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Hungary Remembers its Greatest Son: Viktor Barna
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Viktor Barna (left) with Eva Koczian (right) who paid tribute to the Hungarian legend  Photo By: Courtesy of Robert Szentgyorgyi


Famous sporting personalities abound but there are those who go beyond the confines of their sport.

Mention their name and immediately it is recognised.

They are the true legends and in the sport of table tennis there is no greater legend than the late Viktor Barna; the man who set records that may never be equalled.

He was born on Thursday 24th August 1911 and to celebrate the centenary of his birth, the MTK Budapest Club, based in the Hungarian capital city, held a special evening to remember the outstanding achievements of the table tennis legend.

Eva Koczian the Principal Guest
Robert Szentgyorgyi, who is an International Umpire and the Manager of the MTK Budapest Club, organised the evening which several celebrated names from the world of table tennis were present.

Eva Koczian, three times European Womenís Singles champion and World Mixed Doubles champion with Swedenís Kalman Szepesi in 1955, was the principal guest; she addressed the assembled group, reminiscing about her memories of Viktor Barna.

Fond Memories
She was one of several on the evening who had fond memories of Viktor Barna.

In addition former General Secretaries of the Hungarian Table Tennis Association, Tibor Bihari and Tibor Horvath were able to relate stories with great affection.

World Championships Record
Viktor Barna won no less than 40 medals at World Championships between 1929 and 1954 of which 22 were gold (five Menís Singles, eight Menís Doubles, two Mixed Doubles, seven Menís Team),

He won his first in 1929 in Budapest, he last in the north London suburb of Wembley in 1954; from his achievements a plethora of statistics can be drawn but they all lead to one conclusion: the greatest table tennis player of all time.

International Success
Winner of no less than 83 international caps for Hungary, Viktor Barna has no peers, yet it is not the name given by his parents one hundred years ago.

He was born GyŲzŲ Braun to a Jewish family but because of anti-semitism in Hungary at the time, he changed his name to a Hungarian sounding name.

World War Two
In 1935 he moved to live in France but on the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, he and his wife were in America. Immediately he returned to Europe, in order to fight against the Nazis.

He joined the British army as a parachutist and fought in what was then Yugoslavia.

After the British withdrew from Yugoslavia, Viktor Barna remained in England and when hostilities concluded, together with his wife Suzie who is still alive, they settled down near London.

Died in Lima
In 1952 he became a British national and later a representative for the Dunlop Sports Company.

He travelled the world in this role; it was during one of these tours on Sunday 27th February 1972 that he suffered a heart attack when in the Peruvian capital city of Lima and passed away. He was 61 years old.

Debt Owed
We now approach 40 years since his passing but whether we remember that date or that of his birth, one fact will never be forgotten; on the world stage he was the most successful player of all-time and a man to whom table tennis owes a great debt.

The name Viktor Barna was paramount in turning table tennis from a dining room pastime to an athletic sport; his memory continues, his achievements live for ever.

Programme for Memorial Evening
Download Programme for Memorial Event written in Hungarian.

Eva Koczian addresses guests at the evening
organised by the MTK Budapest Club to remember Viktor Barna

Photo by Robert Szentgyorgyi



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