“Tibor Gonczol loved the Indian people and was among the first to spot real talent in this nation,” recalled former chief national coach of Indian shooting, Prof. Sunny Thomas, when paying tribute to the sport’s elder statesman, who passed away in Melbourne on Thursday night.
“Gonczol first came to India along with compatriot, Dr. Laszlo Hammerl, to conduct the Olympic Solidarity Coaching course at New Delhi in 1992,” the Dronacharya awardee recalled.
“He was entrusted with the pistol, Hammerl the rifle and I was made national coach, all our appointments coming a year later.
“In taking up his Indian assignment he had a lot to lose in Australia but threw himself headlong into the new job until his services were ended when he turned 70, a move opposed vehemently but unsuccessfully by his most prominent pupil, Jaspal Rana.Biggest achievement
“Gonczol’s biggest achievement for Indian shooting lay in setting up a scientific yet transparent system for the sport in our country (as he did in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam and West Samoa).
“His prowess with the pistol was from A to Z and legendary, stemming from the fact that at home he possessed the best stocked personal armoury in the world as also the world class Melbourne International Shooting Club that he built from scratch,” Prof. Thomas reminisced.
The shooting competitions of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games were held at his club, marksmen from which walked away with a whopping 14 medals.
“ He would go to any extent for the cause of shooters and shooting.
“Gonczol took a bullet in his body when fleeing his native Hungary for Australia and showed tremendous courage whenever it was needed. Yet, he was pragmatic in understanding the nature of Indians, especially the bureaucracy, with whom he’d throw a tantrum or two or pretend to blow his fuse, realising these were at best, means to an end.”
The rapport he shared with Prof. Thomas was remarkable. In the last of emails exchanged hours before his passing on Thursday, Gonczol quipped, “Wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous and ‘politics-free’ New Year.”