“The Pelé of waterpolo has left us,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on his Facebook page. Karpati, who won Olympic gold medals in 1952, 1956 and 1964, was the last surviving member of the Hungarian team which defeated the Soviet Union at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne just weeks after the crushing of Hungary’s anti-Soviet revolution.
Karpati scored a goal in the 4-0 victory known as the “Blood in the Water” match because of the rough play and a famous photo of Hungary's Ervin Zador emerging from the pool with a bloodied face after he was smacked above the eye by the Soviets' Valentin Prokopov. Hungary went on to beat Yugoslavia 2–1 in the final.
In 2002, Karpati told The Associated Press that he and his Hungarian teammates considered the Soviet players symbols of an oppressive regime. “In the strained political situation we were in, it was a body-to-body encounter with our opponents,” said Karpati, who played 162 matches for Hungary, retiring from the national team in 1969. “Now I have to admit that I’m convinced even the referee was pulling for us. We were from a small country battling the huge Soviet Goliath.”
Karpati also won bronze at the 1960 Rome Olympics and three European championships. He was just 17 when he won gold at the 1952 Helsinki Games, the youngest-ever water polo champion, according to the Hungarian Olympic Committee.
Karpati was born in Budapest on June 23, 1935. He was a four-time national swimming champion and began playing for the Ferencvaros water polo team at 15, winning five Hungarian league championships. He earned a law degree in 1964 and later worked as a coach in Hungary and Australia. Karpati was on the staff of the Hungarian team that won gold at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports