Stefen Hunyadfi (HUN/ITA/USA)
Honor Coach (1969)
FOR THE RECORD: 5 time Olympic coach – 1936, 1952 (Hungary); 1956, 1960 and 1964 (Italy); Coach of numerous Olympic champions; U.S. Coach: coached U.S. Olympic champion, Sharon Wichman.
Steve Hunyadfi has been Olympic swimming coach more times than any coach living in North America. He moved to the United States in 1965 after being Hungarian, then Italian Olympic coach five times. His Hungarian girls dominated the 1952 Games at Helsinki as no women’s swim team before or since. They won 4 of 5 women’s swim finals; took 1st and 2nd and 4th in the 200 meter breaststroke; 1st, 2nd and 6th in 400 meter freestyle; 1st and 3rd in 100 meter freestyle; and won the 400 freestyle relay. Four of these girls –Kathy Szoke, the Novak sisters (Eva and Ilona) and Klera Killerman were from Hunyadfi’s home club.
Hunyadfi has coached swimmers who excelled in all the strokes, but he is most proud of his classic breaststrokers from Hungarian Eva Novak to American Sharon Wichman.
One of his proudest achievements was not even an Olympic win, but Eva Novak’s second at Helsinki in the 200 breast when she swam a classic above-water breaststroke while her competition used the butterfly arm stroke, then legal in breaststroke races. Novak’s 1951 200 meter breaststroke world record 2:48.4, is world class even today when there is no other 1951 time that would be competitive even in the age group swimming.
A soft-spoken gentleman, Stefen Hunyadfi began his international coaching as assistant swim coach of the Hungarian team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics when he was 27. He left Hungary after the 1955 Revolution requesting political asylum from the American Embassy in Vienna. For 10 years he was coach for the Italian Swimming Federation, including the 1956 Melbourne, 1960 Rome and 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Hunyadfi was not an official Olympic coach after he emigrated to the U.S. in October 1965, but in a scant three years, he produced his first U.S. Olympic champion, Sharon Wichman of Club Olympia, Fort Wayne, Indiana–Wichman and Fort Wayne are a long time and a long way from Novak and Budapest, but Hunyadfi with a stopwatch by a pool deck is the same in any language, particularly if it’s breaststroke.