Russian Water Polo Legend Viktor Ageyev, Who Played in “Blood in the Water” Match, Dies

Russian water polo star and three-time Olympic medalist Viktor Ivanovich Ageyev died in January at age 86, as reported by the Russian Water Polo Federation.

Ageyev, born in 1936 in Moscow, was a member of the Russian (at the time Soviet Union) water polo team at the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Olympic games, achieving one silver, and two bronze medals at the Games. Ageyev was a critical team member during the Russian’s 1964 campaign – where they won bronze – as he played in each tournament match, and contributed two goals. 

Ageyev made his Olympic debut at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, where he helped the Russian team achieve a bronze medal finish, ahead of Italy. Notably, Ageev’s first Olympic match was the infamous “Blood in the Water” match between the Russian and Hungarian teams, while the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was occurring. 

During the match, tensions flared between the two teams because Russia had used its nation’s occupation of Hungary. As a result, a number of physical altercations occurred during the match, culminating in Valentin Prokopov striking Ervin Zádor. Zádor bled into the pool, angering the pro-Hungarian crowd. The police were eventually forced to remove the crowd from the arena.

Hungary won the match, 4-0, and would go on to defeat Yugoslavia in the final to win gold; however, the images of Zádor’s bloody face would live on in the history of water polo. A documentary about the match was eventually released, titled Freedom’s Fury (2006), where Ageyev gave an interview to give his perspective on the event.

During his career, Ageyev was also a three-time Spartakiad, and multiple time USSR water polo champion. He also was a silver medalist at the European water polo championships. After his retirement from the sport in 1968, Ageyev became a successful water polo coach in Russia, and would lead the team to a number of national team victories. He would go on to become an honored coach and master of sports for the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (part of the USSR).

Leave a Reply

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments