Passages: ISHOF Honor Player and Coach, Ivo Trumbic, Croatian Olympic Gold Medalist in Water Polo, Dies at 86
Olympic water polo player Ivo Trumbic died on March 12 at the age of 86 in Zagreb.
The Croatian water polo player and coach was a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Trumbic was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale in 2005. Last year, he received the “Franjo Bucar” Lifetime Achievement Award, which is the highest award for exceptional achievements in developing the sport in Croatia.
• More from Trumbic’s ISHOF page
Trumbic started his career in water polo as a goalkeeper, moved to defender, then coach; an Olympic legend and expert for all times. Born in the town of Split, in the former Yugoslavia, he played for Jadran VK up to 1962, and from then on for Mladost, in Zagreb, because they were willing to pay for his tuition at the Faculty of Physical Education at Zagreb University. Graduating in 1966 with a degree in Kinesiology, he began working as assistant coach for Mladost while still a player, helping them to win the 1968, 1969 and 1970 European Cup for the National Champions. As a member of the Yugoslavian National Team, always wearing cap number 2, he had 140 appearances, winning the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and Yugoslavia’s first Olympic gold medal in water polo, in 1968.
As a player, the gold medal match in Mexico City against the Russians is his most memorable. Not only because of his gold medal, or because he was named the World’s Best Player after the finals, but because it was one of the roughest games ever played. With just 12 seconds left to play, Yugoslavia held a one goal lead before the Russians were awarded a four-meter penalty shot that tied the game. In extra time Trumbic was on the receiving end of a vicious kick to his abdomen that left him without air and unconscious. Pulled from the pool and placed on a stretcher bound for the hospital, he revived, insisting on returning to the game. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Ivo Trumbic started his career as a head coach in Greece by winning the national title with the team of “Olympiacos Piraeus” in 1971. In 1973 he moved to the Netherlands, hired as coach of the Dutch National Team. Leading up to the 1976 Olympic Games, the Dutch finished fourth at the European Championships in Vienna, in 1974, and although they slipped to seventh place at the FINA World Championships in Cali, in 1975, they were much improved.
It was at the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976 where Ivo Trumbic stamped his credential as a coaching legend.
Montreal was a round-robin format, without extra-time, and it proved to be one of the deepest and most competitive water polo tournaments in Olympic history, with 11 tie games. In the opening round the Dutch upset the 1975 FINA World Champion Russians. The Dutch lost only one game, to eventual winner Hungary, and settled for the bronze medal with a one goal difference after a tie in their final game with Italy.
During his amazing career, after Montreal Ivo Trumbic was a much traveled expert consultant who never promised the impossible, but before every game he would say: “We’ll do our best, let’s compete.’’
In addition to coaching and giving hundreds of clinics, he wrote several water polo books and produced instructional video tapes, contributing to spread his knowledge all over the world.