30 Apr 2020

The date, Monday 30th April, the country the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the city Pyongyang, the contest the final of the men’s team event at the 1979 World Championships.

Records read that Hungary held aloft the Swaythling Cup for the 12th occasion in their illustrious history; at the time more than twice the number of any other nation. An outstanding achievement but is it not now, over four decades later that we really appreciate the magnitude of that achievement?

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Since that date, only Sweden has stood in the way of China; a total of four wins, for China 15 such triumphs!

In Pyongyang, China was the team to beat; they were aiming for three in row. They had won in 1975 in Calcutta and two years later in Birmingham. On both occasions they had proved themselves somewhat ahead of the field.

However, just as the Swedes were to enjoy a halcyon era of outstanding players to emerge in the late 1980s, a decade earlier it was the very same for Hungary.

Basis of team

The basis of the team was Istvan Jonyer, Gabor Gergely and Tibor Klampar. At the World Championships in 1971 in Nagoya, Istvan Jonyer and Tibor Klampar had won the men’s doubles title; four year later in Calcutta, Istvan Jonyer had partnered Gabor Gergely to similar success, prior to securing the men’s singles title. Moreover in 1978 Gabor Gergely had been crowned European champion.

They were the star names but in Tibor Kreisz and Janos Takacs there was high class support. Under the guidance of Zoltan Berczik, the man who won the men’s singles title on the first two occasions the European Championships were staged, 1958 in Budapest and 1960 in Zagreb, a very strong unit was a place.

Great credit goes to the Swedes, who in three of their finals, accounted for China; however, the Hungarians of a generation earlier can claim they went one better!

They beat China twice! In the group stage they recorded a 5-2 win; the outcome first place for Hungary, second for China. In the final they met again; only this time the margin of success was even greater. A 5-1 win was the result.

Monday 30th April 1979 – Men’s Team Final


  • Gabor Gergely bt Guo Yuehua 21-10, 21-18;
  • Istvan Jonyer bt Lu Qiwei 21-12, 21-19
  • Tibor Klampar bt Li Zhenshi 21-17, 21-11
  • Istvan Jonyer lost to 17-21, 21-19, 21-19
  • Gabor Gergely bt Li Zhenshi 13-21, 21-9, 21-17
  • Tibor Klampar bt Lu Qiwei 17-21, 21-10, 21-11
The successful Hungarians (left to right) Gabor Gergely, Tibor Klampar, Istvan Jonyer, Janos Takacs, Tibor Kreisz, Zoltan Berczik (Photo: Archive)




Tibor Klampar

Winning in ’79 was a very special for us. Some key moments boosted our confidence, beating China in the group stage gave us a massive boost of self–confidence and confirmed our preparation was right for the Worlds.

Next hurdle was maybe when we beat North Korea comfortably. We were very confident going into the final. We saw the Chinese players were scared and looked pale before the final and even when the final started. In the final the most memorable match was my last match. I lost the first game against Lu Qiwei and came back to win the match and the title; the whole team ran onto the court and threw me up in the air! Whenever I close my eyes even today this memory is so fresh, it feels like it is happening to me right now.

Istvan Jonyer

Zoltan Berczik prepared us match by match, very strict; he kept team spirit and motivation at a very high level. He made sure we took one step at a time which was very important.

A flying start, it was one of the most crucial turning points of the World Championships, beating China 5-2 in the group stage gave us self-belief; we let the world know that the Hungarians were there to create history.

I was the oldest in the team so I was the leader and kept everyone on their toes. The chemistry of our team was so great, after the good start we improved match by match. To be honest, I had no doubts after the first match that we would be able to create history, all we had to do just keep our focus and concentration. I have a regret, in the final against Guo Yuehua, I won the first game, lost a close second and then was up 10-6 in the third.

There was a controversial decision over an edge ball and I lost that match. All in all, it was one of the greatest moments in my life.

Gabor Gergely

We felt very positive after the first group match we won against China 5-2; we saw them looking really scared, shaking completely devastated. They looked hopeless. In the final I had the biggest task as I went on first. After playing them in a group, we knew we needed a good start to put the pressure on them. It helped me a lot the fact in the group stage we sacrificed my match to analyse my opponent, Guo Yuehua, his service game and exploit all his weaknesses. Yeah definitely the best memory from the final was when

I walked off with the victory and we had a good start.
Regarding this World Championship, it is worth mentioning not the tournament itself but the way we made it there. We were a complete team; all five of us could play any time in any match; that gave us more confidence.

The way Zoltan Berczik prepared us for this championship it was different to any other time. He kept giving us all positive thoughts, how strong we were and how good was our preparation for this World Championships. Zoltan Berczik kept us on the ground and prepared us from match to match, we ran together, we had team talks before every match.

Before the final he said: “boys we worked our socks off over the past year, all of you worked hard, you are on top form, go and get them. We all saw them after the group match, their faces and body language, there is no way they can beat us.”

During the final he let us play, after every point he confirmed what we did was good and correct. He gave us lots of positives and let us play our own way.

Features Tibor Klampar Istvan Jonyer Gabor Gergely