, known for his total dedication to the sport and unyielding willpower.

Mr. Benedek put his achievements down to his iron will.

“If I had to finally summarize the reason for my successes, I’d just say that I was the one who always wanted it more,” Mr. Benedek said in “Sportalkimia,” a Hungarian book about sporting champions published in 2011. “This is my talent.”

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Mr. Benedek played a record 437 times for Hungary, retiring after the 2008 Olympics, the federation said.

He is survived by his second wife, Hungarian model Panni Epres, and three children.