On this day of his birth, we remember Bela Rajki…
BELA RAJKI (HUN) 1996 Honor Contributor
FOR THE RECORD: 1948 OLYMPIC GAMES: Swimming Coach; 1952 OLYMPIC GAMES: Swimming and Water Polo Coach; 1956 OLYMPIC GAMES: Water Polo Coach; 1972 OLYMPIC GAMES: Water Polo Coach; 1952 – Present FINA BUREAU: member, vice president; 1954 – Present LEN: member, vice president, president, honorary member; 1952-1964 International Water Polo Board: member, chairman; Author of: Water Polo (1958), The Techniques of Competitive Swimming (1956), Teaching to Swim, Learning to Swim (1978); Noted for his above and underwater photography of swimming and water polo technique.
Like almost every other youngster in his native Hungary, Bela Rajki was a swimmer and a water polo player. Born in 1909, he was one of the first players to surface in the country, and with early contemporary Bela Komjadi, Rajki helped to build Hungary’s world-recognized water polo dynasty.
After withdrawing from the competitive sport as an athlete, he earned coaching diplomas in both swimming and diving and then held a lecturer’s post at the Hungarian College of Physical Education and Sports. The years following World War II, from 1948 to 1967, he became the director of Hungary’s National Sport Swimming Pool. During this time he was the technical director and national coach of Hungarian Swimming and Water Polo Teams from 1947 to 1973.
In Olympic competition, Bela was the head coach of the 1948 Olympic Swimming Team, where Hungary won one gold medal with Eva Novak’s 200m breaststroke swim. He coached both the swimming and water polo Olympic teams of 1952 in Helsinki, Finland, with the water polo team winning the gold medal and four future Hall of Famers winning gold medals in swimming: Katalin Szoke – 100m freestyle, Eva Szekely – 200m breaststroke, Valerie Gyenge – 400m freestyle, and all on the gold medal winning freestyle relay.
In 1956, he again coached the water polo team to a gold medal over the great team from Yugoslavia, and in 1972 at the Munich Olympics, Hungary won the silver medal.
But Bela spent much of his time in the sport, off the pool deck. He was a Bureau member of FINA from 1952 to 1960, a FINA vice president from 1960 to 1964, and remains an Honorary FINA member today. He was a member of the International Water Polo Board from 1952 to 1964, serving as the chairman from 1960 to 1964. Bela served as vice president of the Liga Europea de Natacion (LEN) from 1954 to 1958 and as president from 1958 to 1962. After serving an additional four years as Bureau member from 1962 to 1966, he was made an honorary LEN member in 1994. In 1996, at age 86, Bela remains a member of the Hungarian Olympic Committee and the Honorary Life President of the Hungarian Water Polo Federation.
Bela Rajki’s contributions do not stop here. He has authored the first technique book on swimming, The Techniques of Competitive Swimming, published in 1956 with a second printing in 1963. His 1958 book Water Polo is a technical book dealing with every aspect of the sport. His 1978 book, with a second printing in 1980, Teaching to Swim, Learning to Swim, deals with teaching the techniques of the four competitive strokes, and is used throughout the world. His books are noted for the early scientific approach to the sport and for the more than 528 above water and underwater photos. Photography and motion picture film taking are a very important part of Bela’s contributions to the development of swimming and water polo. With the initial leadership of Hungarian journalist Andre Sima, who first suggested the use of photography in supporting scientific data and who took many of the original photos used in the photo sequence pages for which Bela is so notably recognized, Bela is greatly acknowledged for his published photographic series of above water and underwater photographs and their importance in supporting coaching data.
He has also written over 250 articles and periodical studies in the sport.
Although his record would disprove it, Bela Rajki is better recognized for his academic contributions to the sport than coaching contributions to the sport. He is a giant of his time who has devoted his entire life to the development and athleticism of our disciplines of water polo and swimming.